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Pompeo Unveils Next Step in US-Iran Policy; Sanctions to Be “Strongest in History”

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The United States imposed sanctions on five Iranians on Tuesday as was reported by INN. The five are linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, according to a statement released by the US Treasury.

The move comes one day after newly appointed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the Trump Administration’s revised Iran policy.

During his address, Pompeo detailed twelve steps Iran must take to reach a new agreement with the United States, including the complete dismantling of its nuclear program, the end of ballistic missile tests, the cessation of terrorism across the Middle East and around the world, and a complete withdrawal from Syria, according to the INN report.

Pompeo warned that if Iran did not comply with the United States’ demands, it would face the “strongest sanctions in history.”

Two weeks ago, President Trump withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal which had been reached by his predecessor.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani dismissed what he perceived to be Rouhani’s threats. “Who are you to decide for Iran and the world?” Rouhani said in a statement published by Iranian state media on Monday. “The world today does not accept that the United States decides for the world. Countries have their independence.”

In his first major policy address on Monday since assuming the position of Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo unveiled the United States’ ‘Plan B’ for dealing with Iran at the Heritage Foundation – a conservative Washington, DC think tank.

Pompeo called the Iran Nuclear Deal “bad for the United States, Europe, the Middle East, and indeed for the entire world.”

“Iran continues to be–during the JCPOA–the world’s largest sponsor of terror. It continues to be a sanctuary for Al Qaeda, as it has done since 9/11,” he told the assemblage at the Heritage Foundation.

Pompeo warned that the new sanctions on Iran will be the “strongest sanctions in history.”

“We will apply unprecedented financial pressure on the Iranian regime. The leaders in Tehran will have no doubt about our seriousness. Thanks to our colleagues at the Department of Treasury, sanctions are going back into effect and new ones are coming,” he said, according to the INN report.

“Iran will be forced to make a choice: either fight to keep its economy off life support at home or keep squandering precious wealth in fights abroad. It will not have the resources to do both.

“I will work closely with the Department of Defense and our regional allies to deter Iranian aggression. We will ensure freedom of navigation on the waters of the region. We will work to counter any Iranian malign activity. We will track down Iranian operatives and the Hezbollah proxies operating around the world, and we will crush them. Iran will never again have carte blanche to dominate the Middle East.

Pompeo listed the United States’ demands of Iran:

“First, Iran must declare to the IAEA the full account of the prior military dimensions of its nuclear program, and permanently and verifiably abandon such work for perpetuity.”

“Second, Iran must stop enrichment and never pursue plutonium enrichment. This includes closing its heavy water reactor.

“Third, Iran must also provide the IAEA with unqualified access to all sites throughout the entire country,

“Iran must end its proliferation of ballistic missiles and halt the further launching and development of nuclear capable missile systems.

“Iran must release all US citizens, as well as the citizens of our partners and allies, each of them detained on spurious charges.

“Iran must end support for Middle East terrorist groups, including Lebanese Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

“Secretary Pompeo’s speech has not demonstrated how walking away from the JCPOA has made or will make the region safer from the threat of nuclear proliferation or how it puts us in a better position to influence Iran’s conduct in areas outside the scope of JCPOA,” said the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, using the acronym for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the deal is officially known.

“Iran must respect the sovereignty of the Iraqi government and permit the disarming, demobilization, and reintegration of Shia militias.

“Iran must also end its support for the Houthi militia and work towards a peaceful settlement in Yemen.

“Iran must withdraw all forces under Iranian command throughout the entirety of Syria.

“Iran must end support for the Taliban and other terrorists in Afghanistan and the region and cease harboring senior Al Qaeda leaders.

“Iran must end the IRG Quds forces’ support for terrorists around the world.

“Iran must end its threatening behavior against its neighbors, many of whom are US allies. This certainly includes its threats to destroy Israel and its firing of missiles into Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. It also includes threats to international shipping and destructive cyber-attacks.”

Iran Responds

Iran responded on Monday evening to Pompeo’s address which set conditions for the Muslim country that, if not met, would subject Iran to harsh sanctions.

“The conditions of the United States are meaningless. Iran has no need for anyone’s permission to act in the Middle East. Our missile programs will be determined according to Iranian needs,” said a senior official in the Tehran regime.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani dismissed what he perceived to be Rouhani’s threats.

“Who are you to decide for Iran and the world?” Rouhani said in a statement published by Iranian state media on Monday. “The world today does not accept that the United States decides for the world. Countries have their independence.”

