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Pompeo Insistent Over Iran Nuclear Program: ‘We Will Stop Them’

In a feisty interview with National Public Radio, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has bluntly insisted that the United States “will stop” Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Speaking on September 24, Pompeo described Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which the US left in May 2018, as a “band aid” that had allowed Iran to “disperse” its nuclear technology and “accumulate billions and billions of dollars to underwrite the very actions that they're taking today.”

When pressed over Tehran’s expansion of its nuclear program under the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” policy, Pompeo simply said, “We will stop them.” Asked if this meant Washington planned more sanctions, Pompeo repeated, “We will stop them.”

Pompeo put great emphasis on a coalition of Gulf Arab states and Israel as a bulwark against Iran. In recent weeks the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have normalized relations with Israel, which some analysts have seen  as weakening Iran’s strategic position.

After leaving the 2015 nuclear agreement – known as the JCPOA, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action - signed by the Obama administration and imposing crippling sanctions on Tehran, the Trump administration has demanded a wider agreement based on tighter nuclear curbs, the end of Iran’s ballistic missile program and the curtailment of Tehran’s relations with regional allies, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

Asked if the Trump policy of “maximum pressure” had succeeded, Pompeo told NPR it had denied Iran’s rulers “billions and billions of dollars” that had restricted their ability to pursue aggressive policies. Pompeo also referred to popular protests in Iran, implying they had resulted in part from US pressure and its messages defending the rights of the Iranian people to civil freedoms and economic well-being.

In a second radio interview, with the Washington DC station WMAL-FM, on September 24, Pompeo described the JCPOA as “just crazy” in opening “a clear pathway to a nuclear weapon…[which was] was unacceptable for the security of the Middle East and Israel and the United States of America.”

Pompeo estimated that the draconian US sanctions imposed on Iran since Washington withdrew from the JCPOA had denied “the clerical, theocratic kleptocrats that run Iran” $70 billion that might have been used to build a nuclear weapon.

Iran is one of many issues dividing the two candidates in the US presidential election due on November 3. Joe Biden, Trump’s Democratic Party challenger and vice-president at the time of the 2015 deal, has said he would seek to return to the JCPOA if elected.

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