Tag Archives: Mike Pompeo

Attack on Saudi oil site was an Iranian act of war: US

S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday called the attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil installations an “act of war” against the kingdom by Iran, as the Saudis displayed missile and drone wreckage and cited other evidence they said shows the raid was “unquestionably sponsored by Iran.”

Iran, which has denied involvement in the attack, warned the US it will retaliate immediately if it is targeted.

President Donald Trump, meanwhile, said he is moving to increase financial sanctions on Tehran over the attack. He was noncommittal on whether he would order US military retaliation.

At a news conference, Saudi military spokesman Col. Turki al-Malki said the attack Saturday that did heavy damage to the heart of the Saudi oil industry was “launched from the north and was unquestionably sponsored by Iran.” Yemen is south of Saudi Arabia, while Iran and Iraq lie to the north.

Al-Malki stopped short of accusing Iran of actually firing the weapons itself or launching them from Iranian territory.

Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was in response to the Saudi-led war in Yemen that has killed tens of thousands of people.

At the news conference, the Saudis displayed broken and burned drones and pieces of a cruise missile that Al-Malki identified as Iranian weapons collected after the attack. He also played surveillance video that he said showed a drone coming in from the north.

Eighteen drones and seven cruise missiles were launched in the assault, Al-Malki said, with three missiles failing to make their targets. He said the cruise missiles had a range of 700 kilometers (435 miles), meaning they could not have been fired from inside Yemen.

“This is the kind of weapon the Iranian regime and the Iranian IRGC are using against the civilian object and facilities infrastructure,” Al-Malki said, referring to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. He added: “This attack did not originate from Yemen, despite Iran’s best effort to make it appear so.”

Mike Pompeo, who landed in Saudi Arabia shortly after the news conference, took a harder line, telling reporters: “The Saudis were the nation that was attacked. It was on their soil. It was an act of war against them directly.”

He said en route to Saudi Arabia that “it doesn’t matter” whether the Houthis claim they were behind the attack. “This was an Iranian attack,” he said.

“It doesn’t change the fingerprints of the ayatollah as having put at risk the global energy supply,” Pompeo said, referring to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khomenei.

The attack came after a summer of heightened tensions between Iran and the US over Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal.

Iran sent a note to the US via Swiss diplomats Monday, reiterating that Tehran denies involvement in the aerial attack, the country’s state-run IRNA news agency reported. The Swiss have looked after American interests in Iran for decades.

“If any action takes place against Iran, the action will be faced by Iran’s answer immediately,” IRNA quoted the note as saying. It added that Iran’s response wouldn’t be limited to the source of the threat.

The US State Department had no comment on the warning.

Donald Trump, meanwhile, tweeted: “I have just instructed the Secretary of the Treasury to substantially increase Sanctions on the country of Iran!”

He did not elaborate, and it was not immediately clear what further means are available since he has already cut deeply into Iran’s oil market. National Security Council officials declined to comment.

IRNA also reported that Iran’s delegation to the annual UN General Assembly meeting has yet to receive the necessary US visas. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was to travel to New York on Friday, with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani following on Monday.

The UN meeting had been considered as an opportunity for direct talks between Rouhani and Donald Trump.

Asked in Los Angeles whether Rouhani will come to New York, Donald Trump said, “I really don’t know. If it was up to me, I’d let them come.”

“I’ve always felt the United Nations is very important,” he added. “I think it’s got tremendous potential. I don’t think it’s ever lived up to the potential it has. But I would certainly not want to keep people out if they want to come.”

As the host of the UN’s headquarters, the US is required to offer world leaders and diplomats visas to attend meetings. But as tensions have risen, the US has put increasing restrictions on Iranians like Zarif.

In Tehran, Rouhani told his Cabinet that Saudi Arabia should see the weekend attack as a warning to end its war in Yemen, where it has fought the Houthi rebels since 2015 and sought to restore the internationally recognized government.

Rouhani said Yemenis “did not hit hospitals, they did not hit schools or the Sanaa bazaar,” referring to the Saudi-led coalition’s airstrikes.

He said the Houthis were responsible for the attack on the oil installations: “They attacked an industrial center to warn you. Learn the lesson from the warning.”


US supports Saudi ‘right to defend itself’: Pompeo

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States supports Saudia Arabia’s “right to defend itself” and that Iran’s behaviour would “not be tolerated”, in a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), according to a statement on his official Twitter account on Thursday.

Pompeo again condemned the weekend attack on Saudi oil fields and supported the Saudis’ call for international experts to travel to the country to investigate, the Saudi news agency SPA said in a separate statement.

