During a speech at the Heritage Foundation, a well-known conservative think tank in Washington, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo laid out a laundry list of demands to Iran on Monday, just a few short weeks after the U.S. pulled out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – better known as the Iran nuclear deal.
The demands, described by Pompeo as “basic requirements,” include Iran’s full withdrawal from Syria, the release of all U.S. citizens imprisoned in the country, the end of Iran’s support for the Houthi rebels in Yemen, ending the “enrichment” of uranium, allowing “the IAEA with unqualified access to all sites throughout the entire country” and promising to never process plutonium.
Pompeo also noted that a Iran’s failure to comply with these demands would result in the “strongest sanctions in history” being imposed on Iran that would cause the country to struggle to “keep its economy alive.”
“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. These will indeed end up being the strongest sanctions in history when we are complete,” Pompeo said.
This strategy, the Trump administration’s “Plan B” for dealing with Iran following its withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, has been regarded as unachievable and unrealistic as Iran is all but certain to reject the ultimatum.
Indeed, Trita Parsi of the National Iranian American Council asserted that Pompeo’s “requirements” are intentionally unrealistic as his speech was “clearly designed to ensure there cannot be any new negotiation.”
“If you maximize pressure and set unachievable demands, you solely pave the way for war. That is the objective of Trump, and that’s been the objective of his cheerleaders in Saudi and Israel,” Parsi added.
Parsi’s concerns appear warranted given one of Pompeo’s questionable demands that Iran end military support of Yemen’s Houthi rebels. Though long labeled an Iran “proxy” by the corporate media, the Houthis are a movement unique to Yemen that share a religious identity with Iran and little more.
Thomas Juneau, a former analyst for Canada’s Department of National Defence, wrote in the Washington Post that “Tehran’s support for the Houthis is limited, and its influence in Yemen is marginal. It is simply inaccurate to claim that the Houthis are Iranian proxies.” He further stated that Iran’s assistance “remains limited and far from sufficient to make more than a marginal difference to the balance of forces in Yemen, a country awash with weapons.”
Even the U.S. State Department has acknowledged that the Houthis have not been not armed by Iran but are instead largely armed by purchases from the black market and the Yemeni military. Furthermore, the Saudi blockade of Yemen ensures that support from Iran, were it to be offered, would not even be able to make it into the Houthi-controlled portion of the country.
Given his “wildly unrealistic” list of policy demands, Pompeo’s speech has largely been regarded as further evidence that the Trump administration has adopted a “regime change” policy towards Iran. This has been expected for some time, as news broke last week that National Security Adviser John Bolton had been circulating a plan throughout the National Security Council that calls for making regime change an explicit part of the administration’s Iran policy.
Pompeo, as well as Bolton, have long been advocates for regime change in Iran, as have other powerful figures closely connected to the Trump administration such as former mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani who now serves as one of Trump’s lawyers.
Earlier this month, Giuliani openly stated that Trump and his administration were “committed” to bringing regime change to Iran during a speech to the Mujahedeen Khalq (MEK), a “cult-like” group of Iranian exiles that was listed as a “Foreign Terrorist Organization” by the U.S. until 2012 for its use of terror tactics that have resulted in the deaths of both Iranians and Americans. During his recent speech to the group, Giuliani led a chant of “regime change,” underscoring the desired result of the MEK and its contacts in Washington.
Bolton also recently spoke to the MEK during a gathering of the group in France last year. In that speech, Bolton told members and supporters of the group: “The declared policy of the United States should be the overthrow of the mullahs’ regime in Tehran. […] The behavior and the objectives of the regime are not going to change and, therefore, the only solution is to change the regime itself. […] And that’s why, before 2019, we here will celebrate in Tehran!”
Pompeo’s recent speech seems to be an indication that Bolton, with help from other like-minded officials in the Trump administration, is seeking to fulfill his regime change promise sooner rather than later.