Pompeo talks tough on Iran while visiting the Emirates

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, right, and UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, left, speak at the Al Shati Palace in Abu Dhabi, UAE, Tuesday. (AP/Andrew Harnik)
Updated 10 July 2018
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Pompeo talks tough on Iran while visiting the Emirates

  • Pompeo’s comments came during a short trip to the United Arab Emirates
  • Pompeo mentioned recent threats by Iran’s President Rouhani over the Strait of Hormuz

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday that America and its Gulf Arab allies want to show Iran that its actions have “a real high cost,” stepping up his warnings after Tehran threatened to disrupt Mideast oil supplies.
Pompeo’s comments came during a short trip to the United Arab Emirates, a staunch US ally that hosts some 5,000 American forces at a crucial air base and the US Navy’s busiest foreign port of call.
He stopped short of offering any specifics during an interview with Sky News Arabia.
However, his message undoubtedly reached receptive ears. The UAE long has been suspicious of Iran and its nuclear deal with world powers, from which President Donald Trump recently pulled out.
“The one that we are most focused on today is ... that we deny Iran the financial capacity to continue this bad behavior,” Pompeo said. “So it’s a broad range, a series of sanctions aimed not at the Iranian people, but rather aimed at the single mission of convincing the Iranian regime that its malign behavior is unacceptable and has a real high cost for them.”
Pompeo made a point to mention recent threats by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani over the Strait of Hormuz, through which a third of all oil traded by sea passes. While in Europe last week, Rouhani said any disruption to Iran’s oil exports would result in the whole region’s exports being disrupted.
Iran “should know that America is committed to keeping sea lines open, keeping the transit of oil available for the entire world,” Pompeo said. “That’s the commitment we have had for decades. We continue under that commitment.”
In Tehran, Iran’s deputy parliament speaker Ali Motahari praised Rouhani for making the threat.
“The American are not ready for any new war in the Arabian Gulf so the president’s remark was a good threat which will have positive impacts and will be a deterrent factor against cutting Iran’s oil export,” Motahari said, according to a report on parliament’s website.
Global oil prices have risen on the expectation that the United States will push its allies to stop importing Iranian crude oil, further tightening the world energy supplies. While allies like Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait say they are willing to increase their own production as necessary, additional output may not be enough to satiate demand.
Already, regular gasoline prices in the US are $2.86 a gallon, up from $2.26 the year before, according to AAA. Trump himself has been tweeting that oil suppliers must do more to lower prices ahead of midterm elections this fall.
US benchmark crude traded near $75 a barrel on Tuesday, while Brent crude traded near $80.
While State Department officials earlier acknowledged that some allies will get waivers to continue importing Iranian oil, Pompeo seemed to strike a harder line Tuesday. He warned such imports largely would be “sanctionable activity and we will enforce those sanctions.”
“We will consider (waivers) but make no mistake about it: We are determined to convince the Iranian leadership that this malign behavior won’t be rewarded and that the economic situation in the country will not be permitted to be rectified until such time that they become a more-normal nation,” he said.
Among the top importers of Iranian oil are China, India, Turkey and South Korea.
Pompeo met Abu Dhabi’s powerful crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan while on his short trip to the UAE. He also stopped by the US Embassy in Abu Dhabi.
Pompeo, who earlier visited Afghanistan, Japan, North Korea and Vietnam on his trip, left the UAE heading for a NATO summit in Brussels that Trump will attend.


Jordan’s PM appeals for more aid as most Syrian refugees set to stay

Updated 14 min 40 sec ago
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Jordan’s PM appeals for more aid as most Syrian refugees set to stay

  • Jordan PM says most refugees not returning yet
  • Amman says funding crucial to keep economy afloat

AMMAN: Jordan’s Prime Minister Omar Al-Razzaz appealed on Wednesday to major donors to continue multi-billion dollar funding for Syrian refugees in the kingdom, saying most of those who had fled the eight-year conflict had no intention of returning any time soon.
Razzaz told representatives of major Western donors, UN agencies and NGOs that relatively few refugees had gone back since Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s army last summer regained control of southern Syria, where most had fled from.
“The number of refugees that so far returned voluntarily is low and most have no intention of going back any time soon,” Razzaz told a meeting to launch a UN-funded government plan that earmarks $2.4 billion in funding needs for 2019.
Officials say only around 10,000 refugees out of a total estimated at 1.3 million had left since the two countries opened the vital Nassib-Jaber border crossing last October.
Razzaz echoed the UN view that unstable conditions inside Syria, where large-scale destruction, fear of retribution and military conscription has made many reluctant to return.
“We are now entering a new phase of the Syrian crisis, however the impact is still ongoing. The conditions for their return are not present,” Razzaz added.
The prime minister warned against donor fatigue in a protracted crisis where the needs of refugees and vulnerable Jordanians were largely unchanged.
Maintaining funding that covers education, health and crucial services for tens of thousands of Syrian refugees and local communities was crucial to ease rising pressures on the debt-burdened economy, he added.
“Aid helped Jordan in staying resilient in a difficult regional setting,” Razzaz said, adding the refugee burden had strained meagre resources such as water and electricity, with a donor shortfall covered from state finances.
Jordan is struggling to rein in record public debt of $40 billion, equivalent to 95 percent of gross domestic product, under a tough International Monetary Fund (IMF) austerity plan.
Major donors say more than $6 billion had been extended to Jordan since 2015, which economists credit for rejuvenating once sleepy northern border towns, while refugee entrepreneurship brought a pool of cheap labor and new skills, triggering a property boom and higher productivity.
The kingdom received around $1.6 billion last year alone.
“The level of funding to Jordan that still remains is exceptional in global comparison,” said UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Anders Pedersen, adding needs had evolved from the humanitarian aid required early in the conflict to development projects that benefit the economy.