European countries are holding talks with Iran to try to salvage the deal. But it’s not clear whether the effort can succeed. On Sunday, Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, said the European Union’s “political will is not enough to preserve the deal.”

Following the speech, Israeli MK Naftali Bennett said, “The bottom line of Pompeo’s speech and the new policy toward Iran is that it can either invest in improving the lives of Iranians or invest in taking the lives of other people. It cannot do both,” Bennett said, according to the INN report.

The EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, also predictably responded to Pompeo’s speech.

In a statement quoted by AFP, Mogherini warned that there is “no alternative” to the Iran nuclear deal.

“Secretary Pompeo’s speech has not demonstrated how walking away from the JCPOA has made or will make the region safer from the threat of nuclear proliferation or how it puts us in a better position to influence Iran’s conduct in areas outside the scope of JCPOA,” she said, using the acronym for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the deal is officially known.

Reza Pirzadeh, a political officer of the Iran National Council for Free Elections opposition group, founded by Iran’s exiled crown prince Reza Pahlavi, said Pompeo’s demands did not go far enough. “We want to insist on the freedom of all political prisoners in Iran. Also, we want to see freedom of speech, freedom of thought and social and cultural freedoms for the Iranian people,” he said. “We want Pompeo to emphasize these additional demands in any negotiation with Islamic Republic officials in upcoming discussions involving the EU, U.S. and Iran.”

Mogherini called on the U.S. to keep its commitments as part of the agreement signed under President Obama, according to the INN report.

“The JCPOA is the result of more than a decade of complex and delicate negotiations, based on dual track approach and therefore the best possible outcome, striking the right balance,” Mogherini said, according to AFP.

“This deal belongs to the international community, having been endorsed by the United Nations Security Council. The international community expects all sides to keep the commitments they made more than two years ago,” she added.

Mogherini stressed right after Trump withdrew from the agreement that the EU would remain in the agreement and will do so “as long as Iran continues to implement its nuclear related commitments, as it is doing so far.”

Last week she said that EU countries are “talking about solutions to keep the deal alive,” while adding that measures would seek to allow Iran to keep exporting oil and for European banks to continue to operate.

Though some European businesses have said they will comply with the U.S. demands and stop doing business with Iran, some European leaders have threatened countermeasures to offset the effects of U.S. sanctions. That would make it more difficult for the U.S. to apply tough economic pressure on Iran.

In his speech, Pompeo acknowledged that many U.S. allies will suffer “financial and economic difficulties” because of the reimposed sanctions.

“We want to hear your concerns,” Pompeo said. “But you should know that we will hold those doing prohibited business in Iran to account.”

Getting significant multilateral buy-in for U.S. sanctions is key to effectively pressuring Iran, but could take a while, said Benham Taleblu, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

“It took a decade for the West to get the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. It probably will take a significant amount of time to get a genuine fix for the other Iranian problems,” he said.

“I’m afraid that Pompeo is substituting ultimatums for diplomacy,” said Jamal Abdi of the National Iranian American Council. “It just doesn’t add up. This is not what a rational actor would respond to.”

“What we’ve learned,” he added, “is that as much as we disagree with Iran, they do conduct things with a cost-benefit analysis of a rational actor. And Pompeo has not presented any sort of pathway they could actually comply with.”

Reza Pirzadeh, a political officer of the Iran National Council for Free Elections opposition group, founded by Iran’s exiled crown prince Reza Pahlavi, said Pompeo’s demands did not go far enough.

An undated photo of the reactor building of Iran’s Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant. (Photo Credit: United States Naval Institute)

“We want to insist on the freedom of all political prisoners in Iran. Also, we want to see freedom of speech, freedom of thought and social and cultural freedoms for the Iranian people,” he said. “We want Pompeo to emphasize these additional demands in any negotiation with Islamic Republic officials in upcoming discussions involving the EU, U.S. and Iran.”

On Monday, a Pentagon spokesman said the U.S. will be taking steps to “address Iran’s malign influence and destabilization actions” but declined to comment on any specific moves.

“We are assessing if we are going to double down on current actions or implement new actions.” said the spokesman, Colonel Robert Manning. “We’re not going to rule out anything in order to address Iran.”

Below are excerpts of Secretary Pompeo’s address as it appeared on the US State Department web site. Concerning the many flaws in the JCPOA, he spoke of the following.

“The mechanisms for inspecting and verifying Iran’s compliance with the deal were simply not strong enough.

The deal did nothing to address Iran’s continuing development of ballistic and cruise missiles, which could deliver nuclear warheads.

The JCPOA permitted the Iranian regime to use the money from the JCPOA to boost the economic fortunes of a struggling people, but the regime’s leaders refused to do so.

