US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, meeting Sunday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said US President Donald Trump would exit the Iranian nuclear deal if the US administration “can’t fix it.”
His comments came ahead of a looming decision by the US on whether to remain in the 2015 deal, which limited Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
“President Trump’s been pretty clear: This deal is very flawed. He’s directed the administration to try and fix it and if we can’t fix it he’s going to withdraw from the deal,” said Pompeo at a joint press conference with Netanyahu after the meeting in Tel Aviv.
“It’s pretty straightforward,” he added.
Pompeo also warned of Iran’s “destabilizing and malign activities” in the Middle East.
“We remain deeply concerned about Iran’s dangerous escalation of threats to Israel and the region and Iran’s ambition to dominate the Middle East remains,” he said.
“The United States is with Israel in this fight,” Pompeo added.
Netanyahu thanked Pompeo for his and Trump’s opposition to Iran obtaining nuclear weapons and their commitment to countering Iran’s regional “aggression.”
“That aggression has grown many folds since the signing of the Iran nuclear deal. If people thought that Iran’s aggression would be moderated as a result of signing the deal, the opposite has happened,” he said.
“Iran is trying to gobble up one country after another. Iran must be stopped,” Netanyahu added, calling Iran’s “marriage of militant Islam with nuclear weapons” the greatest threat to the world.
Before their meeting at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, Pompeo called Israel “an incredibly important partner” and said it has a “special place in my heart.”
Netanyahu congratulated Pompeo on becoming secretary of state last week and said Israel was proud he is visiting on his first trip as America’s top diplomat.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of their meeting in Tel-Avivמזכיר המדינה האמריקאי מייק פומפאו וראש ממשלת ישראל בנימין נתניהו בכניסה לפגישת עבודה משותפת בתל אביב
Posted by U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv, Israel on Sunday, 29 April 2018
Trump is due to decide by May 12 whether to reimpose nuclear-related sanctions on Tehran, putting in peril the landmark 2015 accord, which most world powers see as key to preventing Tehran from getting the bomb.
But Trump and America’s Middle East allies argue that the deal, approved by the president’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.
Before arriving in Israel, Pompeo visited Saudi Arabia, where he warned that the Iran deal, “in its current form,” does not ensure that the regime in Tehran will not be able to attain nuclear weapons.
“We are determined to make sure it never possesses a nuclear weapon,” Pompeo said of Iran. “The Iran deal in its current form does not provide that assurance,” Pompeo added, standing alongside Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir. “We will continue to work with our European allies to fix that deal. But if a deal cannot be reached, the (US) president has said that he will leave that deal.”
Pompeo met Sunday with Saudi King Salman and Foreign Minister Jubeir. “Iran destabilizes this entire region,” he said in brief remarks to journalists alongside al-Jubeir, who said the kingdom “supports the policy of the Trump administration against Iran and to improve the terms of the nuclear agreement with Iran.”
The ex-CIA chief had arrived in Riyadh a day earlier, shortly after Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen fired missiles at Saudi Arabia’s southern city of Jizan, killing one person and underscoring what US officials said is a growing threat emanating from Iran.
Senior US officials traveling with Pompeo blamed Iran for smuggling the missiles into Yemen. They said the incident highlighted the importance of the Trump administration’s push to counter Iran in the region. Iran has also provided crucial support to Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Pompeo set off on his first diplomatic trip within two hours of being sworn in on Thursday, and on Friday — after talks with the NATO allies in Brussels — he suggested that Trump could nix the nuclear deal.
Perhaps the last chance to fix those alleged shortcomings came from talks between Washington and its European allies Britain, France and Germany on a supplemental agreement to sanction Iran’s missile program.
But both President Emmanuel Macron of France and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel left Washington this week after talks with Trump having failed to secure any promise that he might keep the core deal alive.
Pompeo’s senior policy adviser Brian Hook said that Iran’s missile program would be one of the focuses of talks with Israel and the Saudis. He also called on Europe and the rest of the international community to sanction Tehran as a means of curbing that program.
Pompeo, a former Kansas politician, is seen as an anti-Iran hawk with hardline views about projecting US military might.
After meeting with Netanyahu on Sunday, Pompeo will fly on to Jordan, wrapping up a weekend of talks with some of Iran’s most fervent foes in the region.