US to declare nuclear sanctions on Iran are restored

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WASHINGTON — In defiance of overwhelming opposition, the United States is preparing to declare that all international sanctions against Iran have been restored. Few countries believe the move is legal, and such action could provoke conflict at the United Nations.

Despite an agreement brokered during the Obama administration, Iran still pursues nuclear enrichment necessary to produce nuclear weapons.

The Associated Press story did not mention that an explosion two months ago at Natanz, Iran, destroyed a key facility likely used to manufacture high quality centrifuges essential for refining uranium for such weapons.

President Donald Trump’s administration will announce on Saturday that U.N. sanctions on Iran eased under the 2015 nuclear deal are back in force.

Other members of the U.N. Security Council, including U.S. allies, disagree and have vowed to ignore the step.

The Trump administration already has slapped extensive sanctions on Iran, but could impose penalties on countries that don’t enforce the U.N. sanctions it claims to have reimposed.

Trump plans to address Iran in a speech to the General Assembly on Tuesday. Officials say he will also speak on his brokering of agreements for Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to normalize relations in part to solidify a regional bulwark against Iran.

In the face of intelligence about the possibility of retaliation for killing in January of the top Iranian general who authorized murderous attacks against U.S. troops, Trump threatened to retaliate “1,000 times” harder against Iran if it attacks U.S. personnel overseas.

His tweeted warning was in response to a report that Iran is plotting to assassinate the U.S. ambassador to South Africa.

The other 14 members of the Security Council say the U.S. lost its legal standing to act on sanctions when Trump withdrew from the nuclear accord more than two years ago. The U.S. argues it retains the right to enact the “snapback” of sanctions because the council resolution that endorsed the deal refers to it as a participant.

“These will be valid U.N. Security Council (actions) and the United States will do what it always does, it will do its share as part of its responsibilities to enable peace,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday.

— AP reports contributed to this story.

“We’ll do all the things we need to do to ensure that those sanctions are enforced.”

Pompeo traveled to the United Nations on Aug. 20 to formally notify the Security Council that the U.S. was triggering snapback because Iran is not complying with the nuclear deal.

He said the snapback mechanism was the “one thing that the previous administration got right” in the nuclear deal that Trump has denounced as the worst deal ever negotiated. President Barack Obama reached the agreement that gave Iran billions of dollars in sanctions relief in exchange for a temporary curb on it nuclear program.

The U.S. special envoy for Iran, Elliott Abrams, told reporters Wednesday that all U.N. sanctions would “snap back” at 8 p.m. EDT on Saturday.

“We expect all U.N. member states to implement their member state responsibilities and respect their obligations to uphold these sanctions,” Abrams told reporters.

“If other nations do not follow it,” he said, “I think they should be asked ... whether they do not think they are weakening the structure of U.N. sanctions.”

The U.N. sanctions the U.S. is seeking to reimpose include a ban on uranium enrichment and all missile activity, and the indefinite extension of an arms embargo that would otherwise expire on Oct. 18. The Security Council rejected a U.S. effort to extend the embargo in a lopsided vote that got support from only one country, the Dominican Republic.

Pompeo reiterated Wednesday that Iran “remains the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism and we don’t believe that them being able to trade in weapons of war with impunity is remotely acceptable.” He called the U.S. decision to reimpose sanctions “good for the peoples of all nations.”

—AP stories contributed to this report.

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