Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday defended his list of U.S. demands for Iran, rebuffing critics who said his goals were unrealistic in seeking fundamental change by the government in Tehran.
“The tasks that Iran needs to undertake aren’t that difficult,” Pompeo said at the State Department a day after he warned in a hard-line speech that the Trump administration will impose severe economic sanctions on Iran unless it meets a dozen U.S. requirements.
“I’ve seen reports that these are a fantasy and they can’t happen,” he said. “But we asked for things that are really very simple.”
Pompeo presented the 12 demands as an alternative to the Iran nuclear accord, which saw Iran give up its nuclear program in exchange for easing of international sanctions. Trump abandoned the Obama-era deal two weeks ago, saying it was inadequate, after rejecting appeals from British, French and German leaders to stay in it.
Instead, in his speech, Pompeo said Iran must cease all nuclear development “in perpetuity,” dismantle its system of ballistic missiles, withdraw forces from Syria, and end support for militant groups in Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and elsewhere.
In a defiant response Tuesday, Iran denounced the Trump administration for essentially demanding regime change in Tehran.
“The world today does not accept that the United States decides for the world. Countries have their independence,” Iranian President Hassan Rohani said, according to Iranian media. “Who are you to decide for Iran and the world?”
While Pompeo did not address that charge directly, he insisted the Trump administration is seeking reasonable changes in Iran’s behavior.
“We wouldn’t tolerate Iceland doing what the Iranians are doing. We wouldn’t tolerate Chad doing what the — I mean, I could just pick a number, I’m sort of tripping through the alphabet, right?” he said.
Critics said the demands were unreasonable and impractical, and were intended to spark a confrontation with Iran.
Pompeo repeated his confidence that governments in Europe and Russia would eventually join the U.S. in an anti-Iran coalition, much as they did to help the Obama administration negotiate the nuclear deal in 2015.
European allies have sharply criticized Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran deal, however, and it’s not clear if they will honor new U.S. sanctions.
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