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The US threatens sanctions after the US arms embargo on Iran expires

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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a press conference at the U.S. Department of State in Washington on September 21, 2020 about the Trump administration's restoration of sanctions against Iran.

Patrick Semansky | Pool | Reuters

WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Sunday that the United States will impose sanctions on any person or organization that supports Iran's weapons program. This is likely to further exacerbate tensions between Washington and Tehran.

"Over the past 10 years countries have stopped selling arms to Iran as part of various UN measures. Any country that now questions this ban will clearly choose to resolve conflicts and tensions over the promotion of To stir up peace and security, "Pompeo said in a statement on Sunday.

"Any nation that sells arms to Iran impoverishes the Iranian people by allowing the regime to divert funds away from the people and towards the regime's military objectives," he added.

The threat comes after a decades-long arms embargo by the United States against Iran, which officially expired on Sunday as part of the 2015 nuclear deal with the world powers.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry announced that "the Islamic Republic of Iran can procure all necessary weapons and equipment from any source without legal restrictions and solely on the basis of its defense needs." However, Tehran said it had no intention of going on a conventional weapons buying frenzy.

As part of the United States arms embargo, the export of "certain conventional weapons to Iran" and the "procurement of weapons or related materials from Iran" violate the United States Security Council resolution and are subject to sanctions.

However, in August the United States Security Council refused to support US efforts to expand the arms embargo on Iran. China and Russia voted against Washington’s efforts, while even close US allies such as Britain, France and Germany abstained. Only the USA and the Dominican Republic voted for an extension.

In response, the United States unilaterally imposed sanctions on Tehran last month through a snapback process previously declared by other members of the United States Security Council that Washington was not empowered to execute because it withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2018.

In the same week that the US re-imposed United States sanctions, the Trump administration increased the stake even further. Pompeo, flanked by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, said the government will sanction the entire Iranian Defense Ministry.

"No matter who you are, if you violate the United States arms embargo on Iran, you risk sanctions," Pompeo said in a September 21 address. "Our actions today are a warning that should be heard around the world," he added.

Esper followed Pompeo's remarks, saying the Pentagon was "ready to respond to future Iranian aggression" and called on Tehran to "act like a normal country".

"We continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with our allies and partners to counter the destabilizing behavior of Iran. In doing so, we will protect our people and interests, and ensure the security of like-minded nations across the region," added Esper.

Tensions between Washington and Tehran have risen following President Donald Trump's withdrawal from the landmark Iranian nuclear deal in 2018, calling it "the worst deal ever".

The 2015 deal lifted sanctions against Iran, which crippled its economy and roughly halved its oil exports. In return for the sanctions easing, Iran accepted limits on its nuclear program until the terms expire in 2025.

Trump has previously said that the US wants to reach a broader deal with Iran that will tighten its nuclear and ballistic missile work and suppress the regime's role in regional proxy wars. Tehran has refused to negotiate as long as the US sanctions remain in place.

After Washington withdrew from the nuclear deal, other signatories to the pact – France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China – tried to keep the deal alive.

Earlier this year, a US strike that killed Iran's chief military commander prompted the regime to further reduce compliance with the international nuclear pact. In January, Iran said it would no longer curtail its uranium enrichment capacity or its nuclear research.

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Katherine Clark