Pompeo slams Iran in first trip to Mideast allies

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New American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lashed out at Iran on Sunday as he met Saudi leaders and headed to Israel to rally opposition to Tehran and brief US allies on President Donald Trump’s threat to quit the Iran nuclear deal.

After the meetings in Riyadh, Pompeo, who set off on his first diplomatic trip within hours of being sworn in,  accused Iran of destabilizing the Middle East, including through its support for Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and for Shiite rebels in Yemen.

He held talks with Saudi King Salman on Sunday after arriving and having dinner on Saturday with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

Pompeo was to fly on to Tel Aviv to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu then head to neighboring Jordan, wrapping up a weekend of talks with some of Iran’s most fervent foes in the region.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attending a news conference with his Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir, in Riyadh, April 29, 2018. /Reuters Photo

“(Iran) supports proxy militias and terrorist groups. It is an arms dealer to the Huthi rebels in Yemen and Iran conducts cyber-hacking campaigns. And it supports the murderous Assad regime,” the Secretary of State said at a joint press conference with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir.

“Unlike the prior administration, we will not neglect the vast scope of Iran’s terrorism.”

Trump is due to decide on May 12 whether to reimpose sanctions on Tehran, putting in peril a landmark 2015 nuclear accord which most world powers see as key to preventing Tehran from gaining atomic weapons.

But Trump and America’s Middle East allies argue the deal, approved by Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, was too weak and needs to be replaced with a more permanent arrangement and supplemented by controls on Iran’s missile program.

Pompeo said the nuclear deal “in its current form” does not do enough to make sure Iran never possesses atomic weapons, and again suggested Trump was ready to nix the agreement.

“We will continue to work with our European allies to fix that deal, but if a deal cannot be reached, the president has said he will leave that deal,” he said.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in Riyadh, April 29, 2018. /Reuters Photo

US officials traveling with Pompeo told reporters the missiles had been supplied by Iran, citing the attacks as evidence that regional powers should work together.

“Iran supplies the missiles that the Huthis fire into Saudi Arabia, threatening civilians,” he said. “Today alone the Saudis shot down four Huthi missiles, the latest in a string of such attacks.”

Saudi leaders will welcome US solidarity against Iran, just as Israel will want to see greater US support for its efforts against Iranian influence in Syria and Lebanon.

But Pompeo has come with requests too.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he plans to discuss the Iran nuclear deal and Tehran’s “growing aggression” when he meets visiting US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo later Sunday.

US President Donald Trump has not decided whether or not to scrap the Iran nuclear deal, US National Security Advisor John Bolton said Sunday. “He has made no decision on the nuclear deal, whether to stay in or get out,” Bolton told Fox News Sunday.

Pompeo will conclude his first diplomatic trip on Monday after talks with senior Jordanian officials, then fly back to Washington to move into his office in the State Department.

On Korean Peninsula

The US has an “obligation” to pursue a diplomatic solution with Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), and there is a “real opportunity” for progress, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in an interview broadcast Sunday. “We have an obligation to engage in diplomatic discourse to try and find a peaceful solution so that Americans aren’t held at risk by Kim Jong Un and his nuclear arsenal,” Pompeo told ABC, saying that there is a “real opportunity” for progress.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, DPRK leader Kim Jong Un, Kim’s wife Ri Sol Ju and Moon’s wife Kim Jung-sook attend a farewell ceremony at the truce village of Panmunjom inside the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, South Korea, April 27, 2018. /Reuters Photo

America’s top diplomat also said that he and the DPRK’s leader Kim Jong Un held in-depth talks about a denuclearization “mechanism” when they met over Easter weekend.

“We talked a great deal about what it might look like, what this complete, verifiable, irreversible mechanism might look like,” Pompeo said.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in met with Kim in a historic summit, agreeing on Friday to pursue a permanent peace and the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

An armistice brought the fighting on the Korean peninsula to an end in 1953, but 65 years later, a final peace agreement has still not been reached. The Moon-Kim meeting has raised expectations for US President Donald Trump’s own planned summit with the DPRK leader, the date and location of which have not yet been finalized.

Source(s): AFP
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