Calling Iran "the world's most heinous terrorist regime", US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged the UN Security Council on Tuesday to extend the UN arms embargo against Tehran, which expires in October, and reject "extortion diplomacy".
The United States has circulated a draft Security Council resolution to extend the arms embargo indefinitely, and Pompeo said the United States' "overwhelming preference" is to work with its 15 members to adopt it.
But he indicated that if the resolution isn't approved, which is likely because of Russian opposition, the US will move to invoke a provision of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers to re-impose all UN sanctions against Iran. The Trump administration pulled out of the deal in 2018.
Pompeo spoke at a virtual open meeting of the council on implementation of resolution 2231, which was adopted in 2015 to endorse the Iran nuclear deal. The arms embargo is included in the measure and Iran's leaders insist that it be lifted completely on its Oct. 18 expiration date.
Pompeo noted that Iran's President Hasan Rouhani recently declared that "Iran will give a crushing response if the arms embargo on Tehran is extended".
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif was scheduled to address the Security Council meeting later and Pompeo told members, "I hope he'll tell us whom he intends to crush, and how he will crush them."
Pompeo seized on findings in a report this month by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres who said the United Nations has determined that Iran was the source for several items in two arms shipments seized by the US, and for debris left by attacks on Saudi Arabia's oil installations and an international airport.
The report also said some of the items seized by the US in November 2019 and February 2020 "were identical or similar" to those found after cruise missiles and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia in 2019.
Pompeo also blamed Iran for other actions, including an attack on US-led coalition forces in Iraq in January using its advanced missiles, and supplying Shiite militia forces who have launched dozens of rocket attacks since last year against US and coalition forces fighting Islamic State extremists.
If the arms embargo is lifted, he said, "Iran will be free to purchase Russian-made fighter jets that can strike up to a 3,000-kilometer radius, putting cities like Riyadh, New Delhi, Rome, and Warsaw in Iranian crosshairs."
Pompeo said if lifted, Iran will be free to upgrade and expand its submarine fleet, to purchase advanced technologies for its Middle East proxies including Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria, and Yemen's Houthi Shiite rebels.
And it will be free "to become a rogue weapons dealer, supplying arms to fuel conflicts from Venezuela, to Syria, to the far reaches of Afghanistan," Pompeo said.
Pompeo said he detailed only a fraction of "the overwhelming evidence" against Iran and told the council that the US call to maintain the arms embargo is backed by Middle East countries from Israel to the Gulf "who are most exposed to Iran's predations".
"Renewing the embargo will exert more pressure on Tehran to start to behave like a normal nation," Pompeo said. "The world needs this to happen. The long-suffering Iranian people need it to happen."
The Trump administration, however, has won only tepid support from allies for the US draft resolution to maintain the arms embargo, and European countries are expected to present a counter-proposal that would extend at least parts of the embargo for six months.
It is not clear if the US, Russia or China would support such a proposal.
The council meeting took place a day after Iran issued an arrest warrant and asked Interpol for help in detaining President Donald Trump and dozens of others it believes carried out the US drone strike that killed a top Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani, in Baghdad earlier this year.
Trump faces no danger of arrest and Interpol later said it would not consider Iran's request.
However, the charges underscore the heightened tensions between Iran and the US since Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the nuclear deal with world powers in 2018 and re-imposed crippling US sanctions on Tehran.
The five other powers that signed the nuclear deal -- Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France and Germany -- remain committed to it, saying the agreement is key to continuing inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency and preventing Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons.