U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announced on October 3, 2018, that the United States would terminate the 1955 “Treaty of Amity” with Iran. The decision was triggered by a ruling issued earlier in the day by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which ordered the United States to “remove, by means of its choosing, any impediments arising from the measures announced on 8 May 2018 to the free exportation to the territory of the Islamic Republic of Iran of (i) medicines and medical devices; (ii) foodstuffs and agricultural commodities; and (iii) spare parts, equipment and associated services (including warranty, maintenance, repair services and inspections) necessary for the safety of civil aviation … .” (See also Trump and Trade Update dated May 8, 2018.)

During a press conference, Pompeo said, “In July, Iran brought a meritless case in the International Court of Justice alleging violations of the Treaty of Amity. … In light of how Iran has hypocritically and groundlessly abused the ICJ as a forum for attacking the United States, I am therefore announcing today that the United States is terminating the Treaty of Amity with Iran. I hope that Iran’s leaders will come to recognize that the only way to secure a bright future for its country is by ceasing their campaign of terror and destruction around the world.” Despite the move to terminate the treaty, Pompeo acknowledged, “Existing exceptions, authorizations, and licensing policies for humanitarian-related transactions and safety of flight will remain in effect.” He concluded his remarks by answering a question from CBS News, “We’ll see what the practical fallout is.”

The “Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations, and Consular Rights Between the United States and Iran” was entered into force on June 16, 1957, when both nations ratified its terms after its original signing August 15, 1955. Specific treaty provisions included:

  • Favorable and fair judicial treatment of nationals while traveling or living within the territory of the other party (Art II, Sec 4).
  • Recognition of a corporation/business entity’s juridical status within the territory of either party (Art III, Sec 1).
  • No restrictions or prohibitions on the importation or exportation of any product of the other party unless that product is restricted/prohibited in a similar manner from other nations (Art VIII, Sec 2).
  • Several provisions governing the treatment of consular staff and related diplomatic operations in each nation (Art XII – XIX). These clauses remained in effect despite the severance of U.S.-Iranian diplomatic relations on April 7, 1980.

Article XX of the treaty included specific carve outs for the importation/exportation of gold and silver, activities relating to fissionable materials, production or traffic of arms, and measures “necessary to protect its essential security interests.” The final article of the treaty stipulated that either party could terminate the treaty “by giving one year’s written notice” to the other party. Because of the U.S. notification this week, the treaty as written will remain in effect until October 2019.