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The big picture: Despite having withdrawn from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the U.S. is invoking its terms in an attempt to force sanctions lifted under the pact to snap back into place.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

2 hours ago - World

Biden will move U.S. troops to Eastern Europe "in the near term"

President Biden boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews on Jan. 28. Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said on Friday he plans to move U.S. troops to Eastern European and NATO countries “in the near term.”

Driving the news: “Not too many” U.S. troops, Biden added in remarks to reporters at Joint Base Andrew upon returning from a trip to Pennsylvania. 

Updated 2 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Bomb cyclone prompts blizzard warnings from Virginia to Maine

Computer model projection showing the intense storm off of Cape Cod on Jan 29, 2022, with heavy snow and strong winds lashing the coastline. (Weatherbell.com)

Blizzard warnings are in effect for 11 million people from coastal Virginia to eastern Maine as a potentially historic winter storm is set to slam the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast beginning Friday.

Why it matters: The storm will bring hazards ranging from zero visibility amid hurricane force wind gusts and heavy snow, to coastal flooding that will erode vulnerable beaches and threaten property from the Jersey shore to coastal Massachusetts.