‘US afraid of facing Iran head-on in battle,’ declares Tehran

Senior Iranian government and military officials rejected American demands regarding their nuclear program, as outlined by US Secretary of State Pompeo.

By: Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Several senior members of Iran’s government and armed forces hit back Wednesday after hearing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo list the American conditions that would have to be met in a new nuclear treaty the Trump administration wants to negotiate after pulling out of the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) earlier this month.

The Iranian government’s mouthpiece, the Mehr News Agency, reported that Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called Pompeo’s remarks “empty promises and threats,”  and “baseless, illogical, disrespectful, and not worth giving a response to.”

The army chief of staff, Mohammad Bagheri, called America “a criminal and oppressor, isolated and angry with corrupted and oath-breaker leaders who are mercenaries of the Israeli regime.” He also claimed that the US was “afraid of facing Iran head-on in battle,” resorting instead to economic sanctions and “psychological warfare.”

Immediately following the Pompeo’s talk on Monday, Iranian President Rouhani  belligerently challenged the US Secretary of State, saying, “Who are you to want to dictate to Iran and the world, and tell Iran what to do or not to do when it comes to nuclear technology?” reported the Iranian Students News Agency.

In his first major speech as secretary of state Monday, Pompeo spoke at a conservative think-tank called the Heritage Foundation, delineating the administration’s strategy for stopping Iran’s nuclear ambitions and its “malign” actions in the Middle East.

Among the demands were complete Iranian withdrawal from Syria, ending support for terrorist organizations such as Hamas, Hezbollah and the Houthis in Yemen, stopping all uranium enrichment (even the amount allowed under the nuclear agreement) and long-range missile production, and agreeing to anytime, anywhere inspections of its civilian and military facilities where illegal nuclear activity is suspected. The latter two points were considered some of the most important points not addressed by the JCPOA.

Although Pompeo did “acknowledge Iran’s right to defend its people,” he added, “We are not asking anything other than that Iranian behavior be consistent with global norms, and we want to eliminate the capacity to threaten our world with its nuclear activities.”

If Iran doesn’t comply, he said the US would impose on Tehran “the strongest sanctions in history.” If they do comply, he promised that the sanctions would end, Iran would gain access to advanced technology to modernize its economy, and regular diplomatic and commercial relations could resume.

The other five signatories to the JCPOA have so far decided not to pull out of the deal, agreeing with the assessment of Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s vice president and foreign policy chief, following the Pompeo’s speech.

“Secretary Pompeo’s speech has not demonstrated how walking away from the JCPOA has made or will make the region safer from the threat of nuclear proliferation or how it puts us in a better position to influence Iran’s conduct in areas outside the scope of JCPOA,” she said. “There is no alternative to the JCPOA.”

Many Western critics of the American pullout have also panned the series of demands outlined by Pompeo, saying among other things that it is a recipe for war, as Iran would never be able to agree to such harsh conditions and the internal pressures it would feel as a result of the financial stress of US sanctions would leave it with little to lose.