By Renewing the Arms Embargo on Iran, Europe Is Helping Ukraine

September 15, 2023 | Richard Goldberg
About the author: Richard Goldberg is a senior advisor at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He has served on Capitol Hill, on the U.S. National Security Council, as the chief of staff for Illinois’s governor, and as a Navy Reserve Intelligence Officer.

Yesterday, France, Germany, and Britain moved to renew a UN embargo on Tehran’s import and export of missiles and missile technology, which was set to expire in October. Richard Goldberg, writing before the decision was made, explains the importance of this step:

Over the last year, Iran has transferred hundreds of armed drones to Russia for use inside Ukraine with thousands more planned. These drones have inflicted enormous damage and terrorized civilian populations. Russia is reportedly now domestically producing Iranian drones as well. When the missile embargo expires, Iran may consider transferring short-range ballistic missiles, too.

Ukrainian leaders may not believe these UN restrictions matter much, but they do. Believe it or not, Russian and Iranian propaganda rely heavily on international law to claim legitimacy in their illicit conduct.

Russia and Iran seek to chisel away at longstanding international norms of conduct and replace them with new ones that legitimize otherwise illicit conduct. They aim to establish a new accepted reality in which the independence of smaller states takes a back seat to their imperial ambitions. In this respect, they are not only waging a war against Ukraine on the ground and in the skies; they are waging political warfare, too. Allowing the UN missile embargo to expire is a victory for Moscow and Tehran, plain and simple. Keeping it and restoring the conventional arms embargo, too, would be a big win for Ukraine.

The European powers, however, decided not to reinstate sanctions on the Iranian nuclear program—which, Goldberg goes on to argue, is a mistake.

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