Pompeo says Iran trying to ‘foment terror’ but its regional interference ‘reduced’

US secretary of state slams Iranian “campaign” in Syria, Iraq.
Wednesday 13/05/2020
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wearing a face mask arrives for a 24 hours visit to Israel. (DPA)
Warning Tehran. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wearing a face mask arrives for a 24 hours visit to Israel. (DPA)

LONDON--US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Iran on Wednesday of using its resources to “foment terror” even as its people face the Middle East’s coronavirus outbreak and the country has more limited resources as a result of US sanctions.

“Even during this pandemic the Iranians are using the ayatollah regime’s resources to foment terror across the world, even when the people of Iran are struggling so mightily,” Pompeo said in Jerusalem ahead of talks with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

“It tells you a lot about the soul of those people who lead that country,” he added.

In an interview with Israeli newspaper Hayom Israel published Tuesday on the eve of his visit to Israel, Pompeo reiterated his administration’s determination not to let Iran develop a nuclear bomb but he warned against Tehran’s designs during the next coming months.

“In October, Iran will have the ability to build up their conventional weapon systems in ways that would make it even more possible for them to conduct terror around the world and to coerce and extort nations around the world, giving them even more space to continue to execute on a plan to ultimately increase the risk that they have a nuclear weapon someday,” he said.

Pompeo pointed out that because of US sanctions, Iran’s capacity to intervene in Syria, directly or through their Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, “has been reduced.”

Iranians may have “more limited resources,” he added, but “they choose to take those precious resources and either give them to the ayatollah, for his own private benefit or to the benefit of other Iranian elites, or they choose to squander that on campaigns in Syria, or campaigns in Iraq.”

Dealing with Iran’s regional involvement is expected to be on the agenda during Pompeo’s talks with Israeli leaders.

The United States  is engaged in a showdown with pro-Iranian proxy militias in Iraq, especially since the targeted killing of Iran’s Quds Force chief Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad last January.

Israel, on the other hand, has launched several attacks in recent weeks against Iranian and pro-Iranian targets in Syria.

Pushing Iran out of Syria has increasingly become part of Israel’s military doctrine. Israeli Defence Minister Naftali Bennett recently said that “Iran has nothing to do in Syria… (and) we won’t stop before they leave Syria.”