In the meeting, MBS told Pompeo the attacks on state oil company Saudi Aramco were aimed at destabilising security in the region and damaging the global supply of energy.  

Speaking to reporters on his way to Jeddah, Pompeo had described the raids on key Saudi oil installations as an “act of war” and reiterated that it was an “Iranian attack”. 

Iran has repeatedly denied it was behind the strikes.

A defence ministry spokesman said there was no way the strikes could have been launched from Yemen.

“The attack was launched from the north and unquestionably sponsored by Iran,” Saudi Colonel Turki al-Malki said. “We are working to know the exact launch point.”

Al-Malki did not directly blame Iran for the attack when asked by journalists. He said once “the culprits” were identified they would “be held accountable”.

Trump and Saudi officials have stressed the need for caution in their response to the attacks. Trump has said he does not want war and is coordinating with Gulf and European states. 

Hillary Mann Leverett, chief executive of political risk consultancy Stratega and a former US diplomat, told Al Jazeera the Saudis use of the word ‘sponsorship’ indicated a certain level of caution amid its current diplomatic isolation.

“They have no guarantee the US will back them up to retaliate against Iran or anyone else,” she said. “They are in a really tough position with very few options. They are trying to lay out what evidence they can but there is a lot of doubt here in Washington, and I think around the world, about what the Saudis have to say given their record with Yemen, the Khashoggi killing and other issues.”  

Earlier on Wednesday, Trump said he ordered a major increase in sanctions on Iran, but gave no details. 

It is not clear yet what Pompeo’s comments mean for the US response to the attacks. 

US media, citing unnamed US officials, reported on Tuesday that evidence showed Saturday’s attacks originated in southwestern Iran.

Three officials said they involved cruise missiles and drones, indicating a higher degree of complexity and sophistication than initially thought. The US has not made its evidence public

The officials also did not provide evidence or explain what US intelligence they were using for evaluating the attack, which cut five percent of the world’s oil production.

The new violence has led to fears that further action on any side could rapidly escalate a confrontation that has been raging just below the surface in the wider region in recent months. 

Last month, Trump called off a military attack on Iran at the last minute after Tehran shot down an unmanned US military drone. Iran maintains the drone was in Iranian airspace. The US says it was in international territory.

Those tensions have been boiling since Trump pulled the US out of Iran’s 2015 agreement with world powers that curtailed Iranian nuclear activities, and reimposed sanctions that sent Iran’s economy into freefall.


US blames Iran for attacks on Saudi oil facilities

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran for the attacks on two Aramco oil plants in the east of Saudi Arabia.

“Amid all the calls for de-escalation, Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply,” said the top US diplomat in dual tweets on Saturday afternoon, Xinhua news agency reported.

“There is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen,” Pompeo added.

Pompeo’s tweets came hours after Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for the drone attacks.

Also on Saturday afternoon, the White House said President Donald Trump had spoken by phone with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, discussing the attacks and Saudi Arabia’s self-defence.

“The United States Government is monitoring the situation,” according to a statement released by the White House.

Saudi Interior Minister announced on Saturday that drone attacks caused fires at two oil facilities of Saudi petroleum company Aramco. The attacks hit the two sites in Abqaiq and Khurais areas.


Pompeo Says US Forces Won’t Leave Afghanistan Without Peace Deal

The Trump administration declined on Sunday to rule out a withdrawal of American troops without a peace accord, which was scrapped after a terror attack resulting in the death of an American soldier in Kabul.

In an interview on Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the Taliban had “tried to gain negotiating advantage by conducting terror attacks inside the country.” 

“We’re going to walk away from a deal if others try to use violence to achieve better ends in a negotiation,’’ he added.

Pompeo and other administration officials left open the door to a resumption of negotiations, and so did the Taliban. But any new talks may not happen for several months, as the sides feel mutual distrust, Afghan officials said, cited by the New York Times.

Despite criticism from several fellow Republicans, including national security adviser John R. Bolton, Trump has promised to reduce the number of American forces in Afghanistan, saying two weeks ago that their numbers would come down to 8,600 from the current level of about 14,000 –  far below the 100,000 troops that were based there during the height of the war.

Pompeo laid out two conditions for a withdrawal on Sunday: that violence be reduced and that another terrorist attack on the United States from Afghanistan never be permitted.

“We’re not going to withdraw our forces without making sure we achieve President Trump’s twin objectives,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

In an interview on Thursday at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, the departing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, argued that it had been clear for years that the only lasting peace would come from some kind of political process between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

He said that his idea of a successful negotiation would be one that “reduces the level of violence” and sets up an intra-Afghan dialogue.

