The United States has called on the United Nations Security Council to extend an arms embargo on Iran that was due to expire in October in order for the Middle Eastern country to start behaving like a “normal nation”.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered this message after Washington earlier circulated a draft resolution to indefinitely extend the arms embargo.

The measure that was due to expire in mid-October under a nuclear agreement reached by world powers in 2015 that included the US under the administration of former President Barack Obama.

In the audio below, Sherwin Bryce-Pease reports on the story:

Washington’s top diplomat urged the Council to indefinitely extend the arms embargo, making the case for why his country didn’t view Iran as a responsible democracy; one Pompeo believes must be held to account.

“Don’t just take it from the United States, listen to countries in the region. From Israel to the Gulf, countries in the Middle East – who are most exposed to Iran’s predations – are speaking with one voice: Extend the arms embargo.

This Council has a responsibility to listen to them.”

Donald Trump’s administration has long argued for the embargo’s extension.

President Trump subsequently withdrew from it in 2018 and Iran has since breached parts of the agreement in response to the US withdrawal and Washington’s implementation of unilateral sanctions on Tehran as part of a maximum pressure campaign.

“Renewing the embargo will exert more pressure on Tehran to start to behave like a normal nation. The world needs this to happen. The long-suffering Iranian people need it to happen”.

But Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Zavad Zarif warned that any new restrictions would go against fundamental commitments made to the Iranian people in terms of the 2015 deal, which it had largely complied with until the US withdrawal.

If the arms embargo is not extended, Washington has threatened to trigger a snap-back clause in the nuclear agreement that would automatically return all previous UN sanctions on Iran, despite it leaving the agreement in 2018. Chinese Ambassador Zhang Jun said not so fast.

“China opposes the US push for extending arms embargo on Iran, all provisions of resolution 2231 should be implemented including arrangements on arms-related restrictive measures. Having quit the JCPOA, the US is no longer a participant and has no right to trigger snap-back at the SC”.

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia might have touched a nerve with these comments.

“We’ve been watching with great concern a policy of maximum pressure on Iran which is better characterised as a maximum suffocation policy. Iran is being squeezed from all directions, the task is to achieve regime change or create a situation where Iran literally wouldn’t be able to breathe. This is like putting a knee to one’s neck”.

Pretoria’s envoy Jerry Matjila called for the Council to pursue steps that would de-escalate tensions in the Gulf region.

“South Africa is therefore resolute on its support for the continuation of efforts to resolve tensions among all actors in the region and promote dialogue rather than antagonism to safeguard gains already made in terms of disarmament and non-proliferation which are essential for the maintenance of broader international peace and security”.

EU countries have indicated they are working on reaching a compromise between the US, Russia and China but would not support unilateral steps to re-impose snap-back sanctions on Iran.