The State Department's New Groove: Tackling the Iran Deal

Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Two days after assuming the top job at the State Department, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia Saturday to try to rally support from Middle Eastern nations for sanctions on Iran, and to possibly prove to European nations still supportive of Obama’s Iran deal they are safe reconsidering that support.

“We are urging nations around the world to sanction any individuals and entities associated with Iran’s missile program, and it has also been a big part of discussions with Europeans,” Brian Hook, a senior policy advisor traveling with Pompeo, told reporters.

Trump has called it the “worst deal ever” and threatened to re-impose sanctions unless Britain, France and Germany agree to fix it. Resuming sanctions would likely kill the deal.

Russia, China, Germany, Britain and France, which all struck the accord with Iran and the United States, see the deal as the best way to stop Iran from developing a nuclear bomb.

Speaking after a NATO foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels on Friday, Pompeo said Trump had not taken a decision on whether to abandon the deal but was not likely to stick to it without substantial changes.

“There’s been no decision, so the team is working and I am sure we will have lots of conversations to deliver what the president has made clear,” Pompeo told a news conference.

Trump hosted both French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House last week, and both leaders expressed a desire to revisit the Iran deal — and possibly negotiate a new deal — but did not seem to forcefully push back against President Trump’s talk of leaving the deal altogether.

Pompeo was met in Riyadh by Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and will be meeting with the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and King Salman while there.

The crown prince has recently completed a tour of the United States where he promoted a new openness in his country, including Saudi Arabia’s decision to open movie theaters to the public after a three decade ban.