WARSAW, Poland – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told a U.S.-sponsored meeting on the Middle East taking place in Poland on Thursday that the world “can’t achieve peace and security” in that region without first “confronting Iran.”
Pence spoke as Vice President Mike Pence and foreign ministers and delegates from more than 60 countries gathered in Poland’s capital for the summit. It has drawn rebuke for appearing to hone in on Iran while downplaying other regional factors.
The topics officially under discussion include Israeli-Palestinian peace, conflicts in Syria and Yemen, and the turbulent issue of Iran following President Donald Trump’s decision last year to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers. Long-standing U.S. allies in Europe favor staying in the deal.
But Pompeo in Warsaw said “pushing back” against Iran was central to dealing with all the region’s other problems, a characterization that will do little to overturn perceptions the Trump administration is determined to see a new regime in Tehran, although Washington has consistently denied it is actively pursuing regime change.
“Iran is a country you can’t rely on, do business with, can’t trust,” Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, told USA TODAY on the sidelines of a rally in Warsaw organized by an exiled Iranian opposition group. The former New York mayor is not taking part in the summit, but his views reflect those of many in Trump’s inner circle, including National Security Adviser John Bolton who has long advocated for an aggressive Iran approach.
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Iran has denounced the conference as an American anti-Iran “circus.” Russia and China are not attending and Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, is also skipping the event. Several high-profile Arab dignitaries are in Poland for the event, but Palestinians, not present, have called for it to be boycotted.
Pompeo’s comments echo saber-rattling remarks by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who drew scrutiny on Wednesday when he made clear the conference is centered on Iran despite the far broader published agenda.
“It is a conference that unites the United States, Israel, many countries in the world, many countries in the region, Arab countries, against Iran’s aggressive policy, its aggression, its desire to conquer the Middle East and destroy Israel,” he told reporters.
In an interview with reporters on a Warsaw street, Netanyahu also appeared to say “war” with Iran was a common goal of the summit’s participants. Netanyahu used the Hebrew word “milchama,” or “war,” in his comments. His office later changed its translation and said he was referring to a “common interest of combatting Iran.”
In his remarks, Pompeo said that “no one country will dominate the discussion today nor will any one issue dominate our talks. Everyone should speak thoughtfully and honestly. Each country should respect the voice of all others. Our hope is that every engagement will entail true back-and-forth dialogue, not just be a chance to recite prepared statements.” He added: “We want to bring together countries with an interest in stability to share their different views and break out of traditional thinking.”