UK Mideast minister warns Iran must address US concerns beyond nuclear deal

Britain’s Middle East Minister Alistair Burt said that the issues that triggered the move by US President Donald Trump to scrap the nuclear deal need to be addressed by Tehran. (AFP)
Updated 13 May 2018
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UK Mideast minister warns Iran must address US concerns beyond nuclear deal

LONDON: Iran’s ballistic missile program and the destabilizing role it plays in the region will be high on the agenda of discussions between European leaders and Tehran according to Middle East Minister Alistair Burt.
He said that the issues that triggered the move by US President Donald Trump to scrap the nuclear deal need to be addressed by Tehran.
He made the comments during an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat following last week’s announcement by the US president that the US would exit the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
“The situation has changed in terms of the US decision,” he said. “But the issues which have concerned the United States and led them to pull out are extremely important and it appears clear that these must be addressed by the Iranians as well. Iran cannot rely solely on its adherence to the JCPOA and not take action in other areas. The UK will continue its obligations under the JCPOA and find ways to involve Iran positively in the region.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday said Washington still wants to work with its European partners on an agreement to counter Iran’s “malign behavior.”
Pompeo told Fox News on Sunday that he had been asked by the president “to work to strike a deal that achieves the outcomes that protect America.”
Burt urged restraint among all parties to avoid the risk of escalating the crisis while also stressing the right of Israel to defend itself.
Turning to the situation in Syria, Burt said that the UK had advised the Trump administration to remain “engaged and active” militarily and politically in Syria.
He said that the UK advocated a political transition to free Syria from conflict and a leader who had exercised brutality against his own people.
“Firstly the conflict in Syria needs to stop, the fighting need to stop and the UN resolutions for cease-fires need to be respected by all sides in order to give the political process a chance. Secondly the Geneva process should be followed to provide the political space for conclusions to be drawn. Thirdly, it must ultimately be for the people of Syria to make their decisions about their own country and direction and shape that it has. But fourthly, in terms of that ultimate solution to the political issue, everyone should be working toward something where the chance of conflict in the future is completely minimized or eliminated,” he said.
He added: “We would certainly encourage the United States to remain very active in Syria to the extent that if it really wishes to see the defeat of Daesh, it must also ensure that as well as the military defeat of Daesh — circumstances which gave rise to the movement in the first place — are not rekindled and that probably requires a longer term presence from all of us.”

Originally published in Asharq Al-Awsat


Iran faces ‘strongest sanctions in history’

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Updated 22 May 2018
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Iran faces ‘strongest sanctions in history’

  • US Secretary of State laid out Trump administration’s strategy for constraining Iran’s nuclear program
  • US threatens "strongest sanctions in history" if Iranian government does not change course

WASHINGTON: The US told Iran on Monday to drop its nuclear ambitions and pull out of the Syrian civil war in a list of demands that marked a new hard-line against Tehran and prompted an Iranian official to warn that Washington seeks regime change.

Weeks after US President Donald Trump pulled out of an international nuclear deal with Iran, his administration threatened to impose “the strongest sanctions in history,” setting Washington and Tehran on a deeper course of confrontation.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanded sweeping changes that would force Iran effectively to reverse years of its foreign policies.

“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 expanding its influence in the Middle East through support for proxy armed groups in countries such as Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

He warned that the US would “crush” Iranian operatives and allies abroad and told Tehran to pull out forces under its command from the Syrian civil war where they back President Bashar Assad.

Iran is unlikely to accede to the US demands. 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.

Pompeo warned that if Iran fully resumed its nuclear program 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 program,” 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.

Pompeo said if Iran made major changes, the US was prepared to ease sanctions, re-establish full diplomatic and commercial relations and support the country’s re-integration into the international economic system.

The speech did not explicitly call for regime change but Pompeo repeatedly urged the Iranian people not to put up with their leaders, specifically naming 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.