April 29 (UPI) — Mike Pompeo, calling Iran the “greatest sponsor of terrorism in the world,” pledged his support to Saudi Arabia and Israel during his first foreign trip as the secretary of state Sunday.
Pompeo, who was confirmed by Congress as the top diplomat last week, in both nations repeated President Donald Trump’s threat to pull out of the nuclear deal with Iran if it isn’t reworked.
“We are determined to make sure [Iran] never possesses a nuclear weapon,” Pompeo said at a joint news conference in Riyadh with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir. “The Iran deal in its current form does not provide that assurance.”
Pompeo, who arrived in Saudi Arabia on Saturday night, met with King Salman and his 32-year-old son, Crown Prince Mohammed.
Later Sunday, Pompeo spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, where he said strong ties with allies like Israel are “critical to our efforts to counter Iran’s destabilizing and malign activity throughout the Middle East, and indeed throughout the world.”
The former CIA director earlier pledged to help the Saudis “with its defense needs.”
“America is prepared to stand with Saudi Arabia,” Pompeo said. “The nations of the Middle East cannot wait for American power to crush terrorism for them.”
Jubeir and Netanyahu back the U.S. opposition to the nuclear agreement in 2015 between Iran and the U.S. and five other world powers. In return for curtailing Iran’s nuclear program, the Middle East nation avoids international sanctions.
“Unlike the prior administration, we will not neglect the vast scope of Iran’s terrorism. It is indeed the greatest sponsor of terrorism in the world,” Pompeo said during the news conference in Saudi Arbabia where he described Iran as the greatest terrorism threat. “Iran has only behaved worse since the deal was approved.”
He said Iran is carrying out cyberhacking campaigns, arming Houthi rebels in Yemen with missiles fired at Saudi Arbabia and backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s “murderous regime.”
“We are determined to make sure it never possesses a nuclear weapon,” Pompeo said. “The Iran deal in its current form does not provide that assurance. We will continue to work with our European allies to fix that deal. But if a deal cannot be reached, the president has said that he will leave that deal.”
As required by Congress, the president has to recertify the agreement every few months. Trump has set May 12 as a deadline.
Pompeo also said the Iran deal is “very flawed” during an appearance with Netanyahu.
“We remain deeply concerned about Iran’s dangerous escalation of threats toward Israel and the region,” Pompeo said.
He noted Washington is concerned about “non-nuclear threats” posed by the Islamic Republic.
Netanyahu said Iran’s “aggression has grown many-fold since the signing of the nuclear deal” and appreciates the Trump administration is backing his nation.
Pompeo also said the United States remains “committed to achieving a lasting and comprehensive peace that offers a brighter future for both Israel and the Palestinians.”
And he said, “the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem remain subject to negotiations between the parties.”
The new U.S. embassy will open on May 14 in Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, a move that has been condemned by the Palestinians and other Arab nations.
“By recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the seat of its government, we’re recognizing reality,” Pompeo said.
On Friday, he visited Brussels, Belgium, where he met with NATO allies. And he plans to travel to Amman, Jordan, on Monday.