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Raising awareness on Iran or enjoying losing dismally?


The Trump administration's announcement that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will go back to the United Nations to demand snap-back UN sanctions on Thursday and Friday, fresh after coming away with pie on its face from an embarrassing and overwhelming defeat at the UN Security Council last week, raises some alarming questions.

Has the Trump administration decided that it now likes to lose publicly and dismally when it comes to Iran?
Last Friday, the only country on the UNSC to support the US vote to extend the conventional arms embargo on Iran, set to expire in October, was the largely geopolitically irrelevant Dominican Republic. China and Russia were loudly against.
Traditional US allies like England, France and Germany – who do not want Iran to be able to buy and sell arms – all abstained. They had previously and clearly explained that they believed that the Islamic Republic would have kicked out IAEA inspectors if the vote had passed.
All of the remaining members of the 15-member UNSC also abstained, despite a range of views on the dangers presented by Iran.
In theory, this vote was the US's best chance because it did not need to have a special status as a party to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal to ask the UNSC to pass an extension.
One of the reasons it was important to the US to extend the embargo was to maintain pressure on Tehran. Another was to create a historic record that the world could look back on – if and when new Iranian weapons start increasing the ayatollah’s ability to promote terror in the Middle East, Europe and elsewhere.
The US undoubtedly could have done better garnering votes if it were attempting more serious multilateral diplomacy on other issues that matter to countries on the UNSC.
Top Israeli officials like Yuval Steinitz had previously warned The Jerusalem Postthat if the United States scuttles with key countries on unrelated matters that could undermine isolating the Islamic Republic.
But risking losing on that UNSC vote was arguably a brave move.
In contrast, this next move seems to simply disregard reality.
For better or for worse – and there are certainly many Israel-supporters who think it was for the better – the US left the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018.
Pompeo previewed some interesting arguments a few months ago for how the US could argue it still has some kind of status in the agreement to call for UN snapback sanctions against Iran for violating the nuclear deal – which it admits it is violating.
But it does not seem that anyone besides the US, Israel and some of the Gulf states is buying these legal arguments.
Leaving the deal in May 2018 enabled the US "maximum pressure" campaign.
However, according to both US adversaries like Russia and China, and to traditional US allies like England, France, and Germany, when the US left the deal it ceased to have any rights to call for a vote.
Without calling for a second vote, the US can and has repeatedly upped its "maximum pressure" campaign with new unilateral sanctions and it can try to do that again in October to block arms sales to Iran, even if the arms embargo expires, as expected. That could be the answer even if the US cannot call for a second vote.
What is the point in calling a second dramatic public vote in less than two weeks where the US knows it will lose and lose badly?
The first vote arguably raised public awareness and maybe even embarrassed US allies to stand up for their opposition to Tehran's terror and puts a principled stand into the historical record.
A second overwhelming vote of defeat will make the US look like a repeat loser with no pull, leverage or allies. It also will make it look like Iran has more support than it does amidst the complex calculations that the Europeans are making.
So, as it barrels toward a second unambiguous losing vote on snapback sanctions, the question must be asked: has the Trump administration suddenly gotten fond of losing?



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