The United States has threatened to sanction any individual or entity selling conventional weapons to Iran, hours after Tehran claimed that a UN embargo on such sales had been lifted.
According to a 2015 landmark nuclear deal, world powers had agreed to lift the UN embargo on Iran effective October 18, 2020, if Tehran abided by its terms.
However, the United States, which withdrew from the deal in 2018, claimed last month that Iran had violated its terms, triggering a reimposition of the embargo.
“The United States is prepared to use its domestic authorities to sanction any individual or entity that materially contributes to the supply, sale, or transfer of conventional arms to or from Iran, as well as those who provide technical training, financial support, and services, and other assistance related to these arms,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement on October 18.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry announced in a statement earlier in the day that the ban had been lifted, saying “all restrictions on the transfer of arms, related activities, and financial services to and from the Islamic Republic of Iran...are all automatically terminated.”
The embargo prevented Iran from purchasing conventional weapons such as tanks, combat aircraft, and heavy artillery.
Pompeo said that providing conventional arms to Iran would only “aggravate tensions” in the Middle East.
U.S. sanctions are a powerful deterrent because they freeze any assets held by an individual or entity in the United States and essentially cut them off from Western banking services.
Iran last week celebrated the lifting of the embargo. On October 14, President Hassan Rohani said: "Ten years of unjust arms sanctions will end on October 18."
Rohani said that, from that day on, "we will be able to sell our arms to anyone we choose and we can purchase arms from anyone we choose."
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called the lifting of the embargo a “momentous day” for the international community.
"Today's normalization of Iran’s defense cooperation with the world is a win for the cause of multilateralism and peace and security in our region,"he said on Twitter.