United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo laid out the Trump administration’s new Iran strategy in a speech today, May 21. Speaking at Washington DC’s Heritage Foundation, he defended Trump’s exit from the Iran deal, put 12 new demands on the Iranian regime and called on the Iranian people to change “their leadership” if they wanted to see more conciliatory policies from the US.
Pompeo started out by saying that the US left the Iran Deal for the “simple reason” that it failed to protect the American people from the threats posed by Iran. "No more wealth creation for Iranian kleptocrats, acceptance of Iranian missiles in Riyadh and the Golan Heights, cost-free expansion of Iranian power —no more,” he promised.
Pompeo listed the US’ grievances against the Iranian regime, which he said had continued despite the deal being signed in 2015. He focused mostly on Iran’s role in the region, its support of allies in the Arab world and Afghanistan and its development of ballistic missiles.
At the core of the speech, US’s top diplomat put 12 demands on Iran. They are:
1- Submission of detailed plans about the past military dimensions of its nuclear program
2- Stopping of all uranium enrichment, plutonium processing and closure of its heavy water reactor
3- Giving “unqualified access” to all sites on its territory to the International Atomic Energy Agency
4- Ending its program of ballistic missiles
5- Releasing all US citizens and those of other allies held on “spurious charges”
6- Ending support to “terrorist groups” in the region including Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Palestine
7- Recognizing Iraq’s sovereignty and allowing the disarming of the Shia militias
8- Ending its support for Yemen’s Houthis
9- Withdrawal of all of its forces “from the entirety of Syria”
10- Ending support for Taliban and other terrorist forces in Afghanistan
11- Ending the Qods Force’s support for “terrorist groups”
12- Ending threats against neighbors, including the threat of destroying Israel
The secretary of state is known for his antagonistic stance toward Iran. His appointment n April signaled a shift in Washington's approach to Iran, culminating in Trump withdrawing from the Iran Deal, which he announced on May 8. Prior to this, on April 26, Pompeo had strong support from the Senate, securing a 57-42 vote for his appointment.
Diplomat Jake Sullivan, who played a key role in restarting nuclear talks during President Obama’s first term, is among those who has criticized the Trump administration for lacking concrete alternative plans to the Iran deal. Today Pompeo effectively came up with his Plan B.
In the second part of his short speech, Pompeo focused on the dire state of the Iranian economy and addressed the Iranian people several times. “You deserve better,” he told Iranians, while asking rhetorically if they prefer a government that backs groups like Hezbollah, Hamas, Taliban and Al-Qaeda — a reference to Washington DC’s accusation that Tehran harbors some of its leaders.
Pompeo claimed that the previous administration under President Obama had failed to consider the interests of Iranian people and added that the US was committed to advocating for them so that they could move toward being a country of “economic opportunity, government transparency and greater liberty.”
In a departure from the previous administration, Pompeo directly addressed the nature of the Iranian regime, pointing out that 2019 was the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution and an apt time to ask what the revolution had given its people other than “suffering and death in the Middle East” at the expense of Iranians. He reminded the audience that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei had been in his position since 1989 and that he won’t “live forever,” and Iranians won’t accept tyrannical rule for ever.
Following the speech, the Heritage Foundation’s President, Kay Cole James, asked Pompeo a few short questions, adding that the secretary of state didn't have time for questions from the audience.
When asked about the “timeline” of delivering on his ambitious program, Pompeo said sanctions will resume in less than 155 days but that, ultimately, “Iranian people will decide the timelines. They get to make a choice about their leadership.”