At the core of the tentative agreement between the United States and the Taliban were assurances from the group that it would not support international terrorist groups, and that Afghan soil would not be used for attacks against the West.

“We had the Taliban’s commitment to do that,” Pompeo said on Fox News on Sunday. “We had their commitment to break from Al Qaeda, publicly. And they would obviously have to deliver on that commitment. So we’ve made real progress, but in the end the Taliban overreached.”

Asked by Margaret Brennan on CBS’s “Face the Nation” if 14,000 American troops in Afghanistan was “where it stays for the foreseeable future,” Pompeo said that “ultimately, it’s the president’s decision.”

Military and intelligence officials cited by the New York Times said that the American forces are chiefly there to provide intelligence to the Afghans. General Dunford said Thursday that the planned reduction to 8,600 troops was based on a Pentagon estimate of how many it would take to assure that terrorist groups were not exploiting the power vacuum in the country.


Zarif calls into question Mike Pompeo’s recent anti-Iran claims

After Iran announced on Wednesday that it would take the 3rd step to scale back on its JCPOA commitments, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged European nations to stop, in his words, Iran’s ‘extortion’.

In reaction, Zarif wrote in a tweet on Saturday “what exactly is EXTORTION?

The top Iranian diplomat added “is it violating a UN resolution & punishing anyone observing it? Offering bribes for theft of oil & designating those who refuse? Maybe it’s demanding Iran’s submission or its people starve? Or, Is it lawful remedial measures under JCPOA?”

Furthermore, in response to the US secretary of state who said “all civilized nations … will take decisive actions to stop Iran’s nuclear extortion,” the Iranian foreign minister answered  in another tweet by saying “do you even know what CIVILIZED means, @SecPompeo?”

He added “is it sending drones over weddings to kill innocents? Piracy on the high seas? Maybe it’s pouring lethal weapons into a region to enable inhuman wars? Or, is it a millennia-old nation that hasn’t attacked anyone for centuries?”


US sanctions Iran’s space program

The U.S. imposed Tuesday new sanctions on Iran’s space program, accusing Tehran of developing ballistic missiles under the cover of space program.

The sanctions designated for the first time against Iran’s civilian space agency was announced by the State and Treasury departments.

“Today, the Department of State designated the Iran Space Agency and two of its research institutes under Executive Order (E.O.) 13382 for engaging in proliferation-sensitive activities,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

“The United States will not allow Iran to use its space launch program as cover to advance its ballistic missile programs,” Pompeo stressed, saying Iran’s Aug. 29 attempt to make a space launch vehicle “underscores the urgency of the threat.”

He warned international scientific community that collaborating with Iran’s space program “could contribute to Tehran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon delivery system.”


NATO, US discuss current security issues

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday discussed security issues, the alliance’s chief said.

“Great discussion with @SecPompeo on current security issues. #NATO fully supports efforts to achieve peace in #Afghanistan. I condemn recent horrific attacks & NATO remains committed to supporting Afghan forces,” Stoltenberg said on Twitter after a closed-door talk.

Later Tuesday, Pompeo will meet with European Parliament President David Sassoli.

During his two-day trip to Brussels, he has met with NATO and EU leaders to discuss Transatlantic cooperation on economic and security issues.

On Monday, he met with incoming EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

“I’m happy to welcome @SecPompeo to Brussels. Great to getting to know each other better and talking to him about the #transatlantic relationship between the #EU and #US,” she said on Twitter.


Iran to sell oil to any and all buyers: FM Zarif

“US denied us means of defense: We built missiles & US complains. US denied us nuclear fuel: We made it & US complains. Now US engages in piracy & threats to prevent Iran from selling oil to traditional customers. Stop nagging @SecPompeo: We will sell oil to any & all buyers,” the top Iranian diplomat wrote in a tweet on Saturday in reaction to latest remarks by the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. 


The Never-Trumpers’ Case for Pompeo

At the beginning of Donald Trump’s presidency, there was a running debate among the few right-leaning pundits, scholars and politicians who still opposed him. Is it better, they asked, to mitigate Trump’s policies from the inside, or to hasten his administration’s collapse from the outside?

Back then it was plausible that Trump would not serve out his term. The FBI and the Justice Department were investigating his campaign and administration. There was serious discussion about invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office. Any hope for a premature end to the Trump presidency, however, collapsed in July with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s House testimony.

Nonetheless, there is still a debate on the never-Trump right over whether Trump’s cabinet is containing or enabling him. The most recent entry is from New York Times columnist Bret Stephens, who argues that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo should not help broker a peace plan for Afghanistan that would abandon the country’s elected government. “If he has a sense of honor, he might consider resigning rather than fathering the catastrophe that may soon befall Afghanistan,” Stephens wrote.

