Pompeo preparing argument that US still 'participant' in Iran nuclear deal, in effort to restore UN sanctions

NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!

Get all the latest news on coronavirus and more delivered daily to your inbox. Sign up here.

A U.S. official confirmed to Fox News on Sunday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is preparing a legal argument claiming the country is still a participant in the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran.

This plan would give the U.S. standing at the United Nations Security Council to push to extend the arms embargo on Iran expiring in October, and restore sanctions for Iran’s violations of the deal.

The State Department has been considering this strategy to restore U.N. sanctions on Iran that were in place for months before the deal came into effect.

CORONAVIRUS: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

The New York Times reported the argument “would, in essence, claim it legally remains a ‘participant state’” in the Iran nuclear deal.

Pompeo told the paper: “We cannot allow the Islamic Republic of Iran to purchase conventional weapons in six months. President Obama should never have agreed to end the U.N. arms embargo.”

He added, “We are prepared to exercise all of our diplomatic options to ensure the arms embargo stays in place at the U.N. Security Council.”

Iran gradually has been rolling back its commitment after President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the deal with world powers in 2018 – and recently announced that it no longer would respect limits set on how many centrifuges it could use to enrich uranium.

Tehran officials said their recent move on uranium enrichment was a “remedial step” in line with the deal and could be reversed.

The nuclear agreement was aimed at convincing Iran to stop developing atomic weapons in exchange for economic incentives.

Iran already has struggled under severe U.S. sanctions blocking the sale of its crude oil abroad, measures imposed after Trump unilaterally withdrew America from Tehran’s nuclear deal. That has led to a monthslong period of increased tensions that have persisted through the coronavirus pandemic.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL CORONAVIRUS COVERAGE

Iran has been seen as the Middle Eastern country hit hardest by the pandemic.

Experts both inside and outside of Iran said Tehran likely has been underreporting the scale of the crisis. “Iran, of course, has seized the opportunity presented by COVID-19, which is what’s preoccupying Americans at the moment,” Ariane Tabatabai, a Middle East fellow who studies Iran at the Washington-based German Marshall Fund, told The Associated Press. “In part, it’s trying to distract from its own botched response to the pandemic and partly, it sees the United States at its weakest in a while and so it’s using this to raise the cost of the maximum pressure campaign to force the U.S. to end it.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.