Conservative Friends Of Israel Lobby Johnson On Iran Arms Embargo
More than 80 members of the British Parliamentary group Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) have urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to “urgently and unambiguously” articulate the United Kingdom’s policy as a decade-long United Nations arms embargo on Iran expires on October 18.
In a letter on October 15 the signatories said the Middle East would become even more volatile and unstable when the embargo lifted as “an already belligerent Iran” would be emboldened to provide arms to its “proxies,” Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.
“They intend to jeopardize the historic regional movement towards peace between Israel and its Arab neighbours,” the letter said, referring to normalization agreements reached by Israeli with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. This would be “a direct threat to our allies and UK interests worldwide.”
The letter argued that the separate European Union arms embargo, introduced in 2007, would “do little to prevent the influx of Russian or Chinese advanced weaponry into the area” and would in any case “expire as soon as 2023.”
The Conservative Friends of Israel group says it works both to support Israel – ensuring its case “is fairly represented in Parliament" - and to promote Conservatism.
Britain, France and Germany, the three European signatories to Iran’s 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers, on September 19 reiterated their opposition to a US proposal to trigger the ‘snapback’ mechanism of the nuclear deal and reimposed UN sanctions. Along with Russia and Chin, the Europeans argued Washington could not invoke any clauses of an agreement it had left two years earlier. In a letter to the President of the UN Security Council Abdou Abarry, Britain joined Germany and France in arguing that any actions taken unilaterally by the US would have no legal effect.
Iranian officials in recent days have celebrated the looming expiry of the UN embargo, saying Iran would be able to freely engage in selling and buying arms. “Over the past four years the United States used everything in its power to prevent the lifting of the embargo on October 18,” President Hassan Rouhani told the Cabinet on Wednesday. “The embargo will be lifted due to the endurance of the people.”
As well as US threats to sanction any arms supplier, Iran faces practical problems, at least in the short term. With diminished oil sales, and problems repatriating foreign exchange due to US financial sanctions, paying for weapons may be challenging.
Tehran has been in discussion, however, with Moscow over S400 surface-to-air missiles, an upgrade on Iran’s existing S300 defense system. Both the US and Israel have expressed opposition to Russia supplying the S400, which military analysts say would improve Iran’s capacity to withstand air strikes on its nuclear facilities.
Iran ever been a major arms seller, although it has supplied weapons to allies in Lebanon, Yemen, Syria, and Iraq. Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, the militant Lebanese Shia group, has acknowledged that Iran gives it weapons and other support.