New U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said “no decision” has been made on whether the United States will pull out of the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal, but he said it is “unlikely” to remain unless major changes are made.
"There has been no decision made,” Pompeo said during an April 27 press conference on the sidelines of a NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels.
“[But] absent a substantial fix, absent overcoming the flaws of the deal, [President Donald Trump] is unlikely to remain in this deal after May,” added Pompeo, who has long opposed the accord signed under the administration of President Barack Obama.
The deal signed by Tehran and six world powers provides Iran with relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program. Other signatories have urged Washington to remain in the accord.
Trump has complained that Tehran has violated the spirit of the deal by continuing to test ballistic missiles and by fomenting regional militant violence. He has said he will pull out of the deal if its "terrible flaws" are not fixed by May 12.
Iran has said its nuclear program is strictly for civilian purposes and it denies supporting terrorism.
Pompeo also had harsh words for Moscow, as NATO alliance members put on a united front in an effort to counter Russian “aggression” conducted through military actions, cyberattacks, and other means.
“We had a lot of discussions on how to push back on Russia,” said Pompeo, who was sworn in one day earlier as the top U.S. diplomat. “The choice is really up to [President] Vladimir Putin and the Russians.”
“We would love nothing more than to have them rejoin…the democratic world and behave in ways they are not doing today,” he said.
“Russia threatens allies and partners, both militarily -- as seen through its invasions of Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014 -- and through an aggressive campaign to undermine Western institutions.
“In light of Russia’s unacceptable actions, NATO is more indispensable than ever,” he said.
Pompeo also addressed charges by Britain that Russia was behind a nerve-agent attack on a former Russian double agent earlier this year in the city of Salisbury.
“As NATO allies agree, the use of military grade nerve agent developed by Russia on U.K. territory was a reckless action that put the lives of innocent civilians at risk,” he said.
He added that Washington does not believe in returning to “business as usual” until Moscow “shows a clear change of its actions and complies with international law.”
A senior State Department official earlier told reporters in the Belgian capital that there was a “consensus” among NATO foreign ministers “on Russian aggression, the scale of Russian aggression, and this being a problem that requires a response."
In other comments, Pompeo reiterated the United States’ commitment to NATO’s Article 5, which states that an attack on one member is considered an attack on all.
But he also restated Trump’s demand that European allies must “bear the necessary responsibilities for their security” and meet stated goals of spending 2 percent of GDP on defense.
When asked if Germany was doing enough, Pompeo said in a one-word response: "No.” He later added that “they should meet the goals that they agreed to."
In response to a question from a Ukrainian reporter, he said there had been “some discussion” of Ukraine’s “potential entry to be a NATO partner,” but that “there is much work to do along the way to achieve that.”
After the NATO meetings, Pompeo is scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Israel over the weekend.