In its latest threat to Iran’s regime, the Trump Administration has said Tehran must pay a greater cost for its regional interventions, including in Syria and Iraq.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (pictured) issued the statement in an interview in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, in between his trip to North Korea and Japan and his attendance at the NATO summit in Belgium.
Pompeo told The National that the US is pursuing a coalition for a “global effort” to make Iran act as a “normal country”.
The Secretary of State is trying to bolster the expansion of US sanctions, following Donald Trump’s May 8 announcement of US withdrawal from the July 2015 nuclear deal:
In the last few years, the sanctions were lifted and much of this malign activity, this increase in resources provided to Hezbollah, the increase of resources provided to Shia militias fighting in Iraq and Syria, the support to the Houthis in Yemen, the efforts in Bahrain, those all took place against a backdrop of a relief from sanctions that was a result of agreements that were entered into in the JCPOA [nuclear deal]….
These sanctions are returning and I am convinced that the combined effort of the Gulf states and the United States and the Europeans will ultimately achieve a good outcome and convince the Iranian people that this is not the type of activity their government should be involved in.
Pompeo specifically targeted the Revolutionary Guards and the leader of its elite Quds Force: “[Gen.] Qassem Soleimani is causing trouble throughout Iraq and Syria and we need to raise the cost for him – for his organisation and for him personally.”
Soleimani has organized the Iranian effort since 2012 to prop up the Assad regime, including the development of a 50,000-strong Syrian militia, cooperation with Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and leadership of foreign militia from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. He has not only pursued the military campaign to push back the Islamic State in Iraq, but also carried out political missions to maintain and expand Iran’s influence in the country.
Measures in Iraq and Yemen, But Caution Over Syria
Pompeo tried to contrast US efforts with those of the Iranians:
We are working closely with the Iraqis to make sure that as they move through their government formation process, what America wants is an Iraqi Iraq for Iraqis, not influenced by Iran but rather comprised of the various groups, the Kurds, Sunnis, Shias; we want everyone to have a voice in an Iraqi national government that leads to an Iraq that is strong, independent and robust and economically successful as well.
However, he stepped away from any American pressure on Syria’s Assad regime:
The first thing that America is working on politically is to reduce the level of violence. We have over six million displaced persons. We have got to restore the opportunity for the Syrian people to begin to engage politically and develop a stable non-violent Syria. At that point, the political decisions, the constitution of Syria, will be sorted by the Syrian people.
Instead, Pompeo — without mentioning the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen’s civil war — tried to frame Iran as the source of the Yemeni conflict between the nominal Government and the Iranian-supported Houthi insurgency. He said measures against the Iranian regime “will ultimately lead the Houthis and others in Yemen to realise that the war is not worth continuing and a political resolution, that is best for the people of Yemen”.