World

United Nations warns U.S. and Iran to not 'sleepwalk' into war

Bloomberg

United Nations members urged the U.S. and Iran Wednesday to step back from the brink of war and prevent an escalation of tensions.

“Let us not sleepwalk into a military confrontation,” Francois Delattre, the French ambassador to the world body, said in a Security Council debate Wednesday.

The session was infused with concern over threats of war exchanged between Washington and Tehran after Iran shot down a U.S. drone and tankers were attacked near the Persian Gulf. But the official topic of the session was the deteriorating state of the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, which Security Council members blamed President Donald Trump for renouncing last year.

“The U.S. withdrawal from the agreement last year, and the sanctions adopted by the United States, have opened a very worrying phase of uncertainty,” said Delattre, although he also criticized Iran for its continuing development of ballistic missiles.

European powers are attempting to persuade Iran to continue abiding by the deal after Iranian officials warned that their country would breach the deal’s cap on stockpiles of low-grade uranium by June 27. After the council meeting, European Union members said in a joint statement that Instex, a payment vehicle intended to circumvent U.S. sanctions, was almost ready.

Europe is “extremely concerned about the Iranian announcements regarding its nuclear commitments” and urges Tehran “to refrain from escalatory steps,” the EU members said.

Iranian Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi told the Security Council that his country will move forward with plans to breach the multinational accord because “in practical terms,” the deal “has become an agreement which is being respected only by one party.”

Iran has paid “a heavy price as a result of the U.S. economic war and its so-called maximum pressure policy, including the U.S. attempts to cut Iran’s oil exports to zero and disrupting free trade with Iran,” Ravanchi said.

Tensions have spiked in the Gulf since May, when the Trump administration revoked waivers on the import of Iranian oil, further squeezing its economy. The U.S. has blamed Iran for the spate of attacks on oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, a shipping choke-point. Iran denied involvement.

Karen Pierce, the U.K. ambassador to the UN, backed the U.S. claims, saying her country was “almost certain” that Iran carried out the attacks. Other nations have stopped short of blaming Iran, with Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, saying in Moscow on Wednesday that “honestly, we can’t point the blame at any country because we don’t have evidence.”

Russia, with deep political and economic ties to Iran, has denounced the U.S. effort to increase pressure on Iran and this week backed Tehran’s account that the U.S. drone it shot down was over its airspace.

While urging Iran to stick to the nuclear deal, Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said Tehran’s frustration was understandable and accused the U.S. of confusing the world with mixed signals, oscillating from Trump’s offers of dialogue to his threats to obliterate Iran.

“Such signals, which even an experienced cryptologist would struggle to decode, can only bring the situation to a point of no return,” Nebenzia said.