US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday underlined the Trump administration's continued efforts to squeeze Iran, even as a new US administration led by Joe Biden prepares to enter the White House in January.
Although Pompeo has not taken questions from US-based reporters traveling with him over the past 10 days to France, Israel, Turkey and Gulf states, he sat down with Al Arabiya in Dubai for brief televised remarks Sunday.
“Our policies don’t change. Our duty doesn’t change. My responsibilities don’t change,” he said. “I still have an obligation — every hour, every minute — to defend the American people and to keep them foremost in our efforts, and we’ll do that. We’ll do that to the very last minute.”
In what was likely his final tour of the Gulf as secretary of state, he touted the Trump administration's Middle East strategy that focused on Iran as “the central threat inside the region” and for a maximum pressure campaign that hampered Iran's ability to support militias in Iraq, Lebanon and Syria.
“It'll be our policy until our time is complete,” he said, stopping short of saying when he'd cease work as the top US diplomat.
President Donald Trump has refused to concede to Biden, despite the Trump campaign’s futile efforts to block the certification of votes in various states.
The Trump administration is attempting to ramp up pressure on Iran before Biden takes office as president. Biden has said he wants to return to rapprochement with Iran. Analysts say Biden is expected to be more willing to engage the Iranians in order to avoid major escalation, although he’s likely to press Tehran on its missile program and not just its nuclear program.
Trump pulled the US out of a nuclear accord with Iran, reimposing sweeping sanctions that have drained Iran of vital oil revenue.
Trump was recently talked back from moving ahead with a military strike on Iran’s main nuclear site by advisors who included Pompeo, according to a New York Times report. When asked about this, a State Department official traveling with Pompeo told reporters that “all options are on the table” and that the Trump administration “will continue to pursue its policies until it’s not in office anymore."
Pompeo started his Gulf tour in the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi early Saturday, meeting the emirate’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed.
The State Department said they discussed the progress of the UAE’s decision to normalize ties with Israel — a move that was followed by Bahrain and Sudan. They also discussed “security cooperation and countering Iran’s malign influence in the region, as well as that of China,” the US statement said.
Pompeo later traveled to Qatar.