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Snapback … a new diplomatic failure for the Trump administration

By: Eslam abdelmagid, journalist

Since the success of the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979, relations between Washington and Tehran have been in continuous deterioration, especially after the detention of the employees of the American embassy in Tehran, as a result of which the United States severed its diplomatic relations with Iran on April 7, 1980.

It is worth noting that former US President George Bush included Iran in 2002 in what he called the axis of evil with Iraq and North Korea.

Until the relationship between the two parties witnessed a real breakthrough during President Obama’s term by reaching what was known as the nuclear agreement or the 5 + 1 agreement in 2015, which stipulated in its content the lifting of American and European sanctions as soon as the International Atomic Energy Agency verifies that Iran is respecting its obligations and also raising Sanctions imposed by the United Nations as soon as Iran respects all the basic points of the agreement

In addition to one of the important points related to the possibility of re-applying the penalties in the event of non-implementation by Iran, which is known as the Snapback mechanism

Which President Trump announced to activate it in recent days.

There is no doubt that the Trump administration and the Republicans in general are completely different from the Obama administration specifically in dealing with the Iran issue

Evidence of what President Trump provoked by announcing his withdrawal from the nuclear agreement with Tehran and his heavy reliance on raising the Iranian threat factor to the Americans, especially before the upcoming presidential elections at the end of this year, in addition to his recent controversial statements that Biden’s success means that America will fall into the hands of Iran.

All these developments make us try to find clear answers to these questions that are represented in

What is the snapback mechanism?

What are the reactions to the US decision to activate this mechanism?

What is the legitimacy of Trump’s activation of the Snapback mechanism?

What is the snapback mechanism?

Snapback is the mechanism for re-imposing UN sanctions on Iran over its nuclear activities in accordance with Security Council Resolution 2231, which was issued in support of the nuclear agreement with Iran in 2015.

Under this mechanism, many sanctions and restrictions are re-imposed, which were issued in accordance with previous Security Council resolutions, which were suspended by Resolution 2231, and among these decisions: Resolution 1696 (issued in 2006), Resolution 1737 (issued in 2006), and Resolution 1747 Resolution (issued in 2007), Resolution 1803 (issued in 2008), Resolution 1835 (issued in 2008), Resolution 1929 (issued in 2010).

Among the sanctions and restrictions that could be re-imposed on Iran:

An unlimited ban on the transfer of conventional weapons to and from Iran.

 An indefinite ban on international support for Iran’s missile program.

 An explicit ban on all Iranian tests related to the development of nuclear-capable missiles.

 Request to stop all fertilization-related activities.

 Banning travel and freezing of assets of Iranian nuclear and missile programs.

Security Council Resolution 2231 ended the impact of previous resolutions on Iran, and included major changes to sanctions and restrictions imposed on it.

What is the mechanism used to activate Snapback?

The process of reinstating previous sanctions – which was stopped by Resolution 2231 – begins when a “country participating in (the nuclear agreement with Iran) or what is known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – as defined in Security Council Resolution 2231- informs the Security Council of an issue or violation it is believed to be part of Failure to implement the large commitments under the agreement.

Unless the Security Council takes a decision within 30 days regarding the complaint, all provisions of previous Security Council resolutions against Iran, which were terminated under Resolution 2231, will be activated.

Reactions to the American decision

A catastrophic failure of American diplomacy proved by Trump’s failure to pass a US draft resolution to extend the arms embargo imposed on Iran, which only one country voted on in the Security Council, (the Dominican Republic), with its European allies abstaining from the vote, in addition to the firm rejection of the Russian-Chinese axis

The reactions to the American decision to activate the Snapback mechanism were also not different. Rather, the intensity of the outright rejection of the draft resolution increased.

The reaction of the Russian-Chinese axis

China: China rejected Washington’s action against Iran, as the office of the Chinese representative to the United Nations announced, in a tweet on its Twitter account, that America has no right to use the “snapback mechanism” to activate the UN sanctions on Iran, and it does not have the power to invite the Security Council to activate this mechanism.

Russia: Earlier, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov had confirmed America’s efforts to re-impose United Nations sanctions on Iran are illegal, stressing that such a step would lead to a crisis in the Security Council.

European reaction

The Russian-Chinese rejection of the American desire to activate the Snapback mechanism was expected, but this time the surprise was that America’s European allies refusal, this may be considered as an indication of the depth of the differences between the two sides during this period, especially with regard to the Iranian issue, as the Europeans refuse any prejudice to the nuclear agreement concluded with Iran in 2015

Perhaps, this was very clear in the statement of the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Joseph Borrell,

 He explained that the United States unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear agreement, and therefore its action against Iran is illegal, stressing that the European Union will make all efforts to preserve the nuclear agreement, as it is one of the pillars of the international structure for non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, which contributes to the global security.

How legitimate is the US decision to activate Snapback?

Despite the clear stipulation in the nuclear agreement on the possibility of re-imposing sanctions on Iran if it breaches its obligations if a state party to the agreement requests this by submitting that request to the UN Security Council.

But there is great doubt about President Trump’s ability to activate this mechanism, especially since the Trump administration is facing a major accusation of the illegality of the American decision for two reasons:

1- The unilateral withdrawal of the United States from the nuclear agreement that President Trump announced in 2018, thus, the presence of the United States as a party to the agreement is in itself questionable, Which makes the American request in this case completely illegal.

2- The United States has not received international support, or at least from the states parties to the nuclear agreement, since announcing its intention to activate the Snapback mechanism, which makes the American decision in a unilateral form, and thus the decision loses the necessary legitimacy.