US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he hoped the US would never have to take military action against Iran, but warned that should Tehran pursue the acquisition of nuclear weapons, it would stand to face the “wrath of the entire world.”
Speaking during an interview with MSNBC broadcast on Saturday, Pompeo said that no matter the fate of the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal — which the US pulled out of last month, angering Tehran and America’s European allies and signatories to the agreement — it would not be in Iran’s interest to develop nuclear arms.
“I hope they understand that if they begin to ramp up their nuclear program, the wrath of the entire world will fall upon them,” he said, during the wide-ranging interview which focused heavily on Washington’s recent outreach to North Korea, and ongoing talks on Pyongyang’s denuclearization.
“When I say wrath, don’t confuse that with military action. When I say wrath, I mean the moral opprobrium and economic power that fell upon them. That’s what I’m speaking to. I’m not talking to military action here. I truly hope that that’s never the case. It’s not in anyone’s best interests for that,” he added.
Pompeo said that US President Donald Trump has been “very clear” on Iran. “Iran will not get a nuclear weapon nor start its weapons program on this President’s watch,” he said, according to a transcript of the interview made available by the US State Department.
Trump’s announcement on May 8 that Washington was withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal was a fulfillment of a campaign promise made by the then-candidate to scrap the deal. The US president had often blasted the controversial agreement forged under his predecessor, President Barack Obama, casting it as “defective” and unable to rein in Iranian behavior or halt the Islamic Republic’s quest to develop nuclear weapons. Trump said the 2015 agreement, which included Germany, France, Russia, China, and Britain, was a “horrible one-sided deal that should never ever have been made.”
European allies Germany, France, and Britain had urged Trump to remain part of the deal and said they would stick by the agreement regardless.
In his Saturday interview, Pompeo rebuffed the suggestion that America had “separated from our allies on this issue of Iran,” and suggested that although allies may have disagreed with Washington’s move to withdraw from the accord, they understand the wider threat posed by Iran
“When I talk to my Arab friends, the Israelis, all of those in the region, they are right alongside us. And even when I speak to the Europeans, with whom we have a difference about the JCPOA [the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the deal is formally called] they too understand the threat that Iran presents, whether it’s malign activity with [Lebanese terror group] Hezbollah or in Yemen or in Syria or in Iraq, or its missile program that is launching missiles into airports that Westerners travel through,” he said.
“There is a unified understanding of Iran’s malevolent behavior, and it will be an incredibly united world should Iran choose to head down a nuclear weapons path,” he added.
While the fate of the JCPOA is not yet clear as Iran has said it will remain in the deal but could resume nuclear activity if need be, Pompeo said that “if they began to move towards a weapons program, this would be something the entire world would find unacceptable, and we’d end up down a path that I don’t think this is the best interest of Iran, other actors in the Middle East, or indeed the world.”