Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the U.S. will apply the toughest sanctions in history to squeeze the life out of Iran’s nuclear and territorial ambitions, and a former Clinton administration official says the Trump administration is headed in a much better direction than the one charted by the Obama administration.
During a speech Monday morning at the Heritage Foundation, Pompeo made it clear Iran’s belligerent behavior is already resulting in economic pain.
“We will apply unprecedented financial pressure on the Iranian regime. The leaders in Tehran will have no doubt about our seriousness. Thanks to our colleagues at the Department of Treasury, sanctions are going back in full effect and new ones are coming.
“Last week, we imposed sanctions on Iran’s central bank and other entities that were funneling money to the [Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’] Quds Force and were also providing money to Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations,” said Pompeo.
Pompeo then elaborated on what new sanctions were coming.
“The sting of sanctions will be painful if the regime does not change its course from the unacceptable and unproductive path it has chosen to one that rejoins the league of nations,” said Pompeo.
Lawrence J. Haas served as communications director to Vice President Al Gore and was spokesman for the Clinton administration’s Office of Management and Budget. He is now a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council and was a frequent critic of the Obama administration’s approach to Iran and Israel.
While eager for more details, Haas says Pompeo’s remarks are a welcome step.
“It’s bold. It’s comprehensive,” said Haas. “In an extremely unpredictable presidency, we do have some consistency here. President Trump has said for a long time that one of the main problems with the Iran nuclear deal is that it wasn’t comprehensive enough.
“That is only addressed the nuclear program and did not address the other damaging aspects of Iranian behavior: the ballistic missile program that’s tied to the nuclear program, the terror sponsorship, the efforts in the region to destabilize other regimes, the presence in Syria and all the rest,” said Haas.
He says the Trump approach takes all Iranian threats and destructive policies into consideration.
“Here we see a policy that, at least on paper, is broader and does take in all these different aspects of Iranian behavior,” said Haas.
Haas believes Pompeo’s speech was also aimed at former U.S. partners in the Iran nuclear deal, putting Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China on notice that their own economic fortunes could be imperiled if they keep cooperating with Iran. He says that’s easier said than done since the U.S. does not want to ostracize those allies, whom it will need for other international priorities.
However, if Trump can convince those other nations to get on board with the sanctions, it could have a massive impact.
“This could be potentially game-changing,” said Haas.
Pompeo made it clear that Iran will need to reverse course in a host of areas to see sanctions relief. In addition to no enriching of uranium or pre-processing of plutonium, Iran would also have to scrap its missile program, get out of Syria, stop aiding the Houtis in Yemen and end its threats against Israel.
Haas wonders if the Iranian regime has such a sea change in its DNA, even if were to see the benefits of becoming a responsible government.
“Can this regime do all this and still be true to itself, which is a brutally hostile anti-American, anti-Israeli, expansionist, revolutionary regime?” asked Haas.
Right now, Haas wants to know what the U.S. is willing to do economically and otherwise to keep Iran in check.
“I’m curious to see the specifics of the sanctions, and I’m curious to see how the administration follows through on its promises to constrain Iranian behavior in the region,” said Haas.