DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – A descending United Nations arms embargo on Iran must continue to prevent it from becoming “the weapon of choice for rogue regimes and terrorist organizations around the world,” said US Special Representative for Iran. Sunday.
Brian Hook told The Associated Press that the world should ignore Iran’s threats of revenge if the arms embargo that expires in October is extended, calling it a “mafia tactic.” One option is for the Islamic Republic to expel international inspectors who monitor Iran’s nuclear program, exacerbating the crisis caused by President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrawing from Tehran’s 2015 atomic deal with global powers.
The UN arms embargo so far has prevented Iran from purchasing fighter planes, tanks, warships and other weapons, but has not halted the smuggling of weapons into war zones. Nevertheless, Hook argued that both an import and export ban on Tehran should continue to secure the wider Middle East.
“If we let it go, you can be sure that what Iran has done in the dark will do it in broad daylight, and then some,” Hook said.
Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Hook’s comments.
Hook made the comments while visiting Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United States, United Arab Emirates, as part of a tour of the Middle East. Hook met Emirati Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Saturday and planned to meet other officials on Sunday. Hook declined to say where else he would travel on his journey.
Hook spoke to AP journalists in Dubai via video conference, as the borders of Abu Dhabi remain closed to six other UAE sheik crimes due to the corona virus pandemic.
The United Nations banned Iran in 2010 from buying from major foreign weapon systems amid tensions over the nuclear program. That prevented Iran from replacing its obsolete equipment, much of which had been purchased by the Shah before the 1979 Islamic revolution. An earlier embargo was directed at Iran’s arms exports.
If the embargo is lifted, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency predicted in 2019 that Iran would likely attempt to purchase Russian Su-30 jet fighters, Yak-130 training aircraft, and T-90 tanks. Tehran could also try to buy the Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile system and the Bastian coastal defense missile system, the DIA said.
Iran has long been surpassed by US-backed Gulf states such as the UAE, which have bought billions of dollars in advanced American weapons. In response, Tehran turned as a deterrent to developing ballistic missiles. Hook declined to discuss an explosion in Iran on Friday near an area that analysts say is hiding an underground tunnel system and missile production sites.
However, the possibility of paying for new, foreign weapon systems remains a question. U.S. sanctions imposed after Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal have crushed Iran’s oil sales, a major source of income. Energy prices have also fallen during the coronavirus pandemic.
When asked how Iran would pay for the new weapons, Hook said Tehran’s reduced revenues are “a good thing for the region” and affected his ability to support his regional powers, such as Syria.
“We have put this regime on the horns of a dilemma through our strategy,” said Hook. “They have to choose between weapons in Damascus or butter in Tehran.”
That financial pressure has sparked sporadic protests against the government in Iran, including national demonstrations in November that Amnesty International says killed more than 300 people. While the Trump administration has maintained that it does not want to overthrow Iran’s government, its pressure campaign has exacerbated public outrage against its Shiite theocracy.
Since Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal, Iran has exceeded all of the agreement’s production limits. The UN International Atomic Energy Agency, which monitors Iran’s nuclear activity as part of the deal, says Tehran’s supply of low-enriched uranium continues to grow.
While not at the level of weapon quality, growing inventory and production shorten the one-year timeline analysts that Iran would need enough nuclear weapon material if it chose to pursue one. Iran has long refused to search for nuclear bombs, although the IAEA previously said Iran had done work to support a possible military dimension to its nuclear program, which largely ended in late 2003.
Iran has threatened to expel IAEA investigators and withdraw from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty amid the US pressure campaign. North Korea, which now has nuclear weapons, is the only country to ever withdraw from the treaty.
“If we follow Iran’s rules, Iran wins,” Hook said. “It’s a mafia tactic where people are intimidated into accepting a certain type of behavior for fear of something much worse.”
Hook insisted that the UN ban on the export of arms by Iran to foreign countries should also be maintained, even though it has not prevented Tehran from smuggling weapons. Iranian weapons in particular have appeared in Yemen, where Tehran-backed Houthi rebels are fighting a Saudi-led coalition.
“I don’t think anyone believes Iran’s behavior deserves to release restrictions on their ability to move weapons,” Hook said.
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