On a trip with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to meet with leaders from dozens of other countries in Warsaw, Poland, Vice President Mike Pence was largely praiseful of his counterparts for their progress toward peace in the Middle East.
Still, Pence didn’t shy away from bluntly calling out some European allies for attempting to quietly skirt around the economic sanctions the U.S. has imposed against the nuclear-ambitious Islamic Republic of Iran.
“The time has come”
The vice president began his speech by thanking world leaders for their increased cooperation in the Middle East, particularly in opposition to radical Islamic terrorism and the barbaric Islamic State group. But Pence soon shifted his focus to Iran, recounting the country’s choice to fund terrorism and proxy wars and their pursuit of nuclear weapons — a pursuit that was merely delayed temporarily by the ill-advised Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, more commonly known as the Iran Nuclear Deal signed by former President Barack Obama.
President Donald Trump withdrew from the flawed deal and re-imposed tough sanctions on Iran last year, Pence said. “But sadly, some of our leading European partners have not been…cooperative. In fact, they’ve led the effort to create mechanisms to break up our sanctions.”
“Just two weeks ago, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom announced the creation of a special financing mechanism designed to oversee a mirror-image transaction that would replace sanctionable international payments between EU businesses and Iran,” Pence explained. “They call this scheme a ‘Special Purpose Vehicle.’ We call it an effort to break American sanctions against Iran’s murderous revolutionary regime.”
The vice president went on to call the move “an ill-advised step that will only strengthen Iran, weaken the EU, and create still more distance between Europe and the United States.”
“Some argue that Iran is in technical compliance with the narrow terms of the deal. But compliance is not the issue; the deal is the issue,” Pence added. “Today, America’s economic sanctions on Iran are the toughest in history and will get tougher still unless and until Iran changes its dangerous and destabilizing behavior.”
He went on:
The time has come for our European partners to stand with us and the Iranian people; to stand with our allies and friends in the region… The time has come for our European partners to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and join with us as we bring the economic and diplomatic pressure necessary to give the Iranian people, the region, and the world the peace, security, and freedom they deserve.
“Ripped them a new one”
While even some Trump administration supporters were taken aback by the bluntness of Pence’s public call out, one unnamed Republican official who reportedly works with the administration and Europe defended Pence’s choice of words.
“The Trump administration has tried everything imaginable to cajole, persuade, demonstrate, convince, and otherwise show the Europeans that they should side with us against Iran,” the official said. “It’s been a full-blown multi-year campaign that took thousands of staffer hours, not because the Europeans can significantly undercut American sanctions but because they’re our allies and we want them on board.”
The official reportedly added: “Meanwhile, the Iranians increased their terrorism in Europe and accelerated ballistic missile development. But despite all that the Europeans still chose Iran over America. So Pence went over there and publicly ripped them a new one. It was the only option left.”
Indeed, it will take a concerted effort by America and our allies to break the will of the Iranian regime, and certain European allies have not fully committed themselves to that effort. Hopefully, Pence’s shocking call out will remind them which side is the better side to align with in the end.