The 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), aka the Iran nuclear deal, was significantly tilted in favor of the Islamic Republic, as the Iranian leaders succeeded in obtaining several major concessions from the P5+1 world powers.
One of the most important was linked to the UN’s arms embargoes against Tehran. At the end of the negotiations, President Hassan Rouhani’s administration, which was cognizant of the Obama administration’s eagerness to reach a deal, shrewdly pushed the White House to make one final compromise: Placing a provision in the JCPOA that would allow the lifting of previous UN arms embargoes on Iran concerning conventional weapons and ballistic missile technology.
From December 2006 to 2010, the UN Security Council (UNSC) passed a series of resolutions imposing significant restrictions on Iran’s arms activities. Resolution 1929 from 2010 dictated that: “Iran shall not undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using ballistic missile technology, and that states shall take all necessary measures to prevent the transfer of technology or technical assistance to Iran related to such activities.” The ban also encompassed a wide range of other weaponry, including large-caliber artillery, combat aircraft, battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, attack helicopters, some missiles and missile launchers, and warships.
But the Iranian regime scored a major political victory when a time limit was added to the JCPOA that permitted the lifting of the arms embargo via two sunset clauses — removing the UN ban on Iran having conventional weaponry after five years and ballistic missile technology after eight years.
It was shocking that the White House agreed to include such an appeasing provision and Democrats and Republicans alike were left stunned. John Boehner, then-speaker of the US House of Representatives and the top Republican in Congress, stated: “It blows my mind that the administration would agree to lift the arms and missile bans.” Similarly, Sen. Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the time, said: “It’s hard for us to accept it, so we just want to take a look at it.”
There are several critical risks if the world powers do lift the arms embargo on the theocratic establishment of Iran in October, as scheduled. Firstly, the Iranian leaders would be allowed to legally export and import advanced weaponry that would strengthen the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ military apparatuses.
Seeing the prospect of multibillion-dollar deals, Russia and China would likely be more than willing to sell weapons to Tehran, putting them in competition to strike the best deal. That is why the Russian Foreign Ministry stated in March: “It has been said in Congress that the United States would try to convince Russia and China not to veto the draft UN Security Council resolution on extending the arms embargo on Iran. But it is no use raising this matter in the Security Council. There are no grounds for this. The timeframe and conditions coordinated in 2015 are not subject to revision.”
The major issue is that Russia and China are unlikely to be concerned about the implications their potential arms sales to Tehran would have on terrorism and regional stability. Iran will likely utilize its access to sophisticated weaponry to advance its hegemonic ambitions in the Middle East, increase its military adventurism, and send arms to its proxies and militia groups, which would destabilize the region, heighten tensions and trigger an arms race.
The Iranian regime is the top state sponsor of terrorism in the world and it has already been caught several times smuggling weapons to its militias and terror groups, in violation of UNSC resolution 2231, which prevents it from transferring arms directly or indirectly out of its territories without the council’s approval. For example, it has been revealed that Iran has been shipping weapons and military advisers to the Houthi rebels, either directly to Yemen or via Somalia.
Imagine how much Iran would intensify its deliveries of weapons to militia groups if the arms embargo on the regime is lifted. In addition, Tehran would most likely send intelligence, military and training teams to set up factories in other countries to facilitate the sale and use of these weapons. This would provide Iran with the opportunity to better influence and control the security, intelligence and political systems of foreign nations.
In conclusion, if the UN arms embargo on the Iranian regime is lifted as scheduled in October, it would have drastic implications on the security and stability of the region.