Vice President Mike Pence is demanding that France, Germany and the United Kingdom — key allies in the European Union – abandon the Iran nuclear deal and cease efforts to bypass American sanctions on the oil-rich nation, Politico reported on Thursday.
Pence’s message eerily resembles the rhetoric that preceded the American invasion of Iraq in 2002 and 2003.
“The time has come for our European partners to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and join with us as we bring the economic and diplomatic pressure necessary to give the Iranian people, the region and the world, the peace, security and freedom they deserve,” Pence said in Warsaw, Poland on Thursday.
Pence charged Iran with having become “more aggressive” since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was signed.
“The universal view of those who spoke last night at this conference was that Iran has actually become more aggressive since the JCPOA was signed, not less,” Pence said. “The United States reimposed sanctions that should never have been lifted in the first place.”
The vice president praised Middle Eastern countries like the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain for the additional pressures they have put on Tehran and accused EU allies of circumventing American authority.
“Sadly, some of our leading European partners have not been nearly as cooperative — in fact, they have led the effort to create mechanisms to break up our sanctions,” Pence complained. “Just two weeks ago, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom announced the creation of a special financial mechanism designed to oversee mirror-image transactions that would replace sanctionable international payments between EU businesses and Iran.”
The special purpose vehicle, based in France, is a project to deliver food and medicine to the people of Iran, whose economy has been hampered by sanctions by the Trump administration.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reportedly expressed interest in joining the special purpose vehicle at a separate meeting in Sochi with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Pence condemned the humanitarian effort.
“They call this scheme a Special Purpose Vehicle,” Pence said. “We call it an effort to break American sanctions against Iran’s murderous revolutionary regime. It’s an ill-advised step that will only strengthen Iran, weaken the EU and create still more distance between Europe and the United States.”
The schism between the Trump administration and EU allies stems from EU complaints that post-pullout American sanctions on Iran are illegal and illegitimate.
President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the international agreement in 2017. During the campaign and as president, Trump has, without evidence, routinely accused Iran of working to build a nuclear weapon, despite a consensus among inspectors that the Iranian government was and is upholding its part of the bargain.
Last month, CIA Director Gina Haspel and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats confirmed Iran’s compliance in their testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
The EU has also insisted that they believe Iran is not violating the agreement. Pence disagrees but has not offered any proof.
Pence warned that the Trump administration will continue pile on sanctions until Iran completely submits to American demands.
“Today, America’s economic sanctions on Iran are the toughest in history and will get tougher still unless and until Iran changes its dangerous and destabilizing behavior,” he said.
The vice president added that he believes that the “winds of change” are being felt throughout the region.
“Israel’s prime minister openly visits Oman,” Pence said. “Just last week, Pope Francis visited the United Arab Emirates. Longstanding enemies are becoming partners. Old foes are finding new ground for cooperation. And the descendants of Isaac and Ishmael are coming together in common cause as never before.”
Compounding the mounting tensions were remarks by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who on Wednesday tweeted that the purpose of the conference in Warsaw was to rally world governments into military conflict with Iran.
“This is an open meeting with representatives of leading Arab countries, that are sitting down together with Israel in order to advance the common interest of war with Iran,” Netanyahu wrote.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) February 13, 2019
The tweet was later deleted and reposted with softer language.
What is important about this meeting – and it is not in secret, because there are many of those – is that this is an open meeting with representatives of leading Arab countries, that are sitting down together with Israel in order to advance the common interest of combating Iran.
— PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) February 13, 2019
On Monday, National Security Advisor John Bolton added to the bluster when he a) falsely stated that Iran is trying to acquire a nuclear weapon and b) threatened the government of Iran.
Bolton appeared in a short video posted to Twitter by the White House.
“This week Iran marks the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, and what a 40 years it’s been, tyrannizing its people and terrorizing the world,” said Bolton. “Iran continues to seek nuclear weapons to intimidate peaceful people around the globe and ballistic missiles to use as delivery systems.”
A message to the Ayatollah of Iran: "For all your boasts, for all your threats to the life of the American President, YOU are responsible for terrorizing your own people." #40YearsofFailure pic.twitter.com/gpCL1FeLis
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) February 11, 2019
“For all your boasts, for all your threats to the life of the American President, YOU are responsible for terrorizing your own people,” Bolton said. “I don’t think you’ll have many more anniversaries to enjoy.”