Research Analyst Samuel Hickey partnered with Julia Masterson at the Arms Control Association to co-author a piece explaining how the United States could kill the Iran nuclear deal via the United Nations.
Early in January, the European members of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran made a risky move by triggering the deal’s dispute resolution mechanism. Though it was a desperate attempt to save the agreement, it could, if not managed carefully, result in the reimposition of United Nations Security Council sanctions on Iran—effectively collapsing any remnants of the deal.
The potential reimposition of sweeping multilateral sanctions—a near-automatic consequence of Security Council referral—looms over the current political crisis. Of course, the Europeans may have no appetite to let things get that far. But irrespective of its current status in the nuclear deal, the United States may be able to outmaneuver the Europeans and trigger multilateral sanctions on Iran unilaterally.
Reinstating, or “snapping back,” UN sanctions would be extremely provocative, posing high risk and offering little reward, and not just because doing so could inspire Iranian withdrawal from the deal, or, worse, from the near-universal Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, as Iran has already threatened.
A showdown at the Security Council, either through the dispute resolution mechanism or through unilateral US machination, is sure to be divisive. The political dissonance could give cover for Russia and China to ignore the resultant UN sanctions on Iran. This, in turn, could legitimize the conviction of other states, such as North Korea, that Security Council resolutions can be selectively adhered to.
Bottom line? At a time when the Security Council stands divided on the deal’s future, any unilateral action at the Security Council could leave the body in serious disarray. Read more