US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addressed the UN Security Council and warned of provisions in the Iranian nuclear deal that are set to expire a year from now, in October 2020.
They include an arms embargo on Iran, as well as a travel ban on Qasim Soleimani, head of the Quds Forces of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC.)
“Time is drawing short” for putting in place measures that will continue to restrict “Iran’s capacity to foment its terror regime,” Pompeo told the Council.
He further warned, “The Islamic Republic of Iran and its proxies continue to foment terror and unrest in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen with devastating humanitarian consequences.”
Pompeo’s mention of Iraq as a major theater of Iranian activity is significant, distinguishing him from his predecessors.
The Obama administration sought an accommodation with Iran and did not focus on countering its expansionism in the region, while under Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump’s first Secretary of State, the US criticized Iranian activities in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen—but not in Iraq, deferring to then Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi and his government.
Consequently, Iran has established, through its militia proxies, a significant presence in the country. Those militias, for example, now block the return of displaced Christians to their homes in the Nineveh Plains.
Pompeo told the Security Council that the State Department had added a “countdown clock” to its webpage on Iran so “the whole world” can track the expiring provisions.
He explained that in response to the US announcement last April of its intent to bring Iranian oil exports to zero, Tehran had embarked on “a campaign of extortion diplomacy,” reducing its own compliance with the nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA.)
So far, Pompeo stated, Iran has surpassed the 300 kilogram limit on its low-enriched uranium stockpile and increased its uranium enrichment level, which is supposed to be capped at 3.67 percent, to 4.5 percent. And Iran “continues to threaten further expansions of its nuclear program,” he warned.
Indeed, NBC News anchor, Lester Holt, is currently in Tehran, and the head of Iran’s National Security Council, Ali Shamkani, gave him a rare interview. “We will continue and follow,” what Shamkani called, “this active resistance approach in all sectors,” as he added, “there is no doubt there will be even more decisive steps to be taken.”
Pompeo also detailed Iranian acts of aggression since the beginning of July. “On July 2nd,” he said, “the Iran-backed Houthis attacked Abha Airport in Saudi Arabia, and they’ve continued to do so since that time.”
Moreover, “on July 25th, Iran test-fired a ballistic missile in defiance of UN Security Council Resolution 2231,” the resolution endorsing the JCPOA.
Iran also seized three oil tankers in July. One was the British-flagged vessel, the Stena Impero. It is widely believed that Iran acted in retaliation for the July 4 British seizure, off the coast of Gibraltar, of an Iranian tanker, the Grace I, suspected of carrying oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions on the Baathist regime there.
Gibraltar officials subsequently stated that they had received Iranian assurances the tanker was not bound for Syria, and a local court ordered the tanker’s release, although Tehran denied it had given such an assurance.
The US sought to impound the vessel, whose cargo, it said, was worth $130 million, on the grounds that the tanker belonged to the IRGC, which the US has designated a terrorist organization.
However, the court ruled that Gibraltar was not bound by US law. On Sunday, the ship, renamed the Adrian Darya 1, departed, reportedly headed toward Greece, where it is slated to arrive on Monday.
Speaking to reporters in New York after the Security Council meeting, Pompeo warned all parties against taking delivery of the cargo. “We have made clear that anyone who touches it, anyone who supports it, anyone who allows a ship to dock is at risk of receiving sanctions from the United States,” he said.
“If that ship again heads to Syria, we will take every action we can consistent with those sanctions to prevent that,” he affirmed.