Mike Pompeo, Washington’s newly appointed secretary of state, is set to fly to Israel Sunday, where he will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in talks likely to focus on US President Donald Trump’s plans for the Iran nuclear deal.
Trump is due to decide on May 12 whether to reimpose nuclear-related sanctions on Tehran, putting in peril the landmark 2015 accord, which most world powers see as key to preventing Tehran from getting the bomb
But Trump and America’s Middle East allies argue that the deal, approved by the president’s predecessor Barack Obama, was too weak and needs to be replaced with a more permanent arrangement and supplemented by controls on Iran’s missile program.
Pompeo set off on his first diplomatic trip within two hours of being sworn in on Thursday, and on Friday — after talks with the NATO allies in Brussels — he appeared to suggest that Trump plans to nix the deal.
“Absent a substantial fix, absent overcoming the shortcomings, the flaws of the deal, he is unlikely to stay in that deal past this May,” Pompeo told reporters at NATO headquarters.
Perhaps the last chance to fix those alleged shortcomings came from talks between Washington and its European allies Britain, France and Germany on a supplemental agreement to sanction Iran’s missile program.
But both President Emmanuel Macron of France and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel left Washington this week after talks with Trump having failed to secure any promise that he might keep the core deal alive.
Pompeo landed in Saudi Arabia on Saturday night, and his senior policy adviser, Brian Hook, said that Iran’s missile program would be one of the focuses of talks with Israel and the Saudis. He also called on Europe and the rest of the international community to sanction Tehran as a means of curbing that program.
“We are urging nations around the world to sanction any individuals and entities associated with Iran’s missile program, and it has also been a big part of discussions with Europeans,” Hook said, according to Reuters.
Pompeo touched down in Riyadh shortly after Tehran-backed Huthi rebels in Yemen fired missiles across the kingdom’s border. US officials traveling with him told reporters the Huthi missiles had been supplied by Iran, and cited the attacks as evidence that regional powers should work together.