US not ‘afraid to tackle’ Iran regime at ‘highest level’: Pompeo

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (AP)
Updated 23 July 2018
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US not ‘afraid to tackle’ Iran regime at ‘highest level’: Pompeo

  • The offensive is meant to work in concert with severe economic sanctions that Washington plans to reimpose in the coming months

WASHINGTON: The United States is not afraid to sanction top-ranking leaders of the “nightmare” Iranian regime, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday, pursuing a strategy aimed at Iranian compliance with stringent US demands.
Following Washington’s pullout from the Iran nuclear accord that stunned Washington’s closest European allies, Pompeo on May 21 unveiled the “new strategy” to force Iran’s submission to a dozen demands.
“We weren’t afraid to tackle the regime at its highest level,” Pompeo said in a speech to the Iranian diaspora in California, referring to sanctions leveled in January against Sadeq Larijani, the head of Iran’s judiciary, for human rights violations.
Pompeo also confirmed that Washington wants all countries to reduce their imports of Iranian oil “as close to zero as possible” by November 4, or face American sanctions.
“There’s more to come,” Pompeo said of the US financial penalties.
US President Donald Trump on May 8 decided to restore all the sanctions that had been lifted as part of a multi-national agreement, signed on to by former president Barack Obama’s administration in exchange for curbs on Iran’s nuclear program.
The 2015 agreement was in response to fears that Iran was developing a nuclear bomb.
European allies maintain their support for that hard-won deal and are trying all means to save it.
“Regime leaders — especially those at the top of the IRGC and the Quds Force like Qasem Soleimani — must be made to feel painful consequences of their bad decision making,” said Pompeo, a longtime Iran hawk.
He was referring to Iran’s special forces and Revolutionary Guards.
Roundly applauded by his audience, Pompeo affirmed support by Washington for protesters in the Islamic republic.
“The regime in Iran has been a nightmare for the Iranian people,” he said.
Pompeo announced an intensified American propaganda campaign, with the launch of a multimedia channel with 24-hour coverage on television, radio, and social media.
This will ensure that “ordinary Iranians inside Iran and around the globe can know that America stands with them,” he said.
Regularly suspected of favoring regime change in Iran, Pompeo refused to distinguish between moderates and radicals at the heart of the Iranian republic.
“Our hope is that ultimately the regime will make meaningful changes in its behavior both inside Iran and globally,” he said.
Under Washington’s tougher line after withdrawal from the international nuclear accord, Pompeo has said the US would lift its new sanctions if Iran ended its ballistic missile program and interventions in regional conflicts from Yemen to Syria.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has dismissed such threats, saying the rest of the world no longer accepts Washington making decisions on their behalf.
 


Japan wrestling with Trump going to sumo during state visit

Updated 12 min 16 sec ago
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Japan wrestling with Trump going to sumo during state visit

  • Japanese PM is eager to have Trump and Melania attend the finals of a sumo wrestling tournament

TOKYO: Plans for US President Donald Trump to check out the ancient Japanese sport of sumo wrestling during a state visit are raising security issues for organizers.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is eager to have Trump and his wife, Melania, attend the final day of a 15-day tournament on May 26 and hand over a trophy to the winner.
The issue for organizers, Japanese media reports said Tuesday, is that more than 1,000 seats near the ring are generally sold out and buyers will all have to be checked in advance.
They may also have to ban the sale of canned beer in the front section, where Trump is expected to sit, the reports said.
Ring-side seats are coveted for sumo, an art-like sport that dates back to the 17th century, featuring overweight men in top-knots and loincloths bashing each other in a circular mud ring.
Trump’s state visit from May 25-28 has regional security and trade issues on the agenda. He is also expected to be the first foreign dignitary to meet Emperor Naruhito, who inherited the Chrysanthemum Throne on May 1.
Every Japanese prime minister likes to trumpet close ties with this nation’s most important ally. But Abe has made showing off close relations with Trump a key part of his profile.
Trump has said he is having a trophy made for the sumo winner, which Japanese media have already informally dubbed the “Trump Cup.”
“I’ve always found that fascinating,” Trump told reporters last month, describing sumo as “something I’ll enjoy very much.”
The winning wrestler gets several trophies, so adding another cup would not be a problem.
The ring-side seats called “masu seki,” which cost about 10,000 yen ($100) each, don’t have chairs but are boxed in areas with Japanese “zabuton” mattresses for sitting on the floor. Seats up higher in the stands have chairs.
News Post Seven reported that putting in chairs was being considered to accommodate Trump. All entering Ryogoku Kokugikan, the venue in Tokyo, go through metal detectors and other standard security checks.
The Japan Sumo Association and the US Embassy declined comment Tuesday.