WARSAW -- U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has rejected as "outrageous" Iranian claims that the United States and its regional allies are to blame for a suicide bombing in southeastern Iran that killed 27 members of the country's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).
A militant Sunni Muslim separatist group called Jaish al-Adl (Army of Justice) claimed responsibility for the February 13 attack, but a day later, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tried to link the attack to a Middle East conference in Warsaw co-hosted by Pompeo and Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz.
In an interview in Warsaw on February 14 with RFE/RL's Radio Farda, Pompeo denied that the United States had anything to do with one of the deadliest attacks on Iranian security forces in years.
“The Americans had nothing to do with this at all,” Pompeo said.
Zarif will attend a February 15-17 security conference in Munich, where world leaders and experts will address a variety of topics ranging from climate change to international security.
Pompeo said that since Zarif is “actually headed to Munich where many European countries will meet with him, I would ask those countries when they meet with Mr. Zarif to ask him, why he would say such an outrageous thing?"
In the interview, conducted while Pompeo was attending an international conference on the Middle East in Warsaw, Washington’s top diplomat said European leaders should press Zarif on his comments that linked the timing of the attack with the meeting in the Polish capital.
“Sometimes [Zarif] is posited to be a moderate. It's not moderate to accuse the Israelis and the Americans of murder. That's not moderate,” Pompeo said.
Tehran, which has described the Warsaw conference as an anti-Iran “circus,” has repeatedly accused the United States, Israel, and U.S. ally Saudi Arabia of backing Sunni militia groups that carry out attacks against Iranian security forces. They have denied the charges.
Pompeo told Radio Farda that the “historic” Warsaw meeting, attended by more than 60 countries, was aimed at creating peace and stability throughout the Middle East, including Iran, Syria and Yemen.
Washington and the European Union have been at odds over U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers, which calls for Iran to curtail its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
EU states have sought to keep aspects of the deal in place, while France, Britain, and Germany two weeks ago launched a new mechanism to trade with Iran while bypassing U.S. sanctions against Iran.
Though differences of opinion exist over how to attack risks in the region, Pompeo said “all understood the threat that the Islamic Republic of Iran presents to their citizens.”
“We gathered people here today. We made our case. And I am confident that we came out of here today more collectively able to deal with all of the threats that exist throughout all of the Middle East,” he said.
Russia and China are not participating in the Warsaw conference -- neither are the Palestinians -- but Russian President Vladimir Putin held a simultaneous summit in the Black Sea resort of Sochi with Rohani and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss the future of war-ravaged Syria.
Pompeo denied the Warsaw conference was a Washington-driven effort, pointing out that even Israelis and Arabs sat together to discuss “the threat that Iran poses.”
But he also said the Trump administration’s goal was clear -- change in Tehran’s behavior -- though he stopped short of calling for actual regime change.
“We ultimately want the Iranian people to have their voices heard. We want a change in the regime's behavior. We want them to act like a normal country,” Pompeo said.
“How these behaviors will be changed will be dealt with by the Iranian people. They'll make their voices heard. They'll assert their power.”