U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says Washington’s sanctions have had a strong impact on Iran, and Iran’s behavior has united unlikely allies in the Middle East against Iranian hegemony.
In a radio interview with Sean Hannity on June 15, Pompeo agreed with his host about the impact of U.S. sanctions on the Iranian economy and added that critics who predicted sanctions would not work without European participation came out to be wrong.
Pompeo also commented that he hopes the sanctions will make Iran’s leaders realize they should change their regional policies.
“And so we do hope that the Islamic Republic of Iran leadership will come to know what I think their people know. I think their people think their leadership is on the wrong end of the stick. I think the Iranian people understand that underwriting Hezbollah in Lebanon and in Syria and in providing money in Yemen —“, Pompeo said.
Besides the impact of sanctions, Pompeo also argued that Iran’s behavior has brought together former adversaries in the region. To defend themselves against Iranian influence, many Arab countries and Israel now cooperate.
“The framework that had set the Middle East for so many years was the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, and now the major destabilizing force in the Middle East is the Islamic Republic of Iran”, the Secretary said, adding that the U.S. helped foster that trend. “This is truly historic. And they have come to understand that they have a common threat, and they are increasingly finding ways to work together to keep each of their nations secure.”
In response to a comment by Hannity about how the nuclear deal provided Iran with $150 billion, Pompeo agreed, repeating, “150 billion. Yes, sir.”
But fact-checking by CNN and others reveal that the large figure is just an estimate of the maximum amount of benefits Iran could have gotten from the 2015 nuclear agreement known as JCPOA. It is not what Iran actually received.
Frozen cash assets that were unlocked amounted to a maximum of $50 billion, much in previous oil sales that were locked-up due to international sanctions. The rest were in various kinds of economic deals with countries such as China that would not translate into liquid money available to Iran for its foreign policy expenditures.
However, Pompeo also mentioned a delivery of cash to Iran during the last months of the Obama administration. “They allowed Iran to have enormous wealth, lots of money, put cash on pallets and sent it to Iran, and then let them continue to enrich uranium so they had the capacity to build out their nuclear weapon system and foment terror. Those were the failures of the previous agreement the President identified, and I think we’ve made real progress”, Pompeo argued.
In January 2016, the U.S. secretly shipped $400 million dollars to Iran as the first installment of $1.7 billion, which was a settlement of an old deal going back to the pre-revolution days between the two countries.
On the same day Tehran released four Iranian-American prisoners as it formally implemented the 2015 nuclear agreement. CNN reported that President Barrack Obama had approved the delivery of cash.
At this time, Iran was heavily involved in the Syrian civil war, sending thousands of troops and proxy forces to fight alongside Bashar al-Assad and Russian forces. The joint effort against Syrian forces began to bear fruit soon, with Assad taking back a substantial part of the country.
In the interview Hannity also asked about Russian and Iranian ties. Pompeo emphasized that the two countries work closely together in Syria and criticized Russia for siding with Iran on the nuclear issue.
"There is no doubt that Iran and Russia are working closely together, and Russia, who was one of the signatories of the JCPOA, has decided to stay in that deal, which we believe is fundamentally the wrong direction for the world to take in trying to constrain Iran,”, Pompeo said.