Pompeo says US not 'afraid to tackle' Iran government at 'highest level'

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Secretary of State confirms US wants all countries to reduce imports of Iranian oil "as close to zero as possible" by 4 November

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (AFP/file photo)
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Monday 23 July 2018 6:53 UTC
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The United States is not "afraid to tackle" Iranian officials with sanctions at the "highest level" of its government, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday.

Following the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear accord that stunned even Washington's closest European allies, Pompeo on 21 May unveiled a "new strategy" intended to force Iran to yield to a dozen stringent demands.

"We weren't afraid to tackle the regime at its highest level," Pompeo said in a speech in California, referring to sanctions leveled in January against Sadeq Larijani, the head of Iran's judiciary.

Pompeo delivered his "Supporting Iranian Voices" speech at the Ronald Reagan presidential library in Simi Valley, California.

Pompeo said Iran “is run by something that resembles the mafia more than a government,” citing what he described as vast wealth and corruption among the country’s leaders.

He added that the US government is launching a 24/7 Farsi-language channel on TV, radio, digital and social media formats to reach Iranians in Iran and around the globe.

Pompeo also confirmed that Washington wants all countries to reduce their imports of Iranian oil "as close to zero as possible" by 4 November, part of US efforts to increase economic pressure on Tehran.

"There's more to come," Pompeo said.

US President Donald Trump on 8 May decided to restore all the sanctions that had been lifted as part of a multi-national agreement, signed on to by former president Barack Obama's administration, in exchange for curbs on Iran's nuclear program.

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"Regime leaders - especially those at the top of the IRGC and the Quds Force like Qasem Soleimani - must be made to feel painful consequences of their bad decision making," the top US diplomat said, referring to Iran's special forces and Revolutionary Guards.

The Trump administration has in recent days launched an offensive of speeches and online communications meant to foment unrest and help pressure Iran to end its nuclear program and its support of militant groups, US officials familiar with the matter told Reuters.

More than half a dozen current and former officials said the campaign, supported by Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton, is meant to work in concert with Trump's push to economically throttle Iran by re-imposing tough sanctions.

The current and former officials said the campaign paints Iranian leaders in a harsh light, at times using information that is exaggerated or contradicts other official pronouncements, including comments by previous administrations.

The White House declined to comment on the campaign. The State Department also declined to comment on the campaign specifically, including on Pompeo's role.

A senior Iranian official dismissed the campaign, saying the US had sought in vain to undermine the government since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. He spoke on condition of anonymity.

"Their efforts will fail again," the official said.