U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo: Iran destabilizes entire Middle East

Pompeo also stressed the need for Gulf unity.

Pompeo meets with Saudi King in effort to muster support for new Iran sanctions, April 29, 2018 (REUTERS)
The United States plans to leave the Iran deal unless it can altered in a way that would prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in Riyadh.
Iran “is indeed the greatest sponsor of terrorism in the world. We are determined to make sure it never posses a nuclear weapon,” Pompeo said a joint press event with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir in Riyadh.
“The Iran deal in its current form does not provide that assurance. We will continue to work with the European allies to fix that deal. But if a deal cannot be reached [US President Donald Trump] has said he will leave that deal,” Pompeo said.
US President Donald Trump will decide by May 12 whether to restore American economic sanctions on Tehran, which would be a severe blow to the 2015 nuclear pact between Iran and six major powers. Netanyahu has long opposed the deal.
“Iran destabilizes this entire region. It supports proxy militias and terrorist groups,” Pompeo said.
“It is an arms dealer to the Houthi rebels in Yemen and Iran conducts cyber hacking campaigns. It supports the murderous Assad regime as well,” Pompeo said.
“Unlike the prior administration, we will not neglect the vast scope of Iran’s terrorism,” Pompeo said.
He also spoke out about the need for unity among Muslim countries to combat terrorism.
“Muslim majority countries must take the lead in combating terrorism and radicalization around the world. America is prepared to stand with Saudi Arabia in pursuit of shared interests and security,” Pompeo said.
“The nations of the Middle East cannot wait for American power to crush terrorism for them. The Muslim nations must be willing to take on that burden. If we are going to conquer extremism and defeat the forces of terrorism together,” Pompeo said.
“I know that Saudi Arabia will be at the front of it. We all must confront the crisis of Islamic extremism and the Islamist terror groups it inspires. This does indeed mean standing together against the oppression of innocent Muslim, the oppression of women, the persecution of Jews and the slaughter of Christians,” Pompeo said.
He also addressed the rift between some Gulf countries and Qatar: "Gulf unity is necessary and we need to achieve it.”
Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, cut off travel and trade ties with Qatar last June, accusing it of supporting terrorism and arch-rival Iran.
Doha has denied the accusations and has said its fellow Gulf countries aim to curtail its sovereignty. For its part, Iran denies supporting terrorism.
From Saudi Arabia Pompeo heads to Israel for an afternoon meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv.
He will also visit Jordan before returning to the US on Monday.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to talk about Pompeo about Iran’s regional aggression and the Iran deal.
“Today we will welcome US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a true friend of Israel,” Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.
“I think it is important that he came to Israel during his first trip as secretary of state, outside the United States.
“I will discuss with him developments in the region, Iran's growing aggression and of course the nuclear agreement with Iran, about which there is going to be a decision soon,” Netanyahu said.
“Relations between Israel and the United States are stronger than ever,” Netanyahu said.
Pompeo was sworn into office on Thursday as Rex Tillerson’s replacement and left immediately for a Friday meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels.
He then landed Saturday at King Salman Air Base in Riyadh, where he was greeted by Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and other Saudi officials.
Reuters contributed to this report.