Mike Pompeo Blasts Biden for Not Scrapping Iran Nuclear Talks in Wake of Tanker Attack
17:34 GMT 03.08.2021 (Updated: 00:18 GMT 04.08.2021)
© REUTERS / LEONHARD FOEGERPolice stand outside a hotel where a meeting of the Joint Commission of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or Iran nuclear deal, is held in Vienna, Austria, April 20, 2021.
© REUTERS / LEONHARD FOEGER
Since leaving his job as secretary of state in January, the diplomat and former CIA director has repeatedly urged the Biden administration not to rejoin the “crappy” Iran nuclear deal, claiming it would make America and Israel “less secure.”
Former Trump secretary of State Mike Pompeo has lashed out at the Biden administration for not scrapping the Vienna nuclear talks in the wake of the 29 July attack on the Mercer Street – a Liberian-flagged, Japanese-owned, Israeli billionaire-managed tanker – in the Gulf of Oman. Israeli, US, British, and NATO officials have blamed Iran for the incident despite staunch denials by Tehran.
“You began…with the talk about Iran, right, they’ve now killed a Brit, killed a Romanian, attacked a ship at sea. They’ve launched rockets through their proxy Hamas into Israel from the Gaza Strip, and we’re still sitting at the table trying to negotiate a nuclear deal with them. This is crazy,” Pompeo said, speaking to Fox News’ Hannity.
The former official went on to accuse the current administration of being “weak” against its adversaries, including Iran, China, and Russia.
“When you’re weak, you beget risk – you create real risk because your adversaries believe they can walk all over you. When you’re strong, when you’re clear about the words you use and you’re prepared to back them up as the Trump administration always was – when you’re prepared to back up the things that will secure American freedom, your adversaries take note of that,” Pompeo said.
Pompeo, a possible GOP hopeful for the 2024 presidential race, made the comments amid the continued escalation of tensions between Israel, its Western allies, and Iran over the Mercer Street incident.
On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned that Tel Aviv would not rule out “acting alone” to respond to the attack, even though it was “working for the world to join us” in reacting to Iran.
Earlier in the day, NATO released a statement condemning the strike on the tanker and blamed Iran for the attack and other “destabilising actions in the region.” The US, British, Romanian, and Canadian governments have similarly blamed Iran, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying that Washington was working with its Israeli and other allies to create a “collective response."
Tehran has vigorously denied claims of involvement in the tanker attack and warned that it would respond “immediately and strongly” if provoked. A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson told Sputnik on Monday that Moscow has not seen any indication of Iranian involvement in the Mercer Street incident or seen any evidence to support such allegations.
The Mercer Street was struck about 300 km southeast of Muscat, Oman last Thursday while sailing from Tanzania to the United Arab Emirates. The ship was empty at the time of the attack.
The attack comes after months of indirect talks between Iran, its nuclear agreement partners, and the US in Vienna on the restoration of the pact. The talks, which began in April, led to an "agreement in principle" from the US side to remove sanctions placed on Iran by the Trump administration. The talks have stalled, however, amid allegations by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that the US is trying to add a sentence to the agreement’s text to allow Washington to “meddle” in Iran’s missile programme and the country’s regional foreign policy. The US side maintains that “the ball remains in Iran’s court” as far as the nuclear deal is concerned. Israel, America’s closest ally in the Middle East, has long lobbied the US to abrogate the pact and refrain from rejoining it, and threatened to launch unilateral military strikes against the country if the agreement is reactivated.
Mike Pompeo has repeatedly criticised the Biden administration over its negotiations to restore the nuclear deal. In March, he suggested that America would be “less secure” if Washington were to go “back to the crappy deal that we had with Iran when President Obama was in office.” According to Pompeo, Israel and the Middle East as a whole would be “less stable” and secure if the agreement were rejoined.
Iran-US tensions soared to historic highs during the Trump administration, with the two nations stepping back from the brink of direct military conflict several times between 2018 and 2020 over a series of tanker seizures, drone shootdowns, and the January 2020 assassination of a senior Iranian military commander in Baghdad, which led Tehran to pummel two US bases in Iraq with ballistic missiles. Pompeo reportedly personally encouraged Trump to kill the Iranian commander, and in the wake of the attacks on US bases, the president was reportedly influenced to step back from launching a war with Iran by Fox News host Tucker Carlson, rather than his own officials.