With the Trump administration moving ahead Monday with punishing new sanctions against Iran with the goal of completely halting the country's oil exports, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly joked about a secret White House plot to overthrow the Iranian government during a private meeting with Iranian-American "community leaders."
According to Axios, when asked last week whether the Trump administration has considered "the idea of a coup" in Iran, Pompeo responded: "Even if we did, would I be telling you guys about it?"
"Trump's so-called 'maximum pressure' campaign is destroying the livelihoods of ordinary Iranians and creating an increasingly intolerable situation for the country."
—Jamal Abdi, National Iranian American Council
The room "broke out in laughter," Axios reported, citing three anonymous sources in attendance, including one who shared "detailed contemporaneous notes" with the news outlet.
The secretary of state also reportedly said the administration is "careful not to use the language of regime change" and insisted the U.S. has no plans to intervene militarily in Iran.
Pompeo's remarks came exactly one week before the Trump administration is unveiled sanctions against all countries that continue to import Iranian oil, a significant escalation of the Trump administration's so-called "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran.
"As of May 2, the State Department will no longer grant sanctions waivers to any country that is currently importing Iranian crude or condensate," the Washington Post's Josh Rogin reported on Sunday.
According to a senior State Department official who spoke to the Post on condition of anonymity, "The policy of zero Iranian imports originated with Secretary Pompeo. He has executed this policy in tight coordination with the president every step of the way."
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"Trump's so-called 'maximum pressure' campaign is destroying the livelihoods of ordinary Iranians and creating an increasingly intolerable situation for the country," Jamal Abdi, president of the National Iranian American Council, said in a statement. "Indeed, the decision to end Iranian oil waivers comes as large parts of Iran are reeling from devastating floods that have displaced hundreds of thousands. Instead of ensuring that U.S. sanctions aren’t obstructing humanitarian aid to flood victims, Trump is now piling on even more economic pressure on the Iranian people.
Tyler Cullis, policy associate at NIAC, called the Trump administration's sanctions policy "evil" and said the goal is to force Iran to walk away from the international nuclear accord, which the White House violated last year.
"There has been no more significant foreign influence campaign than the one to get the United States into a war with Iran," Cullis argued.
Escalating the crisis and forcing Iran to withdraw is the entire point. https://t.co/bkQk59a0Ry
— Tyler Cullis (@TylerCullis) April 21, 2019
During his meeting with Iranian-American community leaders last week, Pompeo was reportedly asked how he could guarantee the U.S. sanctions against Iran would not harm the Iranian people.
"There are no guarantees," Pompeo responded, according to Axios.
This article has been updated with comment from National Iranian American Council president Jamal Abdi.