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Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in 2017. Photo: Iranian Leader's Press Office - Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

A 13-year United Nations ban on Iran's ability to buy and sell conventional arms expired on Sunday over the objections of the U.S, which insisted that all UN sanctions on Iran had been reimposed under the "snapback" process of the 2015 nuclear agreement — even though President Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018.

Why it matters: The expiration of the arms embargo will allow Iran to buy advanced weapons systems from countries like Russia and China, upgrading military equipment that dates back to before the 1979 Islamic Revolution, according to AP.

The big picture: The U.S. tried and failed in August to indefinitely extend the arms embargo, but the UN — including European allies Germany, France and the United Kingdom — dismissed the effort as having no legal basis.

  • In response, Trump signed an executive order imposing sanctions on any person or entity that contributes to the transfer of conventional arms to or from Iran or is engaged in providing training and financial support related to those weapons.
  • The Trump administration hopes that the wide-ranging sanctions will discourage governments and private companies from buying or selling arms to Iran in fear they will be sanctioned by the U.S. government.

Between the lines: Iran, whose economy has largely been crippled by the Trump administration's campaign of "maximum pressure" sanctions, insisted that it has no intention of going on a weapons "buying spree," which would likely subject other countries to U.S. retaliation.

  • The Islamic Republic's military has long been outmatched by regional rivals Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which have purchased billions of dollars' worth of advanced U.S. arms.
  • Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have continued to run high since the January killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. The U.S. has warned Iraqi leaders that it will shutter its embassy in Baghdad if frequent rocket attacks by Iranian-backed militias do not subside.

What they're saying: "Any nation that sells weapons to Iran is impoverishing the Iranian people by enabling the regime’s diversion of funds away from the people and toward the regime’s military aims," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

  • "The regime has a choice: it can pursue the purchase of weapons in violation of UN sanctions measures, or the regime can use its funds to provide for the Iranian people."

The other side: "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," Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter.

Go deeper

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Jan 23, 2021 - World

International nuclear weapons ban goes into force

Protesters celebrate the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in New York on Jan. 22. Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images

A UN treaty outlawing the existence of nuclear weapons went into effect on Friday.

Why it matters: The ban is chiefly symbolic, as neither the U.S. nor any other nuclear powers supported it. But moral statements should have meaning for weapons that, by their sheer indiscriminate power, are arguably immoral.

Updated 2 hours ago - World

HRW: Over 100 former Afghan security members dead or missing under Taliban rule

Members of the Taliban movement patrol Kabul's airport in September. Photo: Valery Sharifulin/TASS via Getty Images

The Taliban have "killed or forcibly disappeared" over 100 former members of Afghanistan's security forces since the group took power in August, a Human Rights Watch report published Tuesday found.

Why it matters: Former military members and officials from the ousted government, activists and other Taliban critics are facing peril amid executions driven by revenge — despite Taliban promises of an "amnesty" with no retributions, notes the New York Times, which first reported the news.

5 hours ago - World

Barbados becomes a republic, replacing U.K. queen with president

Combination images of Dame Sandra Mason, president of Barbados, and Britain's Prince Charles at her swearing-in ceremony in Bridgetown, Barbados, late Monday.

Barbados officially became a republic at midnight local time after Dame Sandra Mason was sworn in as the Caribbean nation's first president in a ceremony attended by the United Kingdom's Prince Charles.

Why it matters: Mason replaced Britain's Queen Elizabeth as head of state Tuesday — removing the country's final remaining colonial tie to the U.K. almost 400 years after the first British ships arrived in Barbados.