Pompeo After Meeting Netanyahu: If Iran Nuclear Deal Can't Be Fixed, It Will Be Nixed

Secretary of state: U.S. still committed to Israeli-Palestinian peace deal ■ Netanyahu: Greatest global threat is Islamic radicals with nukes

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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is greeted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv, April 29, 2018.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is greeted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv, April 29, 2018.Credit: THOMAS COEX/AFP

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said following a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Sunday that the United States will cancel the Iran nuclear deal if it is not fixed.

Speaking to reporters following the meeting, which took place at the Israeli military's headquarters in Tel Aviv, Pompeo said the U.S. stands with Israel against Iran. "We remain deeply concerned about Iran's dangerous escalation of threats toward Israel and the region," Pompeo said, adding that the U.S. supports Israel's right to defend itself.

>> Explained: What happens if Trump pulls out of the Iran nuclear deal? Trump's resolve to withdraw from Iran nuclear deal hands Tehran a key diplomatic win >>

Pompeo called the deal signed between Iran and world powers to curb Tehran's nuclear program "very flawed" and said U.S. President Donald Trump has "directed the administration to try and fix it, and if we can’t fix it, he’s going to withdraw from the deal."

According to Pompeo, strong ties with allies like Israel are "critical to our efforts to counter Iran’s destabilizing and malign activity throughout the Middle East, and indeed throughout the world." Pompeo said Washington is also focusing on "non-nuclear threats" posed by the Islamic Republic, such as its missile systems, support for Hezbollah, its fighters in Syria and its assistance to Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Pompeo said "the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem remain subject to negotiations between the parties." He added that Washington remains "committed to achieving a lasting and comprehensive peace that offers a brighter future for both Israel and the Palestinians."

Washington is "incredibly proud" to open the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem on May 14th, Pompeo said, noting that "by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the seat of its government, we’re recognizing reality."

He also raised the question of Syria, saying that America's main goals are to defeat ISIS, prevent the use of chemical weapons and obtain a diplomatic agreement to end the country's years-long civil war.

Pompeo kicked off his statement by saying that "it is a great honor to be here on my first trip as Secretary of State.... I haven’t been to my office yet." Pompeo was sworn in as secretary of state on April 26, nearly a month after Trump announced he had nominated the former CIA director to replace Rex Tillerson.

Speaking before Pompeo, Netanyahu told reporters that the greatest global threat is "the marriage of militant Islam with nuclear weapons, and specifically the attempt of Iran to acquire nuclear weapons." Netanyahu said Iran's "aggression has grown many-fold since the signing of the nuclear deal" and expressed his appreciation for Washington's position on the topic.


"If people thought that Iran’s aggression would be moderated as a result of signing the deal, the opposite has happened, and Iran is trying to gobble up one country after the other. Iran must be stopped," Netanyahu said.

Describing Trump's decision to transfer the embassy to Jerusalem as "bold," Netanyahu said the move "has prompted other countries, quite a few now, who are planning to move their embassy to Jerusalem as well." Netanyahu called Pompeo "a true friend of Israel, a true friend of the Jewish people" and said Washington's decision to include Israel on Pompeo's first trip as secretary of state is "symbolic of our friendship, which is getting even deeper and stronger."

The meeting was held less than two weeks before the May 12 deadline for Trump to decide whether to re-impose sanctions against Iran that were removed as part of the deal on its nuclear program. The audience included, among others, U.S. State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.

According to a Palestinian official, Pompeo did not seek meetings with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas or any Palestinian officials during his visit to Israel. Nabil Shaath, an Abbas aide, told Haaretz no one in Pomeo's bureau petitioned a meeting with the Palestinian president, and added that "even if there was such a petition, the official Palestinian stance remains unchanged, and it is not to meet."

Pompeo, a former CIA director, is thought to be a key supporter of the Netanyahu government's politics, and he holds hawkish views on Iran. His appointment was seen as a step toward a tougher American policy regarding Tehran, with U.S. President Donald Trump recently vowing to cancel the Iran nuclear deal if significant changes are not made.

Earlier Sunday, ahead of the government cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Netanyahu brought up his meeting with Pomepo, saying: "Today we will welcome U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a true friend of Israel. I think that it is important that he is coming to Israel as part of his first visit outside the U.S. as Secretary of State."

The premier added that relations between Israel and the U.S. "are stronger than ever and I would like to take this opportunity to again to thank President Trump for the decision to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem, which will take place in a few days. At the time, I said there would be other countries to join this move and I can tell you these things are indeed happening."

Prior to landing in Israel, Pompeo met with Saudi Arabia's King Salman and other officials in Riyadh. Pompeo reassured the kingdom that the U.S. would abandon the nuclear deal unless there is an agreement in talks with European partners to improve it to make sure the Islamic Republic never possesses a nuclear weapons.

"Iran destabilizes this entire region," Pompeo said in a joint press conference with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir. "It supports proxy militias and terrorist groups. It is an arms dealer to the Houthi rebels in Yemen. It supports the murderous Assad regime (in Syria) as well."

Pompeo also addressed the rift between some Gulf countries and Qatar: "Gulf unity is necessary and we need to achieve it."

Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, cut off travel and trade ties with Qatar last June, accusing it of supporting terrorism and arch-rival Iran on the other side of the Gulf.

Doha has denied the accusations and has said its three fellow Gulf countries aim to curtail its sovereignty. For its part, Iran denies supporting terrorism or having sought to develop nuclear weapons.

On Friday at a NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels, the first stop on his trip, Pompeo repeated Trump's pledge to withdraw from the Iran deal unless it is significantly strengthened. He said the U.S. was "unlikely" to stay in if that was not done.

"Absent a substantial fix, absent overcoming the shortcomings, the flaws of the deal, he is unlikely to stay in that deal past this May," Pompeo said.

AP contributed to this report.

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