US analyst on Iran: ‘It’s not a choice between war and having to strike a deal’

The US should be in “no rush to get a deal” with Iran, said Lee Smith, a researcher at the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC, echoing recent comments made by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who said on Monday that the Obama-era deal failed to address the threat from Iran’s nuclear program.

In an interview with Al Arabiya, Smith said, “I think the Trump administration has hit the correct note. It’s not a choice between war and having to strike a deal.”

“We have managed both to protect the economic growth that [the] world needs while doing our best to deny resources to the Islamic Republic of Iran regime,” Pompeo said in an interview at the Economic Club in Washington.

Asked about Iran’s recent move to enrich uranium levels, Pompeo said, “It’s about the capacity to build out a nuclear weapons system in a timeframe that matters to you and your kids and your grandkids. The previous agreement didn’t remotely touch that.”

The US in May 2018 withdrew from the Obama-era nuclear deal and re-imposed and toughened sanctions on Iran, crippling its economy. In response to the sanctions, Tehran has increased its nuclear activities in breach of the agreement, exceeding the limit of its enriched uranium stockpile as well as enriching uranium beyond the 3.67 percent purity limit.

Pompeo said that the US is “trying to reduce [the Iranians’] resources to conduct terror campaigns all around the world, build out their missile systems and their nuclear program, and we’ve been incredibly effective at that.”

“We have taken over 95 percent of the crude oil that was being shipped by Iran all around the world, and we have taken it off the market,” he added.

No rush to get a deal

“The Obama administration, when they struck the Iran deal, their entire idea was there’s either a deal with the Iranians, or there is war with the Iranians.”

“That is not the point of sanctions. We should not be infatuated with striking an agreement,” Smith said.

Smith said recent British-Iranian tensions help drive home a very important point the Trump administration has been making about the problem with the Iran deal.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards seized a British-flagged oil tanker on July 19, two weeks after British forces captured an Iranian oil tanker near Gibraltar which it said was violating sanctions on Syria.

“The problem with the Iran deal that the Obama administration struck was that it gives lots of money to the Iranians to cause lots of trouble around the region – whether that’s Yemen, whether that’s Iraq, whether that’s Syria, whether that’s Lebanon.”

“Now we see that there’s an act of piracy against a British-flagged tanker,” he added.

“I think that the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Boris Johnson knows that the Trump administration is in their corner,” Smith said.

Smith asserts that the Iranians have been “active” recently because they want to continue their nuclear program. “One of the things the Iranians are concerned about right now is on July 31, the Trump administration will decide whether to renew or to cut off different nuclear-related sanctions.”

He says this is important for the regime. “I think they’ve been very active on this front, this is one of the reasons for the British tanker – that they’re very concerned, they really want these waivers to go away so they can support and they can continue their nuclear program.”

Nuclear program

According to Smith, if the Iranians want the sanctions to end, they must stop working toward a nuclear weapon.

“One of the things that people want to see is they want to see the Iranians stop exporting terrorism. They want to see the Iranians stop causing trouble,” he said.

“I believe that also the Trump administration would like to see the regime not commit terrible human rights abuses against its own people,” he added.

“The way to make sanctions go away is very clear: It has to do with the nuclear program, it has to do with terrorism and violence around the region. It’s not a mystery.”

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