US Warns Iran of ‘Strongest Sanctions in History’

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US Secre­tary of State Mike Pompeo gives details of the Trump administration’s Iran policy in Washington on Monday. — Reuters

Two weeks after the United States pulled out of an international nuclear deal with Iran, Pompeo spelled out a hardline approach, potentially setting Washington and Tehran on a deeper confrontation course.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Secre­tary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday threatened to impose the “strongest sanctions in history” against Iran if it did not accept a sweeping series of US demands, including effectively giving up its nuclear ambitions, curtailing its ballistic missile programme and ending its “expansionist behavior”.

Two weeks after the United States pulled out of an international nuclear deal with Iran, Pompeo spelled out a hardline approach, potentially setting Washington and Tehran on a deeper confrontation course.

“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,” Pompeo said in his first major foreign policy speech since becoming secretary of state.

“These will be the strongest sanctions in history by the time we are done,” he added.

Pompeo took aim at Iran’s policy of expanding its influence in the Middle East through support for proxy armed groups in countries such as Syria and Yemen.

He warned that the United States would “crush” Iranian operatives and allies abroad and told Tehran to withdraw all forces under its command from the Syrian civil war where they back President Bashar al Assad.

Iran is unlikely to accede to the US demands.

Pompeo warned that if Iran fully resumed its nuclear programme, Washington would be ready to respond and said the administration would hold companies doing prohibited business in Iran to account.

“Our demands on Iran are not unreasonable: give up your programme,” Pompeo said, “Should they choose to go back, should they begin to enrich, we are fully prepared to respond to that as well,” he said, declining to elaborate.

The speech did not explicitly call for regime change, but the secretary of state repeatedly urged the Iran­ian people not to put up with their leaders, including President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

“At the end of the day the Iranian people will get to make a choice about their leadership. If they make the decision quickly, that would be wonderful, if they choose not to do so we will stay hard at this until we achieve the outcomes I set forward,” said Pompeo.

He laid out 12 demands for Iran and said relief from economic sanctions would only come when Washington had seen tangible shift in Iran’s policies.

He called on Iran to stop uranium enrichment and never to pursue plutonium reprocessing, including closing its heavy water reactor.

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