Allowing Iran to buy and sell conventional weapons by not extending the UN Security Council arms embargo on Tehran expiring in October can further destabilize the Middle East, US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook said on Tuesday.
“Iran is the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism and it is the world's leading state sponsor of anti-Semitism. And when a regime of this nature and this quality is allowed to freely buy and export conventional weapons … this has the potential to really destabilize the Middle East,” said Hook.
The United States in 2018 withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal that sought to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons in exchange for relief from economic sanctions. As part of that deal, a UN arms embargo on Iran expires in October.
The US is seeking to have the arms embargo on Iran extended before it expires on October 18.
Commending the US’s maximum pressure campaign against Tehran, Hook said the Middle East can look “very different” with a “peaceful Iran.”
“Our pressure campaign is making a huge difference and it is expanding the space for the Iranian people to have a more representative government, which is something I think a lot of nations around the world hope for the Iranian people,” he said.
Hook added that Iran's future will be decided by the Iranian people, and not the US government.
Unlike President Barack Obama’s administration, President Donald Trump’s administration supports Iranian protesters, he said.
“We reversed the mistake that was made in 2009 when President Obama did not stand with Iranian protesters during the Green Revolution,” said Hook.
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In 2009, Iranian protesters famously chanted “Obama, Obama, either with us or with them,” urging the US President to choose between the Iranian people and regime. Obama has been criticized over the years for not supporting Iranian protesters in 2009.
“Every single time you've seen protests in Iran, the US and President Trump, Secretary Pompeo, Vice President Pence and myself have all stood squarely behind the Iranian people, especially in November when there were protests in all 31 of Iran's provinces,” said Hook.
Referring to recent protests in Iran, Hook pointed out that there have been no protests against US sanctions and Trump’s maximum pressure campaign against Tehran.
“[The protests] were all directed at the regime because the Iranian people know whom to blame for the diplomatic isolation and for the economic malaise that has sort of troubled Iran for 41 years,” he said.
During Iran’s January protests following the Iranian military’s downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane, protesters were seen in Tehran refusing to step on Israeli and American flags printed on the ground by authorities for Iranians to walk over.
The current US administration has stood up to the Iranian regime “in ways that have no historic precedent,” said Hook.
“This is a regime that is not used to being told no. And they're learning that we're serious about reversing their gains and making the Middle East more support, more peaceful,” Hook added.