United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will lay out his new Iran strategy today in a speech at Washington DC’s Heritage Foundation. According to the announcement, he is to “chart the way forward in the wake of the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.”
Analysts including diplomat Jake Sullivan (who was a key architect of the process that re-started the Iranian nuclear talks during President Obama’s first term) have criticized the Trump administration for lacking concrete alternative plans to the Iran deal. This seems to be Pompeo’s answer — His Plan B, effectively.
Brian Hook, a senior adviser to Pompeo, has reportedly said that Trump sees the exiting from the Iran Deal as an “opportunity,” not a problem.
“We need a new framework that’s going to address the totality of Iran’s threats,” Hook told a media phone pool on Friday.
The details of Pompeo’s speech haven’t been leaked but we will know soon enough.
Pompeo is widely known for taking an antagonistic stance toward Iran, and his replacing of the more centrist Rex Tillerson in April signaled a shift in Washington DC’s approach to Iran. This culminated in Trump’s withdrawing from the Iran deal, despite stringent European opposition, even from the UK — usually a strong US ally. On April 26, Pompeo was enjoyed strong support from the Senate, securing a 57-42 vote, bolstering his position.
Immediately after the vote, Pompeo made his first international trip, traveling to the Middle East. Speaking during that trip, he accused Iran of “behaving worse” since the signing of the Iran Deal in 2015. This claim emphasized the administration’s position on Iran: opposing its support of allies such as Hamas and Hezbollah (both recognized as terrorist groups), the Houthis in Yemen and President al-Assad of Syria. Speaking with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, Pompeo also emphasized that getting rid of the Iran deal would not hurt negotiations with Pyongyang.
"I don’t think Kim Jong Un is staring at the Iran deal and saying, 'Oh goodness, if they get out of that deal, I won’t talk to the Americans anymore,”' Pompei said. "There are higher priorities that he is more concerned about."
Iran has pushed on Europe to do all that it can to salvage the deal, a plea that is shared by a group of prominent scholars and intellectuals. They wrote to European Union Foreign Policy Chief Federica Moghereini, who had presided over the last stage of the negotiations that led to the inking of the deal in Vienna in June 2015. The letter’s signatories include Noam Chomsky and Cornell West, as well as Tarane Alidoosti, a leading Iranian actress, and the New York-based Ervand Abrahamian, perhaps the most notable historian of Iran.
On the opposite side, Pompeo has also been busy persuading allies in Europe, Asia and the Middle East to press Iran to return to negotiations over its nuclear and missile programs. According to US officials, Pompeo embarked on an intensive schedule of talking to allies right after his return from North Korea earlier this month. The UK, France, Germany, Japan, Iraq and Israel are some of the countries Pompeo reportedly spoke to.
Key questions to look for in Pompeo’s talk include whether the US intends to leave the room open for suspension of the newly re-imposed sanctions under some conditions and what it intends to do on issues such as Iran’s ballistic missile program, its human rights record and its role in the region.