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Pompeo at the UN. Photo: David Dee Delgado/Getty Images

President Trump confirmed on Wednesday that he had asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to notify the UN Security Council that the U.S. intends to initiate "snapback" sanctions on Iran. The formal request is expected on Thursday, Israeli officials told Axios.

The backdrop: This move could create a diplomatic and legal crisis unlike any seen before at the Security Council. It comes days after the U.S. failed to mobilize support at the council to extend an international arms embargo on Iran.

The big picture: Despite having withdrawn from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the U.S. is invoking its terms in an attempt to force sanctions lifted under the pact to snap back into place.

  • The deal says any of the signatories — the U.S., Russia, China, France, Germany and the U.K. — can demand sanctions be reimposed automatically if they believe Iran has committed substantial violations. No country can veto such a move.
  • Russia and China contend that the U.S. gave up its right to reimpose the sanctions when it withdrew from the deal. That view is shared by others on the council, and even by John Bolton, the hawkish former national security adviser.
  • The U.S., on the other hand, claims it has the right to initiate the snapback mechanism because it is a party to the Security Council resolution that endorsed the nuclear deal and included the snapback mechanism.
  • The European signatories, who have tried desperately to save the nuclear deal, also oppose the U.S. move.

How it works: Pompeo is expected to arrive in New York on Thursday and present formal letters to the UN secretary-general and the UN ambassador from Indonesia, who holds the Security Council's rotating presidency.

  • The letter will then be circulated to other members, beginning a 30-day consultation period.

What to watch: Israeli officials and Western diplomats both say they expect a major diplomatic crisis over those 30 days.

  • If any member of the Security Council submits a resolution to stop the snapback move, the U.S. will be able to veto it.
  • U.S. officials believe that the renewal of international sanctions will lead Iran to withdraw from the nuclear deal — and likely make it impossible for Democratic nominee Joe Biden to put the deal back together if he wins in November.
  • Israeli officials were notified on Monday that the Trump administration intended to submit the official complaint on Thursday.

The latest: “When the United States entered into the Iran deal, it was clear that the United States would always have the right to restore the UN sanctions that would prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon," Trump claimed in a press conference on Wednesday.

Go deeper

Updated Nov 23, 2020 - World

Saudi Arabia denies Netanyahu met secretly with crown prince

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Bahrain's Foreign Minister Abdullatif at a press conference on Nov. 18. Photo: Menahem Kahana/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled in secret Sunday to the city of Neom on Saudi Arabia's Red Sea coast for a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Israeli sources told me.

The latest: Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan on Monday denied the meeting took place — a signal that the Saudis may be unhappy with the leak or are at least trying to publicly distance themselves from the meeting. Netanyahu, on the other hand, has not denied the story.

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Beto not even best Dem against Abbott

Beto O'Rourke speaks at a rally at the Texas State Capitol in June. Photo: Sergio Flores/Getty Images

Actor Matthew McConaughey’s nine-point lead in a theoretical matchup against Greg Abbott shows just how vulnerable the hard-right Texas governor could be in a general election.

Why it matters: Abbott has won conservative accolades for his abortion, mask and vaccine bans. Axios reported Sunday that former Rep. Beto O’Rourke is preparing to announce a gubernatorial challenge — but a recent poll shows he’s not even the most popular Democrat in the state.

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Delayed maps upend midterm campaigns

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Midterm candidates are panicking about how the congressional maps will ultimately be drawn, with several strategists telling Axios campaigns are in limbo.

Why it matters: Candidates are unsure if the district they're targeting will remain intact or be reshaped by the process. The uncertainty is especially vexing to Democrats, who are vying to maintain their narrow margin in the House.