U.S. Vice President Mike Pence had a blunt message Thursday for EU powers on the Iran nuclear deal: Get out now, and get on America’s side.
Breaking from his prepared text to slam allies for sticking with the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Pence used his speech at a U.S.-sponsored conference on the Middle East to demand that France, Germany and the United Kingdom abandon the accord and stop trying to break American sanctions.
“The time has come for our European partners to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and join with us as we bring the economic and diplomatic pressure necessary to give the Iranian people, the region and the world, the peace, security and freedom they deserve,” Pence said in his lunchtime speech.
Pence’s forthright demand sets the Trump administration up for a similarly blunt rebuff from EU powers, who have repeatedly stated they are committed to the deal despite Washington’s withdrawal.
Although the meeting in Warsaw was initially conceived as a meeting focused on Iran, the U.S. State Department amid criticism had denied that it was aimed at any one country. But comments ahead of the event by Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others made clear that one of the goals of the gathering in Warsaw is to rally governments against Tehran.
“Sadly, some of our leading European partners have not been nearly as cooperative — in fact, they have led the effort to create mechanisms to break up our sanctions” — Mike Pence
“The universal view of those who spoke last night at this conference was that Iran has actually become more aggressive since the JCPOA was signed, not less,” Pence said. “The United States reimposed sanctions that should never have been lifted in the first place.”
Pence praised Middle Eastern nations, including the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, that he said have done more in recent months to pressure Tehran, but the vice president had harsh words for the Europeans.
“Sadly, some of our leading European partners have not been nearly as cooperative — in fact, they have led the effort to create mechanisms to break up our sanctions,” Pence complained. “Just two weeks ago, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom announced the creation of a special financial mechanism designed to oversee mirror-image transactions that would replace sanctionable international payments between EU businesses and Iran.”
“They call this scheme a Special Purpose Vehicle,” Pence said. “We call it an effort to break American sanctions against Iran’s murderous revolutionary regime. It’s an ill-advised step that will only strengthen Iran, weaken the EU and create still more distance between Europe and the United States.”
The EU has stated that it views the sanctions reimposed by Trump as illegal and illegitimate extra-territorial measures, and that Europe does not recognize them.
The special purpose vehicle, which is registered as a corporate entity in France, is not expected to help much in terms of continued economic activity with Iran. Many large corporations are too afraid of losing access to the U.S. market to risk angering the Trump administration. But European officials said the special purpose vehicle would help with some transactions, especially the sale of food and medicine, and send a political signal to Tehran that it remains committed to the nuclear accord.
At the competing summit in Sochi, Erdogan said that Turkey is willing to join the special purpose vehicle and also take additional bilateral steps to preserve economic ties with Iran.
The European powers, and EU officials in Brussels, insist that the JCPOA is worth preserving because it has successfully halted Iran’s nuclear weapons program — an assertion that Pence rejected in his speech. The Europeans say they share Washington’s concerns about Iran’s ballistic missile program, its role in military conflicts throughout the Middle East, and at least two recent Tehran-sponsored assassination attempts on European soil. But they argue that stopping the nuclear weapons program is so important these other issues should be dealt with separately.
In Warsaw, Pence warned that the U.S. is prepared to intensify sanctions to bring the Iranian regime into submission.
“Today, America’s economic sanctions on Iran are the toughest in history and will get tougher still unless and until Iran changes its dangerous and destabilizing behavior,” he said.
“The winds of change can already be felt across the Middle East” — Mike Pence
A number of important nations boycotted the Warsaw event. And President Vladimir Putin of Russia held a rival summit in Sochi on Thursday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, in a closed-door session in Warsaw, told officials that the U.S. would present a Middle East peace plan after Israel’s general election on April 9. According to officials in the room, Kushner said the Israeli and Palestinian sides would each have to compromise.
But any Middle East peace effort will face difficulties without the participation of Putin, who asserted heavy military force to protect Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as well as Erdogan and Rouhani, who are among the region’s leading power players.
Pence insisted things are changing in the region.
“The winds of change can already be felt across the Middle East,” he said. “Israel’s prime minister openly visits Oman. Just last week, Pope Francis visited the United Arab Emirates. Longstanding enemies are becoming partners. Old foes are finding new ground for cooperation. And the descendants of Isaac and Ishmael are coming together in common cause as never before.”
Source » politico