U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday that America and its Gulf Arab allies want to show Iran its actions have "a real high cost," stepping up his warnings after Tehran threatened to disrupt Mideast oil supplies.
Pompeo's comments came during a short trip to the United Arab Emirates, a staunch U.S. ally that hosts some 5,000 American forces at a crucial air base and the U.S. Navy's busiest foreign port of call.
He stopped short of offering any specifics during an interview with Sky News Arabia, an Arab satellite news channel half owned by an Abu Dhabi ruling family member.
However, his message undoubtedly reached receptive ears. The UAE long has been suspicious of Iran and its nuclear deal with world powers, from which President Donald Trump recently pulled out.
"The one that we are most focused on today is ... that we deny Iran the financial capacity to continue this bad behavior," Pompeo said. "So it's a broad range, a series of sanctions aimed not at the Iranian people, but rather aimed at the single mission of convincing the Iranian regime that its malign behavior is unacceptable and has a real high cost for them."
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Pompeo made a point to mention recent threats by Iranian President Hassan Rohani over the Strait of Hormuz, through which a third of all oil traded by sea passes. While in Europe last week, Rohani said any disruption to Iran's oil exports would result in the whole region's exports being disrupted.
Global oil prices have risen on the expectation that the U.S. will push its allies to stop importing Iranian crude oil, further tightening the world energy supplies. While allies like Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait say they are willing to increase their own production as necessary, additional output may not be enough to satiate demand.
Already, regular gasoline prices in the U.S. are $2.86 a gallon, up from $2.26 the year before, according to AAA. Trump himself has been tweeting that oil suppliers must do more to lower prices ahead of midterm elections this fall.
Iran "should know that America is committed to keeping sea lines open, keeping the transit of oil available for the entire world," Pompeo said. "That's the commitment we have had for decades. We continue under that commitment."
Pompeo met Abu Dhabi's powerful crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan while on his short trip to the UAE. He also stopped by the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi.