In a speech at the right-wing Heritage Foundation on Monday that critics said should put to rest all lingering illusions that the Trump White House wants anything other than regime change in Iran, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo outlined a "wildly unrealistic" list of demands that Iran must meet if it wants nuclear talks with America and warned that the U.S. will "crush" Tehran with sanctions if it doesn't comply.
"If you maximize pressure and set unachievable demands, you solely pave the way for war."
—Trita Parsi, National Iranian American Council
"Pompeo has not outlined a strategy, but rather a grab bag of wishful thinking that can only be interpreted as a call for regime change in Iran," Suzanne Maloney, a senior fellow at the Brookings Center for Middle East Policy, wrote on Twitter in response to the secretary of state's remarks. "This speech could have been given word-for-word by [national security adviser John] Bolton."
Echoing Maloney's assessment of Pompeo's newly unveiled "Plan B" for nuclear negotiations—which comes around two weeks after President Donald Trump violated the Iran nuclear accord and placed the U.S. on the path to yet another war in the Middle East—National Iranian American Council (NIAC) president Trita Parsi argued that the Trump administration's demands are intentionally unrealistic and "clearly designed to ensure there cannot be any new negotiation."
"If you maximize pressure and set unachievable demands, you solely pave the way for war," Parsi wrote. "That is the objective of Trump, and that's been the objective of his cheerleaders in Saudi and Israel."
For those who were arguing that @SecPompeo has changed and is now tying to give diplomacy a chance: he is as much as a regime changer as Bolton.
— Ali Vaez (@AliVaez) May 21, 2018
After Pompeo speech headlines in US media should read that the "US Wants Regime Change in Iran" - this is the only way to read it. This is not about a "better deal" or Iran "changing its behavior."
— Arash Karami (@thekarami) May 21, 2018
If Iran refuses to comply with this laundry list of demands—which includes a complete halt to uranium enrichment—Pompeo threatened that the U.S. will quickly move to impose "the strongest sanctions in history." Iran has said repeatedly that its enrichment of uranium is solely for domestic energy purposes and that it has no interest in pursuing nukes, whether or not the international nuclear accord remains in place.
"Taking a page straight from the Iraq war playbook," as NIAC's Ryan Costello put it, Pompeo also asserted without evidence that Iran is serving as a "sanctuary for al-Qaeda" and other terrorist organizations, further bolstering criticism of his speech as "more tantrum than policy."
In light of the speech's factual inaccuracies and outlandish demands, foreign policy analyst David Rothkopf characterized Pompeo's remarks as "more tantrum than policy."
Reacting to Pompeo's remarks on Monday, Suzanne DiMaggio, a senior fellow at New America, argued that in addition to dramatically increasing the possibility of military conflict with Iran, the speech "will not be well-received by the North Koreans."
"Reneging on a deal that Iran is complying with is bad enough," DiMaggio noted. "Coupling this with what comes across as an insistence on Iran's full capitulation will set off 'regime change' alarm bells in Pyongyang."