JEDDAH: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday urged European nations to get behind American measures to cut Iran off from the world energy markets.
“Iran continues to send weapons across the Middle East, in blatant violation of UN Security Council resolutions,” he said during talks in Brussels.
“Iran’s regime wants to start trouble wherever it can. It’s our responsibility to stop it. We ask our allies and partners to join our economic-pressure campaign against Iran’s regime. We must cut off all funding the regime uses to fund terrorism and proxy wars. There’s no telling when Iran may try to foment terrorism, violence and instability in one of our countries next.”
Pompeo also posted a message on Twitter, saying: “It’s time to face the facts about #Iran’s malevolent regime.” The tweet was accompanied by a map of Europe purportedly showing the locations of 11 terror attacks US officials believe Iran, or its proxy Hezbollah, have carried out since 1979.
Also on Thursday, President Donald Trump warned of an unspecified “escalation” between the United States and Iran following his decision in May this year to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
“I would say there might be an escalation between us and the Iranians,” Trump said during a news conference in Brussels.
He added that Iran’s economic troubles would force the country to seek a security deal with Washington as a result of his withdrawal from the nuclear pact.
“They’re treating us with much more respect right now than they did in the past and I know they’re having a lot of problems and their economy is collapsing,” said Trump. “But I will tell you this: At a certain point, they’re going to call me and they’re going to say, ‘Let’s make a deal,’ and we’ll make a deal. But they’re feeling a lot of pain right now.”
US officials have been traveling the world warning foreign governments to stop buying oil from Iran or face sanctions.
Pompeo also has accused Iran of using its embassies to plot terrorist attacks in Europe.
“Just this past week there were Iranians arrested in Europe who were preparing to conduct a terror plot in Paris, France. We have seen this malign behavior in Europe,” Pompeo said this month during an interview.
He was referring to the arrest of an Iranian diplomat posted to Vienna who allegedly was involved in a plan to bomb a rally by an Iranian opposition group in France on June 30. The arrest of the envoy in Germany came after a couple with Iranian roots was apprehended in Belgium after authorities reportedly found explosives in their car.
Washington’s reinstatement of economic sanctions has further weakened Iran’s already-hobbled economy.
There has been a sharp fall in the value of the national currency, the rial, sparking angry protests in the country and clashes with the police. Workers at Tehran’s Grand Bazaar took strike action towards the end of June, and traders organized a mass gathering outside parliament to complain about the collapse of the rial.
Experts have welcomed the increased US pressure on Europe over Iran.
Oubai Shahbandar, a Syrian-American analyst and fellow at the New America Foundation’s International Security Program, said Iran’s energy exports depend heavily on European and Asian customers.
“If the EU complies with American sanctions and halts investments, as well as significantly curtailing Iranian oil imports, it is difficult to see how Iran’s economy can survive such international isolation,” he said.
“We’re already seeing signs that the European market is seeking alternative sources other than Iran for their energy needs. If these trends continue, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards will eventually find it prohibitively difficult to continue their transnational operations and attacks.”
Harvard scholar and Iranian affairs expert Dr. Majid Rafizadeh said that in the short-term, some European powers will continue attempts to salvage their business deals with Iran, as well as the nuclear deal.
“Nevertheless, in the long-term Europe will more likely join its old transatlantic partner in containing the Iranian regime and countering its threats,” he added.
“For Europe, the costs of dealing with the Iranian regime considerably outweigh the benefits. The EU has no common interests with the top state sponsor of terrorism, the Iranian regime. From geopolitical, strategical, military, security and economic landscapes, the EU-US relationship is significantly greater than EU-Iran ties.”
Rafizadeh said the EU needs the alliance with the US to continue as both sides have common interests in combating radical and terrorist groups.
“When it comes to providing security, the EU is still dependent on the US,” he said. “The EU cannot endanger its geopolitical ties with the US over the Iranian regime.
“For more than six decades, the transatlantic partnership between the US and Europe has been one of the most powerful alliances in the world. Together, they have played a dominant role in making vital global decisions, and determining which direction international politics should take.”