Secretary Of State Mike Pompeo Tries To Rally U.N. Security Council To Counter Iran
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
Since pulling out of the 2015 nuclear deal, the U.S. has reimposed and stiffened economic sanctions against Iran, the U.S. goal being hit Iran's oil exports, exports that produce a huge part of the country's wealth.
In a few minutes, we're going to hear from NPR's Steve Inskeep, who's in Tehran reporting on how the sanctions are affecting Iranians. But we begin our coverage at the United Nations, where Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tried to rally support today for U.S. efforts to isolate Iran.
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MIKE POMPEO: Since the United States declared our intention to bring all Iranian oil purchases to zero in April, the ayatollah has gone all in on a campaign of extortion diplomacy.
CHANG: NPR's Michele Kelemen has been following Pompeo's remarks to the U.N. Security Council, and she joins me now.
MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Hi there, Ailsa.
CHANG: So what exactly does Secretary Pompeo want countries to do about Iran?
KELEMEN: Well, for one, stop buying oil from Iran, which he says only fuels Iran's bad behavior. He also wants more countries to join a maritime security initiative to protect shipping in the Strait of Hormuz. The U.K. and Bahrain are part of it. There's a lot of skepticism, though, from countries that really don't want to be drawn into a conflict with Iran and, you know, countries that are supportive still of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.
CHANG: So is Pompeo going to get the support he wants?
KELEMEN: Well, in the Security Council today, he actually heard a lot of concern about the U.S. approach. You heard representatives of Germany, France and the U.K. all saying they don't see any alternative to the nuclear deal. They were involved in the negotiations and don't want to see it unravel. China's ambassador said his country is opposed to power politics and bullying. And then Russia's ambassador said that he went through all of Pompeo's remarks word for word and found only words like threats, regime, conflict and no mention of dialogue. He says the only time Pompeo spoke about cooperation was to call for a coalition against Iran.
CHANG: Well, the U.S. pulled out of the nuclear deal soon after Pompeo became secretary of state. That was over a year ago. What's your sense at this point? Is this maximum pressure campaign working the way the Trump administration had hoped? Has it made Iran change its behavior?
KELEMEN: Well, Pompeo says it's working, and the one example he always gives is that Iran doesn't have as much money to give to groups like Hezbollah and Hamas. But, Ailsa, if you look at the whole list of U.S. demands, you'll see that Iran is moving in the opposite directions on many of these fronts. Iran's still holding American prisoners. It shot down a U.S. drone. It captured and it's still holding a British vessel. And as Pompeo himself pointed out in the Security Council, Iran has been ramping up its nuclear program recently. And that's what he was - called extortion diplomacy. He's telling people not to cave to that kind of pressure, that the sanctions will pay off eventually because it's the only way to pressure Iran back to the negotiating table.
CHANG: That's NPR's Michele Kelemen.
KELEMEN: Thank you.
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