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Pompeo Demands Iran Withdraw Forces From Syria, End Support for Hezbollah and Hamas

In first major speech as U.S. secretary of state, Pompeo threatens Iran with 'strongest sanctions in history'

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivers remarks on the Trump administration's Iran policy at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, May 21, 2018.
\ JONATHAN ERNST/ REUTERS

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanded Iran withdraw its forces from Syria and end its support for Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad in his first major address as the top U.S. diplomat on Monday.

"Today, we ask the Iranian people - is this what you want your country to be known for? The United States believes you deserve better," Pompeo said.

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Pompeo said that the U.S. is prepared to re-establish relations with the regime and "happily" support it when they see "tangible and sustained shifts" in Iranian policy.

The U.S. expects "major changes" in any new deal – with stipulations listed to ensure that "Iran never acquires a nuclear bomb." 

Pompeo's list of demands – which he admits is "pretty long" with "very basic requirements," includes demanding that "Iran's nuclear aspirations not be separated from the overall security picture"; that Iran must declare all past nuclear programs; must stop "stop enrichment and never pursue plutonium reprocessing"; and "provide unqualified access to all sites through the entire country."

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Regarding the Middle East, the U.S.'s list includes releasing "all U.S. Citizens as well as citizens of our partners and allies"; the end of "support to Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad"; and that "Iran must end its threatening behavior against neighbors, including threats to destroy Israel and attacks on Saudi Arabia."

"America's commitment to the strategy President Trump put down last year remains, and it will now be executed outside of the JCPOA. We will insure Iran has no path to a nuclear weapon, not now, not ever," Pompeo added. "We will apply unprecedented financial pressure on the Iranian regime. New sanctions are coming."

The secretary of state warned that "the regime will have no doubts about our seriousness. This is just the beginning. It will be painful if the regime doesn't change its course. It will be the strongest sanctions in history. Iran will be battling to keep its economy alive."

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Pompeo added that "we will ensure freedom of navigation in the waters of the region. Iran will never again have carte blanch to dominate the Middle East. We will also advocate tirelessly to the Iranian people. The regime must improve how it treats its citizens."

"Here in the West, President Rohani and Foreign Minister Zarif are often treated differently. 'If only they could control, things would be great.' Yet they are your elected leaders. Are they not the most responsible for your economic struggles?" Pompeo continued.

He added that protests in Iran in recent months "show that the Iranian people are deeply frustrated." Pompeo said that, due to government mismanagement of economic resources, "People are angry at the regime that keeps for itself what it steals from the people."

"The leadership of the country is running scared," he said.

Pompeo added that the U.S. would continue with their plan to impose sanctions on Iran regardless of potential economic conflict with EU allies, some who hope to keep the JCPOA agreement in place.

"Our reimposition of sanctions will post financial and economic challenges to some of our friends," Pompeo said. "They may decide to keep their old nuclear deal going with Tehran. That is their decision to make, but they know where we stand."

"America's commitment to the strategy President Trump put down last year remains, and it will now be executed outside of the JCPOA. We will insure Iran has no path to a nuclear weapon, not now, not ever," Pompeo said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Pompeo following his speech, saying "this is the correct and only policy. We call on all countries to follow the footsteps of the United States."

In response to Pompeo's speech, a senior Iranian official told Reuters that Pompeo's remarks show the U.S. is after a regime change in Iran.

"America wants to pressure Iran to surrender and accept their illegal demands ... his remarks showed that America is surely after regime change in Iran," the official said in reaction to Pompeo's remarks.

Pompeo presented his approach during a speech Monday at the conservative Heritage Foundation. The speech comes a week after Trump announced he was pulling out of the deal struck by President Barack Obama, Iran and world powers. Europeans allies had pleaded with Trump not to scuttle that deal.

AP and Reuters contributed to this report