- Iran has been an adversary of the US for decades, including under former President Barack Obama.
- Pompeo made these remarks after a speech at the University of Louisville as he sought to defend President Donald Trump's controversial decision to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.
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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday falsely claimed the Obama administration "chose Iran to be its primary security partner in the Middle East."
After delivering a speech at the University of Louisville , which was attended by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the secretary of state and Republican leader held a discussion on various foreign policy issues.
At one point, McConnell touted the Trump administration's decision to withdraw the US from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran , formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which was orchestrated by the Obama administration.
"The administration made an important decision, in my view that I supported, to withdraw from the previous administration's Iran nuclear deal," McConnell said. He went on to ask Pompeo: "To what extent are the Europeans resisting following our lead on that in that decision? And the sanctions that the administration has levied against Iran, how effective have they been so far?"
Pompeo essentially rewrote history in his response.
"So the previous administration chose Iran to be its primary security partner in the Middle East," Pompeo stated. "We thought that was a fundamentally flawed proposition."
The secretary of state added: "The Iran nuclear deal, the JCPOA, was a central part of that. Its stated goal was to deter Iran from being able to have a nuclear weapon system, when, in fact, it was a guarantee that there was a glide path for Iran to have a nuclear weapon."
President Barack Obama did not at any point in his tenure view Iran as a "security partner" and even after the landmark nuclear pact was finalized continued to treat Tehran as an adversary.
As it was with most of his recent predecessors and his successor, Obama's primary security partners in the Middle East were Israel and Saudi Arabia. Emblematic of this is the fact the Obama administration provided arms and other assistance to the Saudi-led coalition as it launched a war against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen back in 2015.
The US government's support for Saudi Arabia in the Yemen war has frequently faced criticism from lawmakers and groups concerned over human rights. According to a recent estimate from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data, the conflict in Yemen has led to over 100,000 deaths (including 12,000 civilians).
Trump's decision to withdraw from the JCPOA is why it's failing, by Pompeo suggested otherwise
Pompeo's assertion that the JCPOA guaranteed there was a "glide path for Iran to have a nuclear weapon" was also misleading. Trump withdrew from the deal in May 2018 and for roughly a year after that Iran remained in compliance with the JCPOA, based on assessments from the UN's nuclear watchdog.
Trump's decision to unilaterally withdraw the US from the JCPOA was rebuked by key US allies who were signatories to the deal, including the UK, France, and Germany. As the deal has crumbled following Trump's pullout, tensions between the US and Iran have steadily increased and raised concerns of a potential war at many points particularly this past summer amid a series of incidents involving oil tankers in the Persian Gulf region.
European signatories to the deal have scrambled to save it in the wake of Trump's decision to withdraw.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration has engaged in a maximum pressure campaign against Iran, which has been characterized by a series of harsh economic sanctions aimed at squeezing Iranian leaders into coming to the negotiation table and agreeing to a harsher version of the JCPOA. The Trump administration's approach has not been successful thus far.
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