Code Pink Pressing E.U. to Boycott Pompeo’s Iran-Focused Meeting in Poland

By Patrick Goodenough | January 21, 2019 | 4:57 AM EST

Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin is removed as she disrupts a talk last September at the Hudson Institute by Brian Hook, front left, who heads the State Department's Iran Action Group. (Screen capture: YouTube)

(Update: E.U. foreign policy chief Mogherini confirmed Monday she will not be attending Secretary Pompeo’s Iran-focused ministerial next month, saying she will be on a long-planned visit to Addis Ababa for an African Union summit and other meetings in the Horn of Africa. The A.U. summit is on Feb. 10-11. The Iran meeting in Warsaw is on Feb. 13-14.)

( – Iranian state media outlets are giving credit to Code Pink amid indications of a lukewarm European Union response to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s planned Iran-focused ministerial meeting in Poland next month.

The left-wing activist group is promoting a petition urging E.U. officials to boycott “Pompeo’s belligerent conference” that now claims more than 3,700 signatories, including European lawmakers and peace activists from the U.S. and other Western nations.

Rather than attend the Warsaw event, the group is calling on E.U. officials to “host an alternative gathering with all Middle Eastern nations, including Iran, to stop terrorism and end wars, including the catastrophic war in Yemen.”

The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed diplomats and officials, reported on Thursday that E.U. foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini would not attend the Poland meeting due to a “prior engagement,” and that some leading E.U. member-states were also looking unlikely to send their foreign ministers.

Iran’s state news agency IRNA, in a report referring to the Code Pink petition, also reported that Mogherini would not take part, again citing an unnamed E.U. official. Other outlets, including Mehr news agency, Press TV, and the hardline daily Kayhan carried similar or linked reports.

Queries have been sent to Mogherini’s office, but there has been no official confirmation yet of her participation or otherwise.

The E.U. was convenor of the negotiations that produced the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and Mogherini chairs a joint commission overseeing its implementation. As such, the E.U. is working energetically to try to keep it alive following President Trump’s exit last May and the restoration of U.S. sanctions.

The State Department and Polish foreign ministry announced jointly this month that the two governments would co-host a “Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East,” in the Polish capital on Feb. 13-14.

Although the statement did not mention Iran by name, an outline of issues on the agenda made clear where the focus would lie: “terrorism and extremism, missile development and proliferation, maritime trade and security, and threats posed by proxy groups across the region.”

Pompeo himself, speaking to reporters during a Mideast tour, characterized the initiative as part of a growing “coalition” arrayed against the Iranian regime.

“We’ll have countries from Asia, from Western Hemisphere, and certainly from the Middle East and from Africa and from Europe, all attending,” he said. “And we’ll talk about lots of issues, including how it is we together can get Iran to behave like a normal nation.”

“The coalition is big and growing,” he added, and predicted that “dozens and dozens of countries” would attend the ministerial.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif meets with European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini in Kuwait in February 2018. (Photo: European External Action Service)

Iran’s foreign ministry then summoned the senior most Polish diplomat in Tehran to warn of “retaliatory measures” if Poland goes ahead with co-hosting what Foreign Minister Javad Zarif called a “desperate anti-Iran circus.”

In a tweet, Zarif said, “Reminder to host/participants of anti-Iran conference: those who attended last US anti-Iran show are either dead, disgraced, or marginalized.”

(Oddly, an accompanying photo showed participants in a 1996 summit in Sharm El-Sheikh which had nothing to do with Iran, but focused on the Oslo Accords. In the photo were President Clinton, then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and leaders who have since died including Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, PLO chairman Yasser Arafat, Jordan’s King Hussein and Russia’s Boris Yeltsin.)

‘Fanning the flames of conflict’

According to Poland’s foreign ministry nearly 80 countries have been invited to next month’s meeting.

Deputy Foreign Minister Maciej Lang, meeting with Iran’s ambassador at the latter’s request last week, told him the invited countries “represent different views and maintain different relations with Iran.”

In its petition to E.U. officials, Code Pink accuses the Trump administration of “fanning the flames of conflict.”

“Since European countries are still a party to the Iran nuclear agreement and want to improve relations with Iran, it would not make sense for Europe to participate in a conference hostile to Iran,” it says. “Your non-participation would send a critical message to other countries to follow your lead.”

Code Pink was an outspoken supporter of the nuclear deal and a vocal critic of Trump’s decision to pull out. The group recently announced a “peace delegation” to Iran.

A Tehran Times op-ed Sunday mockingly compared Pompeo’s effort to build an Iran-focused coalition to the erstwhile “Friends of Syria” group, established during the Obama administration.

The group had been formed to overthrow the Assad regime, he said, but a few years later, no-one knows its fate and some of those “same countries are now in line to open their embassy in Damascus.”

Original members of the Friends of Syria group included the U.S., Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

Late last month the UAE reopened its embassy in Damascus, seven years after breaking ties to protest the regime’s repression of protests, which sparked the civil war.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow

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