(CNSNews.com) – Attempts by the European Union to undermine U.S. sanctions against the Iranian regime – despite its global terror sponsorship – brought a sharp response Tuesday from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who said the ayatollahs and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) were likely “laughing.”
Pompeo’s counterparts from parties still committed to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal met in New York on Monday, and the E.U. agreed to set up a legal entity (“special purpose vehicle”) to enable financial transactions with Iran – including purchases of Iranian oil – and so enable European companies to continue to do business with the Iranians despite U.S. sanctions.
The move is a direct response to the Trump administration’s reimposition of sanctions following its withdrawal from the JCPOA last May. Sanctions directed at the energy and banking sectors are due to be restored in early November, and the administration in particular wants a complete halt to Iranian oil exports.
Pompeo’s reaction to the “special purpose vehicle” move came during remarks to a conference in New York hosted by the bipartisan advocacy group, United Against a Nuclear Iran (UANI).
He said the E.U.’s attempts to circumvent U.S. policy on Iran came in the midst of evidence of continuing Iranian terror activity on European soil, including a foiled alleged plot to bomb an Iranian dissidents’ rally in Paris in June. Among those arrested was an Iranian diplomat.
Pompeo noted that the arrests occurred “just as the regime has been putting a full-court press on European countries to stay in the nuclear deal.”
He praised the French government for responding last month by suspending all non-essential diplomatic travel to Iran, and said the U.S. hopes to see more such action from other countries in Europe.
“Unfortunately, just last night I was disturbed and, indeed, deeply disappointed to hear the remaining parties in the [JCPOA] deal announce they’re setting up a special payment system to bypass U.S. sanctions,” Pompeo said.
“This is one of the most counterproductive measures imaginable for regional and global peace and security,” he continued. “By sustaining revenues to the regime, you are solidifying Iran’s ranking as the number one state sponsor of terror, enabling Iran’s violent export of revolution, and making the regime even richer while the Iranian people scrape by.”
“I imagine the corrupt ayatollahs and the IRGC were laughing this morning.”
‘Aggressive and unwavering’ sanctions enforcement
Monday’s meeting of the JCPOA parties brought together foreign ministers from France, Germany, Britain, Russia, China and Iran, and was convened by E.U. foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.
In a brief statement afterwards Mogherini, flanked by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, explained that the envisaged “special purpose vehicle” could also be made available to other countries beyond Europe that want to continue doing business with Iran.
“E.U. members-states will set up a legal entity to facilitate legitimate financial transactions with Iran and this will allow European companies to continue trade with Iran, in accordance with European Union law,” she said, adding that the mechanism “could be opened to other partners in the world.”
Addressing the UANI event, National Security Advisor John Bolton gently mocked the E.U., calling it “strong on rhetoric and weak on follow-through,” and noting that an E.U. spokesman was quoted Tuesday as being unable to offer any details or timeline for the proposed mechanism.
“So we will be watching the development of this structure that doesn’t exist yet and has no target date to be created,” Bolton said.
But, he added seriously, “We do not intend to allow our sanctions to be evaded – by Europe or anybody else.”
Bolton said the U.S. administration “will not tolerate investments that enhance Iran’s ability to develop its petroleum or natural gas infrastructure. And we expect purchasers of Iranian oil to reduce their imports to zero, by November 4, or face the risk of sanctions.”
“Anyone who fails to curtail their engagement with Iran in these areas will suffer severe consequences,” he warned. “Enforcement of our sanctions will be aggressive and unwavering.”
In his UANI speech, Pompeo reviewed Iranian terror across the globe, from the Middle East to Europe to Africa to Asia to Latin America to the United States – where a plot supported by the IRGC’s Qods Force to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington was foiled in 2011, and where just last month, two alleged Iranian agents were arrested “for conducting covert surveillance and intelligence collection activities against Israeli and American targets here in the United States.”
Pompeo also detailed the regime’s treatment of its own people, citing repressive measures against dissenters, women, minority Sunnis, converts from Islam and others.
“If nations are not moved by this evidence to change their policies towards Iran, that’s their choice. That is their prerogative,” he said. “But how can any nation that claims to sympathize with the people of Iran keep sustaining trade relationships with lawless and oppressive ayatollahs?”