Weeks after President Donald Trump pulled out of an international nuclear deal with Iran, his administration threatened to impose “the strongest sanctions in history,” and vowed to “crush” Iranian operatives abroad, setting Washington and Tehran further on a course of confrontation.
“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 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 expansion in the Middle East through support for armed groups in countries such as Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.
He warned that the United States would “crush” Iranian operatives and proxies abroad and told Tehran to pull out forces under its command from the Syrian civil war where they have helped President Bashar al-Assad gain the upper hand.
Iran’s president summarily dismissed Pompeo’s demands.
“The world today does not accept America to decide for the world, as countries are independent … that era is over … We will continue our path with the support of our nation.”
Tension between the two countries has grown notably since Trump this month withdrew from the 2015 nuclear agreement aimed at preventing Tehran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
A senior Iranian official said Pompeo’s remarks showed that the United States was pushing for “regime change,” a charged phrase often associated with the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the overthrow of President Saddam Hussein.