Washington announces plan to impose toughest sanctions on Tehran to date, as it aims to curb its "threatening behaviour".

By Joe McDonough

Posted on May 22, 2018

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has detailed the Trump administration’s plan to bully Iran into ending its missile program and nuclear ambitions, and pulling support for military groups like the Syrian armed forces, Yemen’s Houthi rebels, Hezbollah, and Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Forces.

With President Donald Trump abandoning the 2015 Iran nuclear accord earlier this month, Pompeo used his first major foreign policy address, since being appointed America’s top diplomat, to outline Washington’s strategy to curb the Islamic Republic’s aggression.

“We will apply unprecedented financial pressure on the Iranian regime. The leaders in Tehran will have no doubt about our seriousness,” Pompeo said in a speech at the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank.

“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 end up being the strongest sanctions in history by the time we are complete.

“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.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said it’s unacceptable for America to make such unilateral plays.

“A guy who had been active in an espionage center for years now wants to make a decision for Iran and other countries from the position of a foreign minister. It is not acceptable under any circumstance,” Rouhani said.

“Who are you to make a decision for Iran and the world, and to tell Iran what to do and what not to do in the nuclear field?”

The former CIA director’s speech has been seen as a “slap in the face” to America’s European allies, and “needlessly provocative”.

That’s the view of Suzanne Maloney, who was a State Department Iran policy planning expert during the George W. Bush administration.

“The [Trump] administration does believe that they can in fact compel the Europeans to go along with US sanctions, and there is no real deal to be negotiated,” she told Al-Monitor.

“What Pompeo outlined is not a viable or realistic diplomatic strategy. It draws zero support from any of our allies or partners, with the exception of Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.”

Another former State Department diplomat, Jeff Rathke, agreed, saying: “If I were sitting in Berlin or Paris or London or Brussels, I don’t see anything that suggests the US wants to be part of some diplomatic process that works with the countries that generate leverage on Iran.”

If I were sitting in Berlin or Paris or London or Brussels, I don’t see anything that suggests the US wants to be part of some diplomatic process that works with the countries that generate leverage on Iran.

European leaders tell Pompeo they are not convinced

British Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, said the strategy is unlikely to help stabilise the Middle East.

“I think the idea of a jumbo Iran treaty [is] very difficult.”

“I think if you try to now to fold all those issues — ballistic missiles, Iran’s behaviour, Iran’s disruptive activity in the region, nuclear activity — into a new jumbo Iran negotiation, a new treaty, I don’t see that being very easy to achieve in anything like a reasonable timescale.

“The advantage of the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) was that it had a very clear objective. It protected the world from an Iranian nuclear bomb, and in return it gave the Iranians some recognisable economic benefits. That was at the core of it.

“The Americans have walked away from that.”

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini also said it is by no means an improvement on the JCPOA.

“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,” Mogherini said in a statement. “There is no alternative to the JCPOA.”

This has hardly deterred Pompeo, who added that the Trump administration “will hold those doing prohibited business in Iran to account”.

“I know that they may decide to try and keep their old nuclear deal going with Tehran,” Pompeo said of European allies. “That is certainly their decision to make. They know where we stand.”