- Iranian Foreign Minister asserts UN Resolution on nuclear agreement would force US to lift sanctions
At an interview on Wednesday at NYU, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif claimed that in case of a nuclear agreement, a UN Security Council resolution would require the US to lift sanctions, and that Congress would be unable to do anything about it. Zarif stated that sanctions would be lifted within days of an agreement, contradicting the position of the Obama administration. Asked about the pace of sanctions relief, Zarif said, “If we have an agreement on the 30th of June, within a few days after that we will have a resolution in the Security Council…which will be mandatory for all member states, whether Senator Cotton likes it or not.” Zarif said that such a UN resolution would require member states to stop applying sanctions. A couple months ago, Senator Cotton and 46 other Senators sent a letter to the Iranian regime, warning them that according to the US Constitution, any agreement reached could be overturned by Congress or a new president. Furthermore, the Senate is currently considering legislation, known as the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, which stipulates that any agreement reached with Iran must be subject to congressional review. This bill has 67 co-sponsors and strong bipartisan support.
When the interviewer, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, pointed out that according to the Obama administration’s parameters, sanctions would be lifted only after the Iranians abided by their nuclear-related obligations, Zarif responded that it would take "only a few weeks" to meet those obligations and that "preparatory steps" would be taken in advance of such verification. Zarif also mocked the possibility of snapping back sanctions after they were lifted.
During the interview, Zarif said that “For us, freedom of navigation is a must…We will respect international navigation” Yesterday Iran seized a Marshall Islands-flagged ship in the Strait of Hormuz after firing shots across its bridge. The spokesman of Rickmers, the company that operates the ship, said "The information we had from the (ship's) master at the time of the approach by the Iranian navy ... was that he was at that particular time ... in an international shipping lane." The US has in recent weeks repeatedly emphasized the necessity of ensuring the free navigation of global waterways and last week sent an aircraft carrier to ensure the free flow of commerce in the Gulf of Aden.
Noting that Iran's seizure of the Maersk Tigris M/V yesterday was done in "blatant defiance" of the United States, Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall noted that it was that latest in series of recent provocations in the Persian Gulf, especially since the United States last week sent two ships to the waters off Yemen to deter Iran from shipping weapons to the Houthi rebels.
Strong criticism of the U.S. Navy blocking the Iranian convoy came from two powerful military sources in Iran: Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, former defense minister, and commander of the navies of the Revolutionary Guard and the Iranian Army, as well as Maj. Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi, the Iranian army chief of staff (see “Does Iran’s Navy Directly Arm its Jihadi Allies?”).
The seizure of the Maersk Tigris M/V could be an Iranian signal that it will not countenance the blocking of assistance it seeks to give its Yemeni proxies – the Houthis — and could also be part of the simmering warfare Iran has been waging with Saudi Arabia over influence in the Persian Gulf and beyond. The Saudis refer to the body of water as the “Arabian Gulf.”
A month ago an Iranian reconnaissance aircraft passed provocatively close to an armed MH-60R helicopter from the USS Carl Vinson carrier, part the U.S. fleet. The incident received little media coverage and the United States preferred to play it down, claiming it was a local initiative of Iranian commanders.