US Iran demands point to 'regime change by back door'
The FT's Katrina Manson looks at the strict demands made by the US for a comprehensive new treaty with Iran and asks if regime change is the ultimate goal of the Trump administration.
Produced by Ben Marino. Footage by Reuters.
America's commitment to the Iran strategy President Trump laid down in October remains. It will now be executed outside of the JCPOA.
Well, Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, has unleashed a very exacting list of demands - a dozen demands to Iran today. This comes on top of Donald Trump withdrawing from a 2015 landmark nuclear deal. So the Americans are really piling on the pressure. Now, on top of saying that they're no longer part of this multi-party deal - that they're immediately re-imposing nuclear era sanctions on Iran - they're now saying, Iran, you have to do still more.
They want Iran to stop enriching uranium. They want the Iranian presence out of Syria, out of Yemen. They want it to commit not to test or develop nuclear capable ballistic missiles. It's an enormous list. And even Mike Pompeo, when announcing it today, said some people might find this list unreasonable. But he went on to say that it's Iran's fault that this list exists at all. It's due to Iranian behaviour, that the Americans want to push back.
And he also dangled a carrot. And we haven't seen many carrots from the Trump administration when it comes to Iran policy, really, since Mr Trump took office. Mr Pompeo said that if Iran plays ball, and makes these concessions, the US is prepared to work with Congress to deliver a treaty. Now, that word is significant because the JCPOA, the original Obama era deal, was always ever an agreement. And Congress quite fervently opposed it by bipartisan opposition.
So the idea that you could get Congress to sign on to a deal that the US would lead, presumably with international support, would be a binding lasting treaty is of interest. The problem, of course, is that this list of demands is nothing that the Iranians are likely to want to play with. And the Trump administration has lost a lot of goodwill on the part of the Europeans, by imposing such strong sanctions on the Iranians that also affect European business.
Europeans have been trying to work out how to protect their own businesses in Iran. But the Trump administration, today in Mike Pompeo's comments, also made quite clear that they are planning to plough ahead with these sanctions. And won't expect to offer any significant concessions that would insulate European companies from the pain of these sanctions.
So it's certainly a continuation of a very harsh policy towards Iran. In fact, it's so harsh that some people are saying this really is a call for regime change by the back door. Because how else can Iran respond? It can only say no to this extraordinary shopping list. And, really, the only way to, in any way measure up to the demands, is to simply change who is in power in Iran. They may well be trying to do that. Everyone is still trying to pore over what they're doing.
They're saying you can't excuse a president. You can't excuse the foreign minister as being more moderate than the rest of the very powerful military and theocratic leaders in Iran. Then giving free passes to absolutely no one, except the Iranian people themselves. And the Trump administration is going out of its way to say it wants to support the Iranian people.
Now, life in Iran right now doesn't seem very well supported. The rial is crashing. Iranian companies are facing considerable sanctions. We expect to see a lot of European businesses pull out. And so conditions in Iran will get a lot harder. Of course, the Trump administration is banking on that because they are really instigating a maximalist squeeze. It certainly has accents of what they're trying to do in North Korea. A global push against North Korea to bring them to the negotiating table. It's very unclear if anything like that will work in the case of Iran.