The drums of war are beating over Iran and Syria as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday morning responded to the United Nations’ top court ordering the US to lift sanctions on “humanitarian” goods to Iran. Pompeo made a series of threatening statements targeting Iran as well as Syria, which also comes after the latter received delivery of Russian S-300 anti-air defense missiles early this week.
Pompeo said in his State Department press briefing, “I’m announcing that the United States is terminating the 1955 treaty of amity with Iran. This is a decision that is 39 years over due.”
He was referencing a 1955 “friendship treaty” or so-called Treaty of Amity which had been established long before the 1979 Islamic Revolution brought the Ayatollahs to power.
In July Tehran had pulled the US before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to demand that the UN immediately suspend economic sanctions leveled by Washington after Trump ordered US pullout of the 2015 nuclear deal and the reimposition of far-reaching rounds of sanctions targeting Iran’s energy and other vital sectors.
The ICJ’s ruling is a huge blow to Washington (though perhaps largely symbolic) and a diplomatic win for Iran as it unanimously ruled that Washington “shall remove by means of its choosing any impediments arising from the measures announced on May 8 to the free exportation to Iran of medicines and medical devices, food and agricultural commodities” as well as airplane parts, said judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf. The court pointed out that targeting aviation parts created the “potential to endanger civil aviation safety in Iran and the lives of its users”.
The decision essentially gives UN-imprimatur and legal cover for countries and companies seeking to still do business with Iran amidst threats of punitive action by the US should they proceed. But Pompeo slammed the international court’s decision as null and void and Iran’s clinging to the “decades overdue” treaty “absurd” in announcing the “termination”.
The ICJ rules on disputes between UN member states, but its decisions are ultimately largely symbolic and non-binding as it has not way to enforce them. The United States has no higher chain of appeal now that the ICJ has finally ruled on the issue.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had previously this week called the sanctions a form of “psychological warfare” aimed at regime change. “The economic warfare that the United States and some of its regional clients are conducting against Iran is psychological warfare more than real economic warfare,” he told the BBC in an interview.
Elsewhere in Pompeo’s Wednesday remarks he took aim and Iranian actions in the broader Middle East saying intelligence is “solid” that Iran is to “blame” for the attack on the US embassy in Baghdad’s ‘green zone’ in early September.
He also referenced gunfire on the US consulate in Basra, which late last week the US shuttered by ordering all non-essential personnel to evacuate. “We can see the hand of the Ayatollah and his henchmen supporting these attacks on the United States,” Pompeo said.
“Iran is the origin of the current threat to Americans in Iraq,” he added. And he also made reference to Syria, noting that after Russia on Wednesday published photos of its S-300 transfer to the Syrian government, that the US is “concerned” with this “serious escalation”.