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The persistent variance between the positions of the major powers, specifically the signatories of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran’s mullahs, most surely puts the security and stability of the Middle East, and especially the Gulf, at risk. We know very well that the mullahs are preying on this divide.

Such a division is their regime’s only hope for survival through fairy-tale win in the face of a US crushing economic blockade. One consequence, if not a disaster, of this dissension is the recent lifting of arms restrictions that had been imposed on Iran by the UN Security Council ten years ago.

The mullahs rejoice that they can now “procure any necessary arms and equipment from any source without any legal restrictions,” as well as export arms whose destination is known to all. These are in fact the areas where mullah-backed sectarian militias, organizations and arms are operating.

However, there was no point in normalizing the situation, since all these activities are carried out illegally and are secretly smuggled into these areas anyway.

As far as arms exports, the mullahs may cooperate with other regional or international parties to sell their missiles and military technology. In doing so, the risk of proliferation of missiles and possibly nuclear weapons rises.

Wiping out UN restrictions was seen by the mullahs as a “diplomatic victory” over the United States. In an effort to boost morale, the regime’s leaders have taken the time to officially congratulate the Iranian people.

The Iranian threat still hangs over the horizon. It hasn’t gotten any lighter.
The Trump administration filed a request a few weeks ago to activate the snapback mechanism that allows any signatory to the nuclear agreement to bring back sanctions, including to extend the recently expired arms embargo, if Tehran fails to comply with the accord.

However, this request was not seconded by the rest of the UN Security Council. The body ruled that the United States had no right to reactivate an agreed mechanism that it had unilaterally pulled out of in 2018.

In all likelihood, the arms embargo imposed on the Iranian regime will not be significantly breached, especially by Western countries. An ally of the United States would have no business getting involved in arms sales to the mullahs, as this could lead to strong tensions with the US administration.

In terms of the nature of the threat posed by the mullahs’ regime, other Western countries have the same opinion as the Americans. But differences between the two sides lie not in the strategy, but in the tactics proposed for dealing with this regime.

As for China and Russia, it would not be a good idea to sell “qualitative” weapons to the mullahs. China has made no secret of its intention to sell arms to Iran after October 18. But I believe that these weapons will not affect the regional balance of power or increase the mullahs’ ability to threaten regional peace and stability.

Such a decision would anger the United States. On top of that, it would strain their already complicated relations, especially after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo promised that “any arms sales to Iran will result in sanctions,” and would anger the two countries’ allies in the GCC and Israel.

But all these scenarios will depend on precise calculations of strategic interests, gains and losses vis-à-vis Iran and other countries. It is these calculations that will tip the scale for the major powers that have been talking about possible military cooperation with Iran in the near future.

Lifting the UN embargo five years after the nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 group—made up of the US, the UK, France, Russia, China and Germany—whose legal framework is defined by UNSC resolution 2231, leaves no doubt about the serious shortcomings and weaknesses of this agreement.

Five years as laid down in the agreement are up. But the Iranian threat still hangs over the horizon. It hasn’t gotten any lighter.

In fact, thanks to this awful agreement, the mullahs have acquired the technology necessary to obtain the enriched uranium required to manufacture nuclear weapons. The decision to enter the phase of making a nuclear bomb, if it had not already been secretly taken, now rests with the regime’s leader.

This, while the risk factors still exist:

  • weak security measures at Iran’s nuclear facilities;
  • secrecy surrounding the Iranian nuclear program since the IAEA cannot access all of its activities as most of them are located in IRGC-supervised covert sites;
  • and the mullahs have an unprecedented opportunity to strategically spread and carry out sectarian expansionist projects undermining the sovereignty of neighboring countries through direct and indirect military intervention in some Arab countries.

In other words, ending restrictions on weapons this way effectively exposes the shortcomings of the nuclear agreement. Signatories should take a moment to study it, rather than showing defiance and obstinacy in their relations with other signatories.

The Iran deal has brought the world basically nothing. All it has done is to give the Iranian danger a breathing space. This deferral has allowed the mullahs to achieve their goals and is out of step with the strategies of the global community seeking to maintain security, stability and peace, especially in a part of the world as economically pivotal as the Gulf region.

Dr. Salem AlKetbi is a UAE political analyst and former Federal National Council candidate