US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lashed out at Iran during a tour of the Middle East in advance of a crucial White House decision on whether to quit the nuclear deal with Tehran.
Pompeo on Sunday accused Iran of destabilising the Middle East, including through its support for Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and Houthi rebels in Yemen.
“We remain deeply concerned about Iran’s dangerous escalation of threats to Israel and the region and Iran’s ambition to dominate the Middle East remains. The United States is with Israel in this fight,” Pompeo said, standing next to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after their two-hour meeting in Tel Aviv.
He reiterated US President Donald Trump will withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran “if we can’t fix it”.
Trump is set to decide on May 12 whether to re-impose sanctions on Tehran, putting in peril the landmark 2015 nuclear accord.
Netanyahu has repeatedly called for the nuclear deal to either be altered or scrapped, though most world powers see it as key to preventing Tehran from obtaining atomic weapons.
“Iran is trying to gobble up one country after the other. Iran must be stopped. Its quest for nuclear bombs must be stopped. Its aggression must be stopped,” Netanyahu said.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani responded on Sunday by saying the historic nuclear agreement was “not negotiable”.
“The nuclear deal or any other subject under its pretext is not negotiable in any way,” he told French President Emmanuel Macron in a phone call, quoted by the presidency’s website.
“Iran will not accept any restrictions beyond its commitments,” Rouhani said.
Britain, France and Germany all remain committed to the deal, saying it is the best way to keep Tehran from getting the bomb.
But Trump and the US’ Middle East allies argue the deal – approved by Trump’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 programme.
In Washington, US National Security Adviser John Bolton also said Trump was still considering his options.
“He has made no decision on the nuclear deal, whether to stay in or get out,” Bolton told Fox News.
Absent from Pompeo’s agenda were any meetings with the Palestinian leadership, which is boycotting the White House over its decision to move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, expected to occur on May 14.
Pompeo said in Tel Aviv that “we are incredibly proud” of the decision.
Senior Palestinian official Ahmed Majdalani told AFP news agency the policy of boycotting Trump’s administration would continue.
Pompeo made mention after meeting Netanyahu of the White House wanting a “lasting and comprehensive peace” between Israel and the Palestinians, but other issues took centre stage.
He later flew to Jordan, wrapping up a weekend of talks with some of Iran’s most fervent foes in the region, including Saudi leaders.
Pompeo will conclude his first diplomatic trip on Monday after talks with senior Jordanian officials, then fly back to Washington.
SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies