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US threatens to 'crush' Iran, outlines 12-point list for 'new deal'

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened Iran with 'unprecedented financial pressure' if it fails to curb its activities
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at the Heritage Foundation (AFP)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has outlined 12 conditions required of Iran before any "new deal" will be made with the country, in a speech threatening the "strongest sanctions in history".

"We will apply unprecedented financial pressure on the Iranian regime," Pompeo said on Monday in his first major foreign policy address since moving to the State Department from the CIA.

"The leaders in Tehran will have no doubt about our seriousness."

"The sting of sanctions will only grow more painful if the regime does not change course from the unacceptable and unproductive path it has chosen for itself and the people of Iran," he added in the speech at the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank.

"Iran will never again have carte blanche to dominate the Middle East."

Among the 12 points listed by Pompeo, Iran must "withdraw all forces under Iranian command from Syria", "stop uranium enrichment and never pursue plutonium reprocessing", "end support for the Taliban" and "cease harbouring al-Qaeda":

Pompeo said if Iran abided by the stricter terms, the United States would lift its sanctions.

"We will track down Iranian operatives and their Hezbollah proxies operating around the world and crush them," Pompeo said.

"Iran will be forced to make a choice: either fight to keep its economy off life support at home or keep squandering precious wealth on fights abroad. It will not have the resources to do both."

US President Donald Trump has long said the original 2015 deal with Iran, which was also signed by Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia, did not go far enough, and now wants the Europeans and others to support Washington's hardline strategy.

"In the strategy we are announcing today, we want the support of our most important allies and partners in the region and around the globe. I don't just mean our friends in Europe," Pompeo said.

The secretary of state also said that European businesses who work with Iran in violation of US sanctions would be held "to account".

The re-establishment of US sanctions is likely to force European companies to choose between investing in Iran or trading with the United States.

The European Union is currently trying to persuade Iran to stay in the 2015 agreement, even without Washington's participation.

On Friday, the European Commission proposed that EU governments make direct money transfers to Iran's central bank to avoid US penalties, a step which would bypass the US financial system.

'Recipe for war'

The European Union largely dismissed Pompeo's speech and said it remained committed to the full implementation of the nuclear deal.

Iran's president summarily dismissed Pompeo's demands.

"Who are you to decide for Iran and the world?," the semi-official ILNA news agency quoted Hassan Rouhani as saying.

"The world today does not accept America to decide for the world, as countries are independent ... that era is over ... We will continue our path with the support of our nation."

Suzanne Maloney, deputy director of the Brooking Institution think tank's foreign policy programme, said Pompeo's speech amounted to a strategy of "regime change".

Combining maximum pressure with proven unachievable demands is a recipe for war, not negotiations

- Trita Parsi, National Iranian American Council

"There is only one way to read it and that is that Trump administration has wedded itself to a regime-change strategy to Iran, one that is likely to alienate our allies. One with dubious prospects for success," she said.

The administration's approach "explicitly puts the onus on the Iranian people to change their leadership or face cataclysmic financial pressure," said Maloney who advised the State Department on Iran in the Bush administration between 2005 and 2007.

Lebanese analyst Ghaleb Kandil, who has close ties to Lebanon's Iran-backed Hezbollah group, said Washington's demands had previously not worked.

"These are conditions that were tested in previous phases of American pressures, before the nuclear deal, when Iran was in more difficult circumstances than it is in these days, and it did not surrender to these conditions or accept them," said Kandil.

Trita Parsi, the president of the National Iranian American Council, said Pompeo's remarks were intended to ensure that there could be no new negotiations and amounted to a "recipe for war".

"Combining maximum pressure with proven unachievable demands is a recipe for war, not negotiations," Parsi said.

"Pompeo says he stands with the Iranian people. But few in Iran will believe him. Trump has shown his hostility towards the people of Iran by killing the Iran deal, which the Iranian people overwhelmingly supported."

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