US trying to take the lead on Iran after quitting nuclear deal

WASHINGTON • After leaving the Iran nuclear deal, Washington wants to move forward by offering to build a "coalition" to counter the multiple "threats" posed by the Teheran regime - but Europeans intent on saving the 2015 accord may thwart that effort.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will tomorrow unveil a new "diplomatic roadmap" for Iran - how America plans to "address the totality of Iran's threats", according to the State Department's director of policy planning Brian Hook.

Washington is looking to draft a "new security architecture and a better security framework, a better deal," Mr Hook told reporters ahead of the speech, the first major policy address by Mr Pompeo since he became America's top diplomat.

"The US will be working hard to put together a coalition," State Department spokesman Heather Nauert said, flagging Washington's bid for a multilateral approach after unilaterally quitting the accord.

President Donald Trump has long trashed the deal with Iran - concluded under predecessor Barack Obama, together with Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia - saying it did not do enough to curtail Teheran's nuclear ambitions.

He also said that it did not do enough to restrict Iran's ballistic missile programme, or its intervention in regional conflicts from Yemen to Iraq and Syria.

The big unknown is whether European leaders, who were bitterly disappointed by Mr Trump's decision to ditch the deal, would be willing to return to talks with his administration any time soon.

For now, the European Union is trying to persuade Iran to stay in the 2015 agreement, even without Washington's participation.

A European official warned: "If it is a question of building a coalition to push for regime change in Iran, the Europeans won't be on board."

Mr Jake Sullivan, a former Obama administration official who is now a researcher at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the next phase is one in which "the punishment is the strategy - squeezing Iran and keeping them in the penalty box for as long as possible, and as much as possible, with the hope of regime change, but if it's not regime change, (then) a weaker regime".


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 20, 2018, with the headline 'US trying to take the lead on Iran after quitting nuclear deal'. Print Edition | Subscribe