Instead, the government spent its newfound treasure fueling proxy wars across the Middle East and lining the pockets of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Hizballah, Hamas, and the Houthis.

Remember: Iran advanced its march across the Middle East during the JCPOA. Qasem Soleimani has been playing with house money that has become blood money. Wealth created by the West has fueled his campaigns.

Strategically, the Obama administration made a bet that the deal would spur Iran to stop its rogue state actions and conform to international norms.

That bet was a loser with massive repercussions for all of the people living in the Middle East.

The idea of the JCPOA as a strategic pillar of stability in the Middle East was captured perfectly by John Kerry when he said, quote, “I know the Middle East that is on fire … is going to be more manageable with this deal,” end of quote.

Query whether the Middle East is more manageable today than it was when they embarked on the JCPOA.

Lebanon is an even more comfortable home for Hizballah today than it was when we embarked on the JCPOA. Hizballah is now armed to the teeth by Iran and has its sights set on Israel.

Thanks to Iran, Hizballah provides the ground forces for the military expedition in Syria. The IRGC, too, has continued to pump thousands of fighters into Syria to prop up the murderous Assad regime and help make that country 71,000 square miles of kill zone.

Iran perpetuates a conflict that has displaced more than 6 million Syrians inside the – 6 million Syrians and caused over 5 million to seek refuge outside of its borders.”


Another excerpt from Secretary Pompeo’s address:

The bet that the JCPOA would increase Middle East stability was a bad one for America, for Europe, for the Middle East, and indeed for the entire world. It is clear that the JCPOA has not ended Iran’s nuclear ambitions, nor did it deter its quest for a regional hegemony. Iran’s leaders saw the deal as the starting gun for the march across the Middle East.

So, the path forward. America’s commitment to the Iran strategy President Trump laid down in October remains. It will now be executed outside of the JCPOA.

We’ll continue to work with allies to counter the regime’s destabilizing activities in the region, block their financing of terror, and address Iran’s proliferation of missiles and other advanced weapons systems that threaten peace and stability. We will also ensure Iran has no path to a nuclear weapon – not now, not ever.

Following our withdrawal from the JCPOA, President Trump has asked me to achieve these goals on Iran. We’ll pursue those goals along several lines of effort.

First, we will apply unprecedented financial pressure on the Iranian regime. The leaders in Tehran will have no doubt about our seriousness.

Thanks to our colleagues at the Department of Treasury, sanctions are going back in full effect and new ones are coming. Last week we imposed sanctions on the head of Iran’s central bank and other entities that were funneling money to the IRGC Qods Force. They were also providing money to Hizballah and other terrorist organizations. The Iranian regime should know that this is just the beginning.

This sting of sanctions will be painful if the regime does not change its course from the unacceptable and unproductive path it has chosen to one that rejoins the league of nations. These will indeed end up being the strongest sanctions in history when we are complete.

The regime has been fighting all over the Middle East for years. After our sanctions come in force, it will be battling to keep its economy alive.

Iran will be forced to make a choice: either fight to keep its economy off life support at home or keep squandering precious wealth on fights abroad. It will not have the resources to do both.

Second, I will work closely with the Department of Defense and our regional allies to deter Iranian aggression.

We will ensure freedom of navigation on the waters in the region. We will work to prevent and counteract any Iranian malign cyber activity. We will track down Iranian operatives and their Hizballah proxies operating around the world and we will crush them. Iran will never again have carte blanche to dominate the Middle East.

And I’d remind the leadership in Iran what President Trump said: If they restart their nuclear program, it will mean bigger problems – bigger problems than they’d ever had before.

Third, we will also advocate tirelessly for the Iranian people. The regime must improve how it treats its citizens. It must protect the human rights of every Iranian. It must cease wasting Iran’s wealth abroad.

We ask that our international partners continue to add their voice to ours in condemning Iran’s treatment of its own citizens.

The protests – the protests of the past few months show that the Iranian people are deeply frustrated with their own government’s failures.

The Iranian economy is struggling as a result of bad Iranian decisions. Workers aren’t getting paid, strikes are a daily occurrence, and the rial is plummeting. Youth unemployment is at a staggering 25 percent.

Government mismanagement of Iran’s natural resources has led to severe droughts and other environmental crises as well.

Look, these problems are compounded by enormous corruption inside of Iran, and the Iranian people can smell it. The protests last winter showed that many are angry at the regime that keeps for itself what the regime steals from its people.

By: Fern Sidman
(INN & US State Dept)

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