His point is that Pompeo is enabling policies that he knows are dangerous, instead of mitigating them. If Trump orders a full withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan, or agrees to a sucker’s deal with North Korea, Pompeo would validate those decisions simply by remaining on the job.

That said, Trump has not yet made those decisions. He is an erratic leader, and unlike past presidents, his decrees do not always translate into policy. Consider his contradictory comments on the trade war with China. One moment he was ordering U.S. businesses to find new supply chains that bypass China, the next he was voicing regret for imposing so many tariffs on Beijing.

Such variable opinions mean that the president’s interlocutors matter a great deal. In fact, the most important person in the White House on any given issue may be the last person Trump hears from about it.

Never-Trump hawks such as Stephens should want that last person to be Pompeo. In his year and a half on the job, he has led a global campaign to block China’s largest telecom firm, Huawei, from access to 5G wireless networks. He has overseen a successful diplomatic effort to get most of the Western Hemisphere and Europe to recognize Juan Guaido as the interim president of Venezuela. He has implemented sanctions against senior Russian human-rights abusers and publicized the corruption of Iranian leaders.

One reason Pompeo has had some success in these areas is because he has yet to draw Trump’s ire. As a recent critical profile of Pompeo in the New Yorker makes clear, he has been able to maintain his credibility with the president in private partly because he has projected enthusiastic loyalty to him in public.

Pompeo acknowledged as much in a recent interview. “If we disagree, my duty is to go share with him our disagreements,” he said. “I do that with great frequency. But when he makes a decision, and it’s legal, it’s my task to execute his decision with all the energy and the power that I have.”

This means that there are times when Pompeo will indeed be guilty of the most common sin in politics: hypocrisy. It is the price he pays to influence Trump’s foreign policy.

Consider Syria. In December, it appeared that Trump had decided to pull U.S. forces out of the country. The decision was so sudden and dangerous that Secretary of Defense James Mattis resigned in protest. In a sense, Mattis preserved his honor; he refused to pretend that Trump’s decision was defensible.

Had Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton followed Mattis out the door, Trump would have likely stuck with his decision. Instead, Pompeo and Bolton urged Trump to reconsider, and he did. To this day, there are still U.S. troops in Syria.

Make no mistake. The current situation in Syria is not stable. Trump may still change his mind. Mattis was correct when he said in his resignation letter that Trump does not respect the hard-won alliances that make U.S. power possible in the modern world.

Like Mattis, Pompeo also respects those alliances. Unlike Mattis, he is still a trusted adviser to a commander-in-chief who doesn’t. Isn’t it better — for the country, certainly, if not the secretary of state’s pride — that he’s there?


North Korea Says Ready for Dialogue, Standoff With US Amid Pompeo’s Sanctions Pressure Plans

MOSCOW (Sputnik) – North Korea is ready for both dialogue and confrontation with the United States, the Asian country’s Foreign Minister, Ri Yong Ho, said on Friday in the wake of US State Secretary Mike Pompeo’s announcement of plans to impose tougher restrictions on the country if it does not abandon its nuclear arsenal.

In his official statement, Ri referred to Pompeo’s interview with Washington Examiner, published earlier this week. In the interview, Pompeo expressed hope that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was committed to denuclearizing his country, saying that otherwise, the United States would “continue to keep on the sanctions that are the toughest in all of history and continue to work towards convincing Chairman Kim and the North Korean leaders that the right thing to do is for them to denuclearize.”

“We are ready for both dialogue and stand-off. The U.S. is sadly mistaken if it still thinks of standing in confrontation with the DPRK with sanctions, not dropping its confrontational stand. Then, we will remain as the biggest ‘threat’ to the U.S. for long and long and will make it understand for sure what it has to do for the denuclearization,” Ri said in a statement, issued by the official KCNA news agency.

The North Korean top diplomat added that Pompeo pursued personal political ambitions rather than was interested in implementing the United States’ current foreign policy.

Kim has been involved in talks on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula with US President Donald Trump. The negotiations reached a deadlock in February when the two leaders left their long-anticipated second summit without any agreement. However, they met again in late June to agree on reviving the working-level talks.

Still, since then, North Korea conducted a series of weapons launches, testing what the United States believes was short-range ballistic missiles. At the same time, the United States and South Korea carried out joint military drills despite protests from Pyongyang.

Earlier this week, Pompeo said that the US strategy with regard to North Korea had not changed following Pyongyang’s recent missile tests, adding that both sides planned to return to the negotiating table in a couple of weeks.