World

U.S. withdraws from international accords over ICJ disputes with Iran, Palestinians

Moves follow U.N. world court ruling against Washington on sanctions against Tehran

Reuters, AP

The Trump administration on Wednesday pulled out of two international agreements after Iran and the Palestinians complained to the International Court of Justice about U.S. policies, the latest withdrawal by Washington from multilateral accords.

U.S. national security adviser John Bolton slammed the highest United Nations tribunal as “politicized and ineffective” as he announced that the United States would review all international agreements that could expose it to binding decisions by the ICJ.

Earlier on Wednesday the ICJ handed a victory to Tehran, ordering the United States to ensure that sanctions against Iran, due to be tightened next month, do not affect humanitarian aid or civil aviation safety.

In a preliminary ruling, the court said that Washington must “remove, by means of its choosing, any impediments arising from” the re-imposition of sanctions on the export to Iran of medicine and medical devices, food and agricultural commodities and spare parts and equipment necessary to ensure the safety of civil aviation.

By limiting the order to sanctions covering humanitarian goods and the civil aviation industry, the ruling did not go as far as Iran had requested.

Tehran had argued that the U.S. sanctions imposed since May by the Trump administration violated the terms of their 1955 Treaty of Amity. Washington responded by pulling out of the treaty, a little-known agreement that was signed long before Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution that turned the two countries into arch enemies.

The ICJ, based in The Hague, in the Netherlands, is the United Nations’ venue for resolving disputes between nations.

There have been mounting concerns among U.S. allies about the Trump administration’s commitment to multilateralism.

In the nearly two years since being elected, President Donald Trump has withdrawn the United States from a nuclear agreement involving six powers and Iran, a global climate accord, the U.N. cultural agency and threatened its military allies in NATO that the United States would “go its own way” if they did not spend more on defense.

Bolton, citing what he called “Iran’s abuse of the ICJ,” said the United States would also withdraw from the “optional protocol” under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

“We will commence a review of all international agreements that may still expose the United States to purported binding jurisdiction, dispute resolution in the International Court of Justice,” Bolton said on Wednesday. “The United States will not sit idly by as baseless politicized claims are brought against us.”

The decision to withdraw from the optional protocol follows a complaint brought by the Palestinians in September, which challenged Washington’s decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The Vienna Convention is an international treaty setting out diplomatic relations between states. It is often cited as a means to provide diplomatic immunity.

Earlier, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States should have pulled out of the treaty of amity with Iran decades ago and said the ICJ it had no jurisdiction over sanctions that he said were essential to U.S. security interests.

The United States has adopted a hard-line policy against Tehran, withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal and reimposing sanctions.

“Today marked a useful point, with the decision that was made this morning from the ICJ, this marked a useful point for us to demonstrate the absolute absurdity of the Treaty of Amity between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Pompeo said.

Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammed Javad Zarif, criticized the U.S. withdrawal, saying on Twitter, “Outlaw regime.”

In 2005 the Bush administration took issue with the ICJ after it ruled that the execution of a Mexican national in Texas breached U.S. obligations under international law.

The Palestinians argued that the U.S. government’s placement of its embassy in Jerusalem violated an international treaty and that it should be moved.

“This really has less to do with Iran and the Palestinians than with the continued consistent policy of the United States to reject the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice, which we think is politicized and ineffective,” Bolton said.

“I’d like to stress,” he added, “the United States remains a party to the underlying Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and we expect all other parties to abide by their international obligations under the convention.”

Palestine was recognized by the U.N. General Assembly in 2012 as a nonmember observer state, though its statehood is not recognized by either Israel or the United States.

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