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Pompeo announces termination of 1955 treaty with Iran after sanctions ruling

Last Updated Oct 3, 2018 2:14 PM EDT

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Wednesday that the United States would be terminating a 1955-era treaty of amity with Iran that regulates economic and consular ties between the two countries. Pompeo called it a move that was  "39 years overdue."

Ties between the two nations have been strained for decades but have come to a head since the Trump administration moved to pull out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. The administration has admonished Iran and the regime's leadership for its "malign behavior" and for pursuing nuclear ambitions.

The move to end the treaty comes after the United Nations' top court on Wednesday ordered the United States to lift sanctions on "humanitarian" goods to Iran that Mr. Trump re-imposed after pulling out of the nuclear pact. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) unanimously ruled that Washington "shall remove by means of its choosing any impediments arising from the measures announced on May 8 to the free exportation to Iran of medicines and medical devices, food and agricultural commodities" as well as airplane parts, Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf wrote.

The court said sanctions on goods "required for humanitarian needs... may have a serious detrimental impact on the health and lives of individuals on the territory of Iran."

Pompeo said Iran had brought a "meritless case" to the ICJ, alleging violations of the 1955 pact, and he suggested Iran wants to challenge the U.S. decision to pull out of the nuclear deal.  

"Iran has attempted to interfere with the sovereign rights of the United States to take lawful actions as necessary to protect our national security and Iran is abusing the ICJ for political and propaganda purposes," said Pompeo. 

Pompeo said in the meantime, the U.S. will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iranian people, but called on Iranian leadership to spend money on its own people, instead of "fomenting terror around the world."

"Those are dollars the Iranian leadership is squandering, they could be providing humanitarian assistance to their own people but have chosen a different path," he said. 

In addition to leaving the amity treaty, national security adviser John Bolton announced during Wednesday's press briefing that the U.S. will also withdraw from the Optional Protocol and Dispute Resolution to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, in connection with a case brought by the Palestinians to the ICJ challenging the United States' embassy move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem earlier this year. 

"We will commence a review of all international agreements that may still expose the US to purported binding jurisdiction dispute resolution in the International Court of Justice -- admin will conduct a review of all its involvement with the International Court of Justice," he said. 

Bolton told reporters that the U.S. remains a party to the underlying Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, "and we expect all other parties to abide by their international obligations under the convention."

The administration's latest comments came after President Trump chaired a meeting of the UN Security Council last week and emphasized the importance of keeping the world free of the scourge of chemical weapons. The meeting focused on the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, particularly in Iran.