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.


Buses arrive to ferry Syria rebels out of zone near Golan

Updated 22 min 55 sec ago
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Buses arrive to ferry Syria rebels out of zone near Golan

  • The transfers come under a surrender deal agreed this week between Russia and Syrian rebels in Quneitra province
  • Rebels will hand over territory they control in Quneitra and the neighboring buffer zone with the Israeli-occupied Golan

BEIRUT: Buses were gathering on Friday in a southwestern sliver of Syria near the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights to transfer rebel fighters and civilians to opposition territory further north, a monitor said.
The transfers come under a surrender deal agreed this week between Russia and Syrian rebels in Quneitra province that will see the sensitive zone fall back under state control.
Rebels will hand over territory they control in Quneitra and the neighboring buffer zone with the Israeli-occupied Golan, a war monitor and a rebel source told AFP.
The deal included safe passage to northern Syria for any hard-liners who refuse to live under government control, and buses began entering the area Friday to carry out the transfers, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“The buses reached government-controlled territory in Quneitra on Thursday, and today they began crossing into opposition areas for the evacuation,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.
He said it remained unclear how many fighters and civilians would ultimately be evacuated, but that the buses would likely be picking up people from multiple locations in Quneitra and the adjacent buffer.
A rebel source told AFP that the evacuations were expected to begin around mid-morning on Friday.
Quneitra is a thin, crescent-shaped province wedged between the buffer to the west and the Syrian province of Daraa to its east.
One month ago, Syria’s regime launched an operation to retake rebel areas in Daraa and Quneitra, using military force and surrender deals brokered by its Russian ally.
Fighting forced several hundred thousand people to flee, and as many as 140,000 remain displaced in Quneitra, according to the United Nations.
The UN’s humanitarian coordination office (OCHA) warned they are inaccessible to aid organizations based around an hour away in Damascus because of a lack of approvals.
Both Israel and Jordan, which shares a border with Syria, have kept their borders closed to the displaced.
Israel seized 1,200 square kilometers (460 square miles) of the Golan from Syria in 1967 and later annexed it, in a move never recognized internationally.