US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week firmly laid down Washington’s policy on Iran. And it is an uncompromising stance. Many global media outlets, including the Wall St Journal and CNBC focused on Pompeo’s 12 demands which he outlined if Iran wishes to resume discussion with the United States over a fresh nuclear deal. Some, including Washington Post and the Guardian were disparaging over the resolute tone of Pompeo’s terms.
In reality though, the adamant conditions set out by America’s senior diplomat are simply designed to fill the gaping holes inherent in the JCPOA – They include curbing Iran’s ballistic missile development, the refutation of terror and an end to threatening violence. In other words, Pompeo’s demands are nothing more than the reasonable and responsible behaviour one should expect from any partner on the other side of a deal.
However, amid the analysis of Pompeo’s 12-point list, another equally important aspect of his statement is in danger of being brushed aside. He made a clear and crucial distinction between Washington’s attitude towards the Iranian people, on whose behalf Pompeo pledged to “advocate tirelessly” and the country’s leaders, which he described as the “brutal men of the regime.” Pompeo outlined the hopes and dreams of the Iranian public and how they are being crushed by a leadership guilty of “well-documented terror and torture… inflicted for decades on those who dissent from the regime’s ideology.”
Pompeo rightly acknowledged the almost daily protests which take place on Iran’s streets, against a leadership which time and again chooses to fund terror and militarism abroad over the basic needs of its citizens. The dissent which has become an everyday feature of Iranian life may have escaped the attention of the global media, but Pompeo placed it front and centre. He demonstrated that there is sharp clarity in Washington’s thinking – Iran’s leadership cannot be appeased by those who genuinely support the kind of change and progress so fervently desired by the Iranian people.
And yet, Europe’s leaders continue to refuse to acknowledge this reality. The E3 (UK, France and Germany) is continuing to tiptoe around the Tehran government and attempt to satisfy their demands, in the desperate hope of salvaging a nuclear agreement which has been fatally flawed from the very beginning.
President Macron, Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister May appear to be so single-mindedly focused on the nuclear agreement that they have evidently lost sight of the bigger picture – Regardless of whether the nuclear deal endures or not, Iran’s destructive behaviour will continue unless the international community demands otherwise. As Pompeo himself noted, it is evident that Iran has lied to the world in the past. It is clear that Tehran’s leaders continue to lie to the world today. And they will unquestionably do so again, if permitted to.
Pompeo’s speech made clear Washington’s position regarding Iran. But Europe still has an uncomfortable choice to make – At the end of the day doing business with Iran is incompatible with its current behaviour. Moreover, the E3 finds itself in a position of power over Tehran. Energy giant BP is just one of many companies reconsidering business interests in Iran in the wake of Washington’s decision to re-impose sanctions. As a result, Iran finds itself in an increasingly precarious economic position. Tehran desperately needs Europe onside to avoid further financial calamity. The E3 must make clear that this comes at a price – An entirely reasonable price. The cost to Iran, as set out by Pompeo is nothing less that the behaviour of a responsible, peaceful member of the international community. For Europe, this should be the minimum requirement.
After all, Europe stands for something. The European Union says that its “fundamental values are respect for human dignity and human rights, freedom, democracy, equality” – All of which are so painfully missing in Iran. Hasn’t the time come for Europe to stay true to its own values? There will perhaps never be a better opportunity to make such demands from Iran. The United States has laid down the gauntlet. And yet, a disconcerting question mark hangs over Europe.