Comparing Iran to Nazis, Pence doubles down on call for EU to quit nuclear deal
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Comparing Iran to Nazis, Pence doubles down on call for EU to quit nuclear deal

US vice president brands Islamic Republic ‘leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world,’ repeats accusation that it is openly advocating another Holocaust

US Vice President Mike Pence (C) crosses a street to give a statement in front of the Bayerischer Hof hotel at the 55th Munich Security Conference in Munich, southern Germany, on February 16, 2019. (THOMAS KIENZLE / AFP)
US Vice President Mike Pence (C) crosses a street to give a statement in front of the Bayerischer Hof hotel at the 55th Munich Security Conference in Munich, southern Germany, on February 16, 2019. (THOMAS KIENZLE / AFP)

US Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday urged European powers once again to end their involvement in the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, and stressed his belief that the Islamic Republic was seeking a new “Holocaust.”

“Yesterday, my wife Karen and I paid our solemn respects to the martyrs of the Holocaust in our very first visit to Auschwitz,” Pence said during his address at the Munich Security Conference, an annual gathering of top global defense and foreign policy officials in the German city.

“One lesson of that dark chapter of human history is that when authoritarian regimes breathe out vile anti-Semitic hatreds and threats of violence, we must take them at their word,” he continued. “The Iranian regime openly advocates another Holocaust.”

The US unilaterally pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement last year, while the other powers involved — Germany, Britain, France, China, Russia and the European Union — remain obligated to the deal

The accord offers Iran sanctions relief for limiting its nuclear program, and the International Atomic Energy Agency has said that Tehran is sticking to the agreement.

But the US argues that the deal just puts off when Iran might be able to build a nuclear bomb. Pence pushed at the conference for Europeans to end their involvement in the nuclear deal, calling Iran “the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world.”

“The time has come for our European partners to stop undermining US sanctions against this murderous revolutionary regime,” Pence said. “The time has come for our European partners to stand with us and with the Iranian people, our allies and friends in the region. The time has come for our European partners to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.”

Pence’s comments came after German Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier in the conference robustly defended European nations’ decision to stand by the nuclear deal.

Merkel said she shared concerns about Iranian efforts to grow its power in the region, but defended the deal as an important channel to Tehran.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) and US Vice President Mike Pence (L) leave after a photo call during the 55th Munich Security Conference (MSC) in Munich, southern Germany, on February 16, 2019.(Christof STACHE / AFP)

“I see the ballistic missile program, I see Iran in Yemen and above all I see Iran in Syria,” she said. “The only question that stands between us on this issue is, do we help our common cause, our common aim of containing the damaging or difficult development of Iran, by withdrawing from the one remaining agreement? Or do we help it more by keeping the small anchor we have in order maybe to exert pressure in other areas?”

Merkel also questioned whether it’s good for the US to withdraw troops quickly from Syria “or is that not also strengthening the possibilities for Iran and Russia to exert influence there?”

Turning to nuclear disarmament, Merkel said the US announcement earlier this month that it was pulling out of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty was “inevitable” because of Russian violations.

Moscow followed suit by also withdrawing from the treaty, strongly denying any breaches. The US administration also worried that the pact was an obstacle to efforts to counter intermediate-range missiles deployed by China, which is not covered by the treaty.

Merkel noted the treaty was conceived “essentially for Europe,” where such missiles were stationed during the Cold War. She said “the answer cannot lie in blind rearmament.”

“Disarmament is something that concerns us all, and we would of course be glad if such negotiations were conducted not just between the United States … and Russia, but also with China,” she said.

Merkel also defended Germany’s progress in fulfilling NATO guidelines for countries to move toward spending 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense by 2024, which have been criticized as too slow. And overall, she rejected the idea of a go-it-alone foreign policy.

She said it is better to “put yourself in the other’s shoes … and see whether we can get win-win solutions together.”

Pence stuck to the US line that the 2% NATO guideline is a strict commitment rather than a target, saying while more alliance members have met the criteria, “the truth is, many of our NATO allies still need to do more.”

He also reiterated American opposition to the joint German-Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, which Washington is concerned will make Europe overly reliant on Russian gas.

“The United States commends all our European partners who’ve taken a strong stand against Nord Stream 2,” he said. “And we commend others to do that same.”

Merkel defended the pipeline under the Baltic Sea, dismissing the American concerns as unfounded and assuring Ukraine that it won’t get cut off from Russian fuel.

Speaking as Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko looked on, she told him his country would continue to be a transit country for Russian gas even after the pipeline is complete.

Merkel noted that Europe also has enough terminals to receive more liquefied gas from the US, among other options.

“There’s nothing that speaks against getting gas from the United States, but to exclude Russia is the wrong strategic signal.”

Merkel’s speech was warmly received, while Pence’s met with polite applause.

“This was a big and say-it-as-it-is Merkel speech,” Daniela Schwarzer, the director of the German Council on Foreign relations think tank, wrote on Twitter. “Minutes of applause and standing ovations for a powerful commitment to picking up the pieces of a shattered (world) order and working on a European and (international) order that creates win-win situations.”

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