(CNSNews.com) – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pushed back Tuesday on criticism that the administration is making foolishly unrealistic demands of Iran, saying it was actually setting a low bar, and that Iran’s behavior would not be tolerated if coming from another nation.
“The benchmark I set forward yesterday is a very low standard,” he told reporters at the State Department. “It’s the standard behavior we expect from countries all around the world.”
Pompeo said the requirements set out in a speech Monday outlining the administration’s Iran strategy were not “a special set of rules” for the Iranian regime.
“We simply asked them to behave the way normal, non-belligerent nations behave. That’s it. It’s simple.”
In his speech, Pompeo called for international support for a campaign of unprecedented financial pressure to push the regime into changing its behavior in 12 major areas, ranging from its nuclear and ballistic missile programs to support for terrorism and military involvement in Syria.
He acknowledged Tuesday that some of the response to the speech had characterized the demands as “fantasy.”
“But we ask for things that are really fairly simple that, frankly, most nations in the world engage in,” he countered.
“We wouldn’t tolerate Iceland doing what the Iranians are doing,” he said, alleging assassinations by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)-Qods Force in European countries, and citing Tehran’s support for the Hezbollah terrorist group in Lebanon and Shi’ite proxies that threaten Americans in Iraq.
“If somebody else created an equivalent of Hezbollah, would we sit by?” he asked. “We wouldn’t. Neither would the Europeans. Neither will the other Arab countries. Russia and China don’t see that as a positive impact around the world either.”
He noted that one of the 12 requirements was an end to the firing – by Iran’s Houthi rebel allies in Yemen – of Iranian-supplied missiles into Saudi Arabia.
Among the targets of the missile launches was the kingdom’s second-busiest international airport. The Saudis used U.S.-supplied air defense systems to shoot down the missiles before they hit the facility.
“It’s not a fantasy to imagine the Iranians making a decision not to fire missiles into another nation and threatening American lives that travel through that airport,” Pompeo said. “It’s not a fantasy to ask them to cease engaging in terror.”
He said Iran could quite easily comply with the requirements asked of it, and that doing so would enormously benefit the Iranian people.
A reporter observed that the 12 measures set down in the speech did not leave “much room for negotiation.”
Pompeo asked in reply which of the demands the U.S. should be willing to compromise on.
“Should we allow them to be terrorists? Is that one we should compromise on?” he asked. “How many missiles are they allowed to fire?”
The Trump administration’s new approach towards Iran follows its decision to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal, which it viewed as flawed and – after negotiations with the Europeans – irreparable.
European allies still remaining in the JCPOA – Britain, France and Germany – reacted with skepticism to the speech, and many experts are voicing doubt about the chances of the U.S. winning support for its initiative, after having withdrawn from the nuclear deal.
Pompeo expressed optimism that other countries shared the U.S. concerns, however, saying he was confident there was a “set of overlapping values and interests here that will drive us to the same conclusion about the need to respond to the Islamic Republic of Iran’s threats to the world.”
He also voiced confidence that the Iranian people want their country to “behave like a normal nation.”
“This is a rich country with a deep civilization and a wonderful history, and I’m convinced – I’m convinced that the people of Iran, when they can see a path forward which will lead their country to stop behaving in this way, will choose that path.”
In his May 21 speech Pompeo listed 12 changes the Iranian regime would have to make in its behavior in order “to gain acceptance in the international community.” They are:
1. Iran must give a full accounting to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of the prior military dimensions of its nuclear program, and permanently and verifiably abandon such activities
2. Iran must stop uranium enrichment and never pursue plutonium reprocessing. This includes closing its heavy water reactor.
3. Iran must provide the IAEA with unqualified access to all sites throughout the entire country.
4. Iran must end its proliferation of ballistic missiles and halt further launching or development of nuclear-capable missiles.
5. Iran must release all U.S. citizens and citizens of U.S. partners and allies detained on spurious charges.
6. Iran must end support to Middle East terrorist groups, including Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
7. Iran must respect the sovereignty of the Iraqi government and permit the disarming, demobilization, and reintegration of Shia militias.
8. Iran must end its military support for the Houthi militia in Yemen and work towards a peaceful political settlement in that country.
9. Iran must withdraw all forces under its command from Syria.
10. Iran must end support for the Taliban and other terrorists in Afghanistan and the region, and stop harboring senior al-Qaeda leaders.
11. Iran must end the IRGC-Qods Force’s support for terrorists and militant partners around the world.
12. Iran must end its threatening behavior against its neighbors, including threats to destroy Israel, and the firing of missiles into Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. This also includes threats to international shipping and destructive cyberattacks.