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Trump, Pompeo Push For Harder Stance On Iran

U.S. President Donald Trump holds a news conference after participating in the NATO Summit in Brussels, July 12, 2018

As US toughens its stances against Iran, an Iranian official says Russia is going to invest in Iran’s oil industry to make up for the losses Tehran incurs as a result of Western companies leaving Iran fearing the impact of new US sanctions.

Iran appears to have been the focal point of political discussions in Brussels and Moscow on July11 and 12. In Brussels, US President Donald Trump and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have been talking about further hardening of US stance against Tehran.

At the same time in Moscow, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Russian President Vladimir Putin during a meeting on Wednesday “to encourage Iran to withdraw its forces from Syria,” and Russian President Vladimir Putin presumably discussed the same with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s special envoy, although Iran never admitted it discussed Syria in the meeting with Putin.

U.S. President Donald Trump has spoken of an unspecified "escalation" between the U.S. and Iran.

Trump, who was speaking at a news conference in Brussels on Wednesday to wrap up his participation in a NATO summit, also said Iran is treating the U.S. with more respect, though he did not provide any details to back up his claim.

Trump withdrew the U.S from the Iran nuclear deal in May, reinstating economic sanctions that had been lifted under a deal among Iran, the U.S. and other world powers in exchange for curbs on Iran's nuclear program.

He says Iran is feeling a lot of pain as a result and that at some point Iran will "call me and they're going to say ‘let's make a deal’, and we'll make a deal," reported AP from Brussels.

Meanwhile, Trump said Iran's economic troubles were going to force it to seek a security deal with Washington, Reuters reported on July 12.

Washington has since told countries they must halt all imports of Iranian oil from Nov. 4 or face U.S. financial measures. This may cut Iran's hard currency earnings from oil exports, and the prospect has triggered a panicked flight of savings from the rial into dollars, weighing on an already ailing local currency, hit by economic woes and financial difficulties at local banks.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday urged European nations to join a U.S.-led economic pressure campaign against Tehran and get tough on Iran by cutting off all funding the country may use to foment instability in the Middle East and beyond.

"We ask our allies and partners to join our economic pressure campaign against Iran's regime," Pompeo said in a tweet ahead of talks with his counterparts in Brussels. "We must cut off all funding the regime uses to fund terrorism and proxy wars. There's no telling when Iran may try to foment terrorism, violence & instability in one of our countries next." The tweet was accompanied by a map accusing Iran of sponsoring at least 11 terrorist attacks in Europe since 1978.

"Iran continues to send weapons across the Middle East, in blatant violation of UN Security Council resolutions. Iran's regime wants to start trouble wherever it can. It's our responsibility to stop it," Pompeo said in another post.

Meanwhile, Pompeo said in an interview with Sky News Arabia in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, "Just this past week there were Iranians arrested in Europe who were preparing to conduct a terror plot in Paris, France. We have seen this malign behavior in Europe."

In Moscow, a senior Israeli official said on Wednesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has urged Russian President Vladimir Putin “to encourage Iranian forces to leave Syria”. Netanyahu has reportedly assured Russia that its ally Syrian President Basahar al-Assad would be safe from Israel.

"They (Russia) have an active interest in seeing a stable Assad regime and we in getting the Iranians out. These can clash or it can align," Reuters quoted the Israeli official as saying. "We won't take action against the Assad regime," the official quoted Netanyahu as telling Putin in Moscow, and added the Israeli leader came away reassured that "they (Russia) are getting the Iranians out".

Khamenei’s advisor on foreign policy, Ali Akbar Velayati who met with Putin Thursday morning, said in his two-hour long meeting with Putin they discussed “issues of mutual interest”.

He added that based on statistics offered by Putin at the meeting, Moscow is going to make an investment in Iran’s oil industry that would make up for the losses incurred by Iran after Western companies left Iran fearing a new round of US sanctions following the US pull-out from the nuclear deal with Iran, Tasnim news agency, close to IRGC, reported.

With reporting from Reuters, AP and Tasnim.