European firms working with Iran will be held ‘to account', Pompeo warns
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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday warned European businesses who work with Iran, despite Washington’s exit from the 2015 nuclear deal, that they will be held "to account".
"I know our allies in Europe may try to keep the old nuclear deal going with Tehran. That is their decision to make. They know where we stand," said Pompeo in his first major foreign policy speech since moving to the State Department from the CIA.
Issuing a steep list of demands that he said should be included in a nuclear deal, Pompeo vowed to increase the pressure on Iran with “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," said Pompeo. “The sting of sanctions will only grow more painful if the regime does not change course from the unacceptable and unproductive path it has chosen for itself and the people of Iran," he added in the speech at the conservative, Washington-based Heritage Foundation thinktank.
"Iran will never again have carte blanche to dominate the Middle East," he said in outlining the new US strategy on handling the Islamic regime, including 12 tough conditions from Washington for any "new deal" with Tehran.
Pompeo’s warning came as Europe and other US allies have been pushing Washington to announce its ‘Plan B’ after President Donald Trump announced the US was pulling out of the landmark JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) – as the Iran deal is formally known – on May 8.
Since the US pullout, the EU has been mulling ways to avoid US sanctions on Iran and soften the blow for European firms doing business with Iran.
On May 18, the European Commission proposed to let EU members make payments for oil directly to the Iranian Central Bank to bypass US sanctions.
"In the strategy we are announcing today, we want the support of our most important allies and partners in the region and around the globe. I don't just mean our friends in Europe," Pompeo said.
Pompeo said he understood that Trump's decision "will pose financial and economic difficulties for a number of our friends". But he warned them that the US planned to follow through with threats to punish European companies that continue doing business with Iran that is allowed under the deal but will violate reimposed US sanctions.
The re-establishment of the US sanctions will force European companies to choose between investing in Iran or trading with the US.
In reality, there is no choice -- European companies cannot afford to forsake the US market.
Twelve tough requirements on Iran
Trump has long said the original 2015 deal with Iran -- also signed by Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia -- did not go far enough, and now wants the Europeans and others to support his hardline strategy.
Pompeo's list of 12 tough requirements included many that Iran is highly unlikely to consider.
He said Iran must "stop enrichment" of uranium, which was allowed within strict limitations under the 2015 deal. Iran must also allow nuclear "unqualified access to all sites throughout the country", Pompeo said, alluding to military sites that were off-limits under the 2015 deal except under specific circumstances. To that end, he also said Iran must declare all previous efforts to build a nuclear weapon, reopening an issue that the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency has already deemed a closed matter.
Pompeo also demanded that Iran cease from a range of activities throughout the Middle East that have long drawn the ire of the US and its allies. He said Iran must end support for Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen, "withdraw all forces" from Syria, halt support for its ally Hezbollah and stop threatening Israel.
Iran must also "release all US citizens" missing in Iran or being held on "spurious charges", he said.
At the same time, Pompeo offered Iran a series of dramatic potential US concessions if it agrees to make "major changes". Under a new agreement, the US would be willing to lift all sanctions, restore full diplomatic and commercial ties with Iran, and even support the modernisation of its economy, Pompeo said.
"It is America's hope that our labours toward peace and security will bear fruit for the long-suffering people of Iran," Pompeo said.
(FRANCE 24 with AP and AFP)