(Washington, D.C.) — Iranian leaders hated it. Most European leaders hated it. So did most former advisors to President Obama and Vice President Biden, and most of Washington’s so-called “experts.” But this is hardly news.
What’s fascinating is that most Arab leaders loved it.
I’ve spoken with two very high-ranking Arab officials in recent days about the speech delivered by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at The Heritage Foundation on Monday morning. Both made it clear to me how deeply grateful and appreciative their countries are to the Trump-Pence administration for finally taking a bold, decisive, uncompromising position against Iranian aggression.
One Arab official told me privately: “It’s like the world is sane again.”
After watching Iran be feted and praised and rewarded and appeased by President Obama and his team over the past eight years, most Sunni Arab leaders are rejoicing that the U.S. is finally treating Iran as the enemy that it is and treating the Arab states and Israel as the friends and allies that they are.
Consider a few of the public statements made by Arab and Israeli leaders:
- UAE Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash — “Secretary Pompeo’s approach on Iran policy is concise and [a] firm strategy.” He added it is the right path forward is for the U.S. and its allies in the region to be “uniting [our] efforts so that Tehran recognizes the absurdity of its incursions and expansion.”
- Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry — Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry has said it affirms “full support” for the United States’ strategy toward Iran after America’s top diplomat threatened to impose the “strongest sanctions in history” against Tehran if the country’s leadership did not change the course of its foreign and domestic policy.
- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — “We believe that is the right policy,” Netanyahu said. “We believe it is the only policy that can ultimately guarantee the security of the Middle East and bring peace in our region, and we call on all countries to follow America’s lead here, because Iran is an aggressive force.”
Saudi leaders have not commented publicly — yet. But there’s no question they are cheering Pompeo in Riyadh. No Arab leader has been more clear about the severity of the Iran threat than new Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (aka, “MBS”).
“Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb, but without a doubt if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible,” MBS recently told 60 Minutes, who likens Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to Adolf Hitler. “He wants to create his own project in the Middle East very much like Hitler, who wanted to expand at the time.”
My own view is that Pompeo’s speech may prove to be the most important address ever delivered by a U.S. Secretary of State. (Can you remember any other? Exactly).
It was smart, concise, clear, principled, and non-belligerent. Pompeo wasn’t calling for war. He said the best case scenario was a real treaty with Iran. But only if Iran changes its behavior.
What’s more, Pompeo’s speech was immensely unifying. I support the move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, though I know it grieved many of our Arab friends. That said, it’s worth making this observation: The more the U.S. focuses on Jerusalem going forward, the more we divide our Mideast allies. The more the U.S. focuses on the Iran threat — and shows real leadership in countering Tehran’s malign influence — the more we bring our Arab and Israeli friends together in common cause against a serious enemy.
I highly encourage you to read and/or watch the full speech. Below are also some note-worthy excerpts you might find helpful.
- Read the full text of the speech — “After the Deal: A New Iran Strategy”
- Watch the full speech online
“[W]while to some the changes in Iranian behavior we seek may seem unrealistic, we should recall that what we are pursuing was the global consensus before the JCPOA. For example, in 2012, President Obama said, quote, ‘The deal we’ll accept is [that] they end their nuclear program,’ end of quote. That didn’t happen. In 2006, the P5 voted at the Security Council for Iran to immediately suspend all enrichment activities. That didn’t happen. In 2013, the French foreign minister said he was wary of being sucked into a, quote, ‘con game,’ end of quote, over allowing Iran to continue uranium enrichment. In 2015, John Kerry said, quote, ‘We don’t recognize the right to enrich,’ end of quote. Yet the Iranians are enriching even as we sit here today. So we’re not asking anything other than that Iranian behavior be consistent with global norms, global norms widely recognized before the JCPOA. And we want to eliminate their capacity to threaten our world with those nuclear activities.”
TOUGHER SANCTIONS: “First, we will apply unprecedented financial pressure on the Iranian regime. The leaders in Tehran will have no doubt about our seriousness. Thanks to our colleagues at the Department of Treasury, sanctions are going back in full effect and new ones are coming….This sting of sanctions will be painful if the regime does not change its course from the unacceptable and unproductive path it has chosen to one that rejoins the league of nations. These will indeed end up being the strongest sanctions in history when we are complete.”
MILITARY DETERRENCE: “Second, I will work closely with the Department of Defense and our regional allies to deter Iranian aggression. We will ensure freedom of navigation on the waters in the region. We will work to prevent and counteract any Iranian malign cyber activity. We will track down Iranian operatives and their Hizballah proxies operating around the world and we will crush them. Iran will never again have carte blanche to dominate the Middle East. And I’d remind the leadership in Iran what President Trump said: If they restart their nuclear program, it will mean bigger problems – bigger problems than they’d ever had before.”
SUPPORT FOR THE IRANIAN PEOPLE: “Third, we will also advocate tirelessly for the Iranian people. The regime must improve how it treats its citizens. It must protect the human rights of every Iranian. It must cease wasting Iran’s wealth abroad. We ask that our international partners continue to add their voice to ours in condemning Iran’s treatment of its own citizens.”
OPEN TO NEW NEGOTIATIONS: “We’re open to new steps with not only our allies and partners, but with Iran as well. But only if Iran is willing to make major changes. As President Trump said two weeks ago, he is ready, willing, and able to negotiate a new deal. But the deal is not the objective. Our goal is to protect the American people. Any new agreement will make sure Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon, and will deter the regime’s malign behavior in a way that the JCPOA never could. We will not repeat the mistakes of past administrations, and we will not renegotiate the JCPOA itself. The Iranian wave of destruction in the region in just the last few years is proof that Iran’s nuclear aspirations cannot be separated from the overall security picture….Also, in contrast to the previous administration, we want to include Congress as a partner in this process. We want our efforts to have broad support with the American people and endure beyond the Trump Administration. A treaty would be our preferred way to go.”
TWELVE SPECIFIC DEMANDS OF IRAN: “[This] list is pretty long, but if you take a look at it, these are 12 very basic requirements. The length of the list is simply a scope of the malign behavior of Iran. We didn’t create the list, they did. From my conversations with European friends, I know that they broadly share these same views of what the Iranian regime must do to gain acceptance in the international community. I ask that America’s allies join us in calling for the Iranian Government to act more responsibly.”
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