- The Washington Times - Monday, May 21, 2018

Saying the 2015 Iran nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration had “fatal flaws,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday announced that the Trump administration was preparing “the strongest sanctions in history” if Tehran does not change its destabilizing ways and forever abandon its drive for nuclear weapons.

Unveiling the promised Plan B after President Trump defied America’s European allies and took the U.S. out of the pact this month, Mr. Pompeo listed 12 pointed demands on Tehran that the Islamic republic immediately and heatedly rejected.

The list called on Iran to stop all nuclear programs “in perpetuity” and reveal all of its past programs to obtain a nuclear bomb; to provide “unqualified access” for international inspectors to any suspect site inside Iran, including military bases; to halt the development of nuclear-capable missiles; to release all American and allied citizens held in Iran; and to halt a broad range of destabilizing moves throughout the Middle East, including Iran’s military support of Syria and its backing of proxy forces such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthi rebel forces in Yemen.

“These will end up being the strongest sanctions in history by the time we are complete,” Mr. Pompeo said in Washington while laying out a broad containment policy with 12 central demands aimed at stopping Iran from destabilizing the Middle East and forever abandoning its drive for nuclear weapons.

With the deal’s other signatories — France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China — scrambling to save the nuclear deal, State Department officials denied charges that the new U.S. blueprint amounted to a policy of regime change for Iran’s mullahs.

“This is a very reasonable and realistic list,” Brian Hook, senior policy adviser to Mr. Pompeo, told Fox News. “These are all positions that the U.S. and our European allies have held at one time or another.”

Mr. Hook said the Trump administration was planning a summit of like-minded nations to start implementing the tougher stance against Iran.

The speech sparked a swift rejection from Tehran, where Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, a major supporter of the 2015 deal, reacted with defiance.

“Who are you to decide for Iran and the world?” Mr. Rouhani told Iranian state media. “The world today does not accept America to decide for the world, as countries are independent. … That era is over.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif dismissed Washington’s strategy as a “sham” and said Tehran is working with the other countries to keep the deal alive.

The key audience for Mr. Pompeo’s speech may have been France, Germany and Britain, which have been trying to keep Iran from pulling out of the deal while determining whether they can still work with Mr. Trump on a new accord. All three noted that international inspectors affirmed that Iran has honored its commitments to curb its nuclear programs, but they fear a revival of American sanctions could cause the entire deal to collapse.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson warned that the Trump administration’s “jumbo Iran negotiation” — seeking so many concessions on so many fronts from Iran — would be “very, very difficult” to achieve “in anything like a reasonable timetable.”

European countries are trying to find ways to shield their companies from U.S. sanctions, while Russia and China insist they will continue to do business with Tehran.

Major European companies have begun buckling, however. French energy giant Total S.A., Danish tanker operator Maersk and German insurer Allianz last week announced plans to wind down business in Iran because of fears of renewed U.S. sanctions.

‘Loser’ deal

Mr. Pompeo, a longtime critic of the 2015 nuclear deal when he was in Congress, argued that the Obama administration had made a catastrophically bad bet that Iran would moderate its activities and other military programs after the nuclear deal was signed. The accord, he said in his address to The Heritage Foundation, proved to be “a loser” with huge, negative repercussions throughout the Middle East.

“The plan permitted the Iranian regime to use money from [the nuclear deal] to boost the economic fortunes of a struggling people, but the regime’s leaders refused to do so,” he said. “Instead, the government spent its newfound treasure fueling proxy wars across the Middle East.”

Mr. Pompeo did not specifically address whether Washington was pursuing regime change, but he said Iran’s rulers faced some tough questions.

“Next year marks the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran,” Mr. Pompeo said. “At this milestone, we have to ask: What has the revolution given the Iranian people? The regime reaps a harvest of suffering and death in the Middle East at the expense of its own people.”

Mr. Hook told Fox News that the U.S. government was not explicitly seeking to overthrow the Islamic republic.

“The only thing we want to see changed is the behavior of the Iranian regime,” he said.

But after a speech laden with tough rhetoric and veiled threats, Mr. Pompeo held out the prospect of a new deal with Iran if Tehran complied, including the end of all sanctions, full diplomatic relations and even economic aid.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the Trump administration’s tough stance.

“No enrichment, tough sanctions and Iran should get out of Syria,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “We believe that it’s only policy that can ultimately guarantee peace. We call on all countries to follow America’s lead here.”

Diplomats from Iran, Europe, China and Russia are expected to meet in Vienna this week to discuss salvaging the deal by offering Tehran financial aid in exchange for promises that it curb its ballistic missile development and meddling in the Middle East.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Mr. Pompeo has not shown how resolving any of Iran’s problematic non-nuclear activities would be easier outside of the deal.

“Secretary Pompeo’s speech has not demonstrated how walking away from the [nuclear deal] 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 the deal,” she said. “There is no alternative.”

Mr. Pompeo appeared to anticipate a negative first impression from the European allies and said it would make little difference for Mr. Trump.

“I know our allies in Europe may try to keep the old nuclear deal going with Tehran. That is their decision to make,” Mr. Pompeo said. “They know where we stand.”

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