UNITED NATIONS • US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has pushed the international community to work out how to stop Iran from being "unshackled to create new turmoil" when a United Nations arms embargo on the country and a travel ban on the head of Iran's elite Quds Force expire next year.
Speaking at a UN Security Council meeting on Middle East peace and security challenges on Tuesday, he called for greater cooperation in the region to produce "fresh thinking to solve old problems", citing problems such as the Libyan and Syrian conflicts and a rift between several Gulf states and Qatar.
He singled out Iran. Tensions between Teheran and Washington have risen since President Donald Trump's administration last year quit an international deal to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions and began to ratchet up sanctions.
"Since the US declared our intention to bring all Iranian oil purchases to zero in April, the Ayatollah has gone on a campaign of extortion diplomacy," he said, calling out Iran for breaching caps imposed by the 2015 nuclear deal, test-firing a ballistic missile and seizing tankers in the Strait of Hormuz.
Under the Iran nuclear deal, a UN arms embargo on the country and a travel ban on Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani are due to expire next year. The Quds Force is the overseas arm of Iran's Revolutionary Guards.
Mr Pompeo said the US State Department was counting down to the removal of the measures.
"The international community will have plenty of time to see how long it has until Iran is unshackled to create new turmoil, and figure out what it must do to prevent this from happening," he said.
Iran's UN Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi accused the US of causing insecurity and instability with its military presence and "unbridled flow of American weaponry into this region, which has turned it into a powder keg".
"While we are not seeking confrontation, we cannot and will not remain indifferent to the violation of our sovereignty. Therefore, in order to secure our borders and interests, we will vigorously exercise our inherent right to self-defence," he told the UN Security Council.
Separately, Australia will join the US in a security mission to protect merchant vessels travelling through key Middle East waterways, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said yesterday.