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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 September 2018

EU says US has offered no alternative to Iran deal

Mike Pompeo threatened Iran with the 'strongest sanctions in history'

President Donald Trump stands with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a swearing-in ceremony for incoming Central Intelligence Agency director Gina Haspel at CIA Headquarters, Monday, May 21, 2018, in Langley, Va. Evan Vucci / AP Photo
President Donald Trump stands with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a swearing-in ceremony for incoming Central Intelligence Agency director Gina Haspel at CIA Headquarters, Monday, May 21, 2018, in Langley, Va. Evan Vucci / AP Photo

European officials have rounded on US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's speech in which he warned that Washington would hit Iran with the "strongest sanctions in history," accusing him of failing to present any viable alternative to tearing up the nuclear deal.

Mr Pompeo, who recently moved to the State Department from the CIA, warned Iran that the US would “crush its proxies” in the Middle East and reject any new nuclear deal after US President Donald Trump pulled out of the agreement on May 8.

But other parties of the deal have appeared to signal that the US could have made such demands within the framework of the pact, rather than pulling out of it.

The European Union's foreign policy chief said there was "no alternative" to the Iran nuclear deal.

"Secretary Pompeo's speech has not demonstrated how walking away from the JCPOA (nuclear deal) has made or will make the region safer from the threat of nuclear proliferation or how it puts us in a better position to influence Iran's conduct in areas outside the scope of JCPOA," Federica Mogherini said.

"The JCPOA is the result of more than a decade of complex and delicate negotiations, based on dual track approach and therefore the best possible outcome, striking the right balance," Ms Mogherini said.

She reiterated that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had confirmed already 10 times that Iran has implemented "all its nuclear related commitments" under the agreement.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, attending a G20 foreign ministers' meeting in Buenos Aires, said he was not surprised by Mr Pompeo's critique of the Iran deal, before adding: "We do not see at this time a better alternative".

"We believe that without this agreement, we would take the risk that Iran resumes its nuclear program," he said.

Mr Maas said he will travel to Washington to talk with Pompeo this week. France, Britain and Germany are all members of the agreement.

Mr Trump pulled out of the agreement in the face of intense European lobbying for the US to remain party to the deal.

His secretary of state said Washington's hardline strategy would continue unless the country made sweeping changes that would effectively force it to reverse the recent spread of its military and political influence through the Middle East to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.

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US President Donald Trump, citing Israeli evidence of a covert Iranian nuclear programme and railing against Iranian activity in the Middle East, removed the US from the agreement.

He now wants the other members of the deal to join him in ripping it up to forge a new pact that resembles his hardline positions towards the Islamic Republic. Mr Pompeo relayed that stance to an audience at the Heritage Foundation in Washington on Monday.

"Iran will never again have carte blanche to dominate the Middle East," Pompeo said, outlining 12 tough conditions from Washington for any "new deal" with Tehran.

The Iranian response to his speech has been more fierce. A senior Revolutionary Guards commander said on Tuesday that the Iranian people will punch Mr Pompeo in the mouth in response to the new US plan to pressure Tehran.

"The people of Iran should stand united in the face of this and they will deliver a strong punch to the mouth of the American Secretary of State and anyone who backs them," Ismail Kowsari, the deputy commander of the Sarollah Revolutionary Guards base in Tehran said on Tuesday, according to the Iranian Labour News Agency.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was more measured but just as critical. "Who are you to decide for Iran and the world?" he was quoted as saying.

"The world today does not accept that the United States decides for the world. Countries have their independence," he added.

Meanwhile, Pentagon spokesman Colonel Rob Manning said the military was weighing "new actions" to counter Iran's influence in the Middle East.

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