Mike Pompeo, U.S. secretary of state, listens during a United Nations Security Council briefing in New York, U.S. (Photographer: Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg)

U.S. Abandons Two Legal Accords After Iranian, Palestine Cases

(Bloomberg) -- The Trump administration withdrew from two obscure international accords that allowed Iran and Palestine to pursue legal action against it overseas, largely symbolic rebukes that were in line with the president’s dislike for global organizations seeking to influence U.S. policy.

Early Wednesday, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announced the U.S. was quitting a 1955 U.S.-Iran friendship treaty. While largely irrelevant given the rancor between the two countries, that agreement served as the foundation for a ruling by the International Court of Justice that ordered the U.S. to ease some sanctions against Tehran.

Soon after, National Security Adviser John Bolton said the U.S. would leave an optional part of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations that let countries settle disputes with each other in the same court. Last month, the Palestinians used that protocol to sue the U.S. over Trump’s decision to move the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

“The United States will not sit idly by as baseless politicized claims are brought against us,” Bolton said at the White House. Of the decision to leave the 1955 friendship treaty with Iran, Pompeo said: “This is a decision, frankly, that is 39 years overdue.”

Symbolic Moves

The actions were almost entirely symbolic given that past U.S. administrations, Democratic and Republican alike, have long ignored International Court of Justice rulings, as the Trump administration was certain to do as well. The U.S. stopped recognizing the court’s compulsory jurisdiction in 1986.

But the decisions reflected a broader hostility toward international institutions that has become a hallmark of the Trump administration. In his speech to the annual gathering of the United Nations General Assembly last week, Trump delivered a broadside against multilateralism and said the U.S. would never surrender its sovereignty to “an unelected, unaccountable global bureaucracy.”

Bolton has long railed against such institutions, particularly the International Criminal Court, even though the U.S. isn’t a member and has no obligation to abide by its rulings. In September, he delivered a speech threatening sanctions against the court and its judges if it “comes after us, Israel or other U.S. allies.”

At the White House briefing on Wednesday, Bolton also said the U.S. would review all international agreements that could expose it to jurisdiction by the International Court of Justice.

Food, Medicine

Wednesday’s moves came hours after the court made a ruling that sanctions being reimposed on Iran unfairly infringe on that country’s imports of medicine and food as well as spare parts needed for safe civil aviation. The court ordered the removal of “any impediments” on trade in those goods.

The U.S. is seeking to choke off Iran’s economy with expansive sanctions against the country’s oil industry that take effect in November against anyone that does business with the Islamic Republic. Trump withdrew from the seven-nation Iran nuclear deal in May, a decision taken over the objections from the other countries in the accord.

Zarif Reacts

The sanctions are aimed at bringing Iran back to the negotiating table to agree on a new, broader agreement with the U.S. that would constrain not only its nuclear program but also what the U.S. calls its “malign activity” in the Middle East and its development of ballistic missiles.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who has been the focus of much of the administration’s ire in recent weeks, responded to Wednesday’s moves by calling the U.S. an “outlaw regime.” The U.S. frequently uses the same phrase in reference to Iran.

Pompeo again blamed Iran for his decision last week to evacuate the U.S. consulate in Basra, Iraq. He said the U.S. had “solid” intelligence that Iran is the “origin of the current threat to Americans in Iraq,” and suggested the country was lashing out at the U.S. as a way to resist its campaign against the regime.

“Clearly they see our comprehensive pressure campaign as serious and as succeeding,” Pompeo said. “We must be prepared for them to continue their attempts to hit back.”

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