WASHINGTON — The Trump administration demanded Monday that Iran make wholesale changes in its military and regional policies or face “the strongest sanctions in history,” as it sought to turn up heat on Tehran after President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from a landmark nuclear deal.
In speech that called Iran out for a wide range of “malign activities” apart from its nuclear program, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for the negotiation of a new deal that would go far beyond the single focus of the 2015 agreement and would have the status of a formal treaty. The 2015 deal concluded under the Obama administration dealt only with the nuclear program and was not a treaty but rather a U.N.-endorsed executive agreement between the parties.
Unless such a treaty can be reached, Pompeo warned that Iran would face tough sanctions that would leave it “battling to keep its economy alive.” But he laid out no strategy for convincing Iran, the other participants in the original deal — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the European Union — or others to open such a negotiation.
“These will end up being the strongest sanctions in history by the time we are complete,” Pompeo said at the conservative Heritage Foundation in his first major policy speech since taking over as top diplomat.
Pompeo vowed Trump’s approach would ensure Iran would never develop a nuclear weapon. A new pact should require that Iran stop enrichment of uranium, which was allowed within strict limitations under the previous deal. Iran would also have to walk away from core pillars of its foreign policy, including its involvement in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Afghanistan, he said.
“This list may seem long to some, but it is simply a reflection of the massive scope of Iranian malign behavior,” Pompeo said. “America did not create this need for changed behavior. Iran did.”
In response, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani described Pompeo’s speech as unacceptable and took issue with the fact that the secretary of state previously led the CIA, long demonized in Iran for its role in a 1953 coup.
Pompeo did offer Iran a series of dramatic potential U.S. concessions if it agrees to make “major changes.” Under a new agreement, the U.S. would be willing to lift all sanctions, restore full diplomatic and commercial ties with Iran and even support the modernization of its economy, Pompeo said.
“It is America’s hope that our labors toward peace and security will bear fruit for the long-suffering people of Iran,” Pompeo said.
Still, Pompeo’s list of 12 requirements included many Iran is highly unlikely to consider. Pompeo demanded that Iran cease from a range of activities throughout the Middle East that have long drawn the ire of the U.S. 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.
Taken together, the demands would require a complete transformation by Iran’s government, and they hardened the perception that the administration is really seeking regime change.