Iran “greatest threat” to Middle East peace & security warns Pence

Iran is the “greatest threat to peace and security in the Middle East”, US Vice President Mike Pence (left), said at a conference on the region taking place in Warsaw, Poland.  Pence also accused Washington’s European allies of trying to break US sanctions against Tehran and called on them to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.

“Sadly, some of our leading European partners have not been nearly as cooperative. In fact, they have led the effort to create mechanisms to break up our sanctions,” Pence said during a conference on the Middle East organised by the United States in Warsaw.

Pence said a scheme set up by the EU to facilitate trade with Iran was “an effort to break American sanctions against Iran’s murderous revolutionary regime”.

“It is an ill-advised step that will only strengthen Iran, weaken the EU and create still more distance between Europe and the United States,” he said.

As Iran’s clerical state marks 40 years since the overthrow of the pro-US shah, Pence vowed maximum pressure while not explicitly urging regime change. “As Iran’s economy continues to plummet, as the people of Iran take to the streets, freedom-loving nations must stand together and hold the Iranian regime accountable for the evil and violence it has inflicted on its people, on the region and the wider world,” he said. Pence added that his country will keep a strong presence in the Middle East, continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with allies, and work with coalition partners to defeat Daesh to make the region safe for peace and prosperity.

He also said that there are winds of change happening in the region, with the recent historic visit of Pope Francis to the UAE and last year’s Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit to Oman.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo echoed Pence’s warnings over Iranian aggression, saying that the US was determined to “convince all nations of the world”  it was in their best interests to stop the threat of the Iranian regime. “The US and Europe are working together and there have been lots of places where we have cooperated on isolating Iran, and there is still more work to be done,” he said. Pompeo also said that during discussions at the conference, there had not been “one defender of Iran in the room, no country spoke out,” saying agreement was unanimous between countries from Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

This edited article by Sarah Glubb first appeared in Arab News

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