TEHRAN (Dispatches) – The U.S. is arm-twisting the Europeans over their bid to bypass new American sanctions on Iran, pressing Europe to impose its own sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was due to meet his counterparts from Britain, France and Germany in Brussels on Tuesday in order to make a case for tough new sanctions on Tehran.
U.S. special envoy for Iran Brian Hook is reportedly traveling with Pompeo. He has said that the talks with the Europeans would be about Iran’s missile capabilities.
Pompeo reportedly met the occupying regime of Israel’s premier Benjamin Netanyahu in Brussels on Monday night, mainly to discuss Iran.
The top U.S. diplomat reaffirmed the strength of US-Israel alliance and reiterated America’s resolve in confronting Iran through maximum pressure during a dinner with the Israeli leader, Voice of America reported.
The meetings are the latest salvo in an escalating U.S. campaign against Iran since President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal in May and reimposed all sanctions lifted on Tehran under the agreement.
On Saturday, Pompeo claimed that Iran had tested a medium-range ballistic missile which violated the international agreement on Tehran's nuclear program.
Without confirming or denying the test, Iran rejected his claims that it "violates UNSCR 2231" – a United Nations Security Council resolution which endorses the international nuclear agreement abandoned by the U.S. in May.
UN Security Council Resolution 2231 "calls on" Iran "not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology."
Tehran has always emphasized that it has no nuclear warheads and that none of its missiles have been designed to carry nuclear weapons.
Iran’s missile program is not tied to the nuclear agreement and U.S. and European officials have admitted that it does not violate the nuclear agreement.
Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif on Tuesday defended Iran’s missile program in a Twitter post, in which he said the UN Security Council resolution which endorsed the nuclear agreement does not ban Tehran from working on missiles.
"Making a mockery of the UNSC won't obscure failure to fulfill obligations & to hold U.S. to account over non-compliance. Esp when even U.S. admits that UNSCR2231 does NOT prohibit Iran's deterrent capabilities. Rather than undermining 2231, better to work towards its adherence by all." Zarif wrote.
Tehran insists its missile program is purely defensive but has threatened to disrupt oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf if Washington tries to strangle its exports.
However, France and Britain described the alleged missile test by Iran "provocative” and asked the UN Security Council to meet behind closed doors to discuss the matter Tuesday.
Washington’s new push to pressure Iran comes as the European Union is trying to set up a clearing house for non-dollar transactions with the Islamic Republic without falling foul of the U.S. sanctions.
"We would like to see the European Union move sanctions that target Iran's missile program," Hook said.
"The United States has imposed sanctions on a number of individuals and entities who are supporting Iran’s missile program. We think those sanctions can be effective if more nations can also join us in that effort,” he added.
On Thursday, Hook displayed some metal scraps purportedly from Yemen as "new evidence of Iran’s ongoing missile proliferation.”
He pressed back on criticisms that the display was a political stunt by the Trump administration that could increase tensions in the region.
Iran said Sunday it would continue missile tests to build up its defenses and the country’s deterrence.