The Guardian: The US vice-president, Mike Pence, has sharply rebuked Washington’s European allies over their efforts to shield their businesses from US sanctions on Iran, as transatlantic tensions over U.S. foreign policy were laid bare at a conference in Warsaw.
A scheme the EU has set up to facilitate trade with Iran was “an effort to break American sanctions against Iran’s murderous revolutionary regime”, Pence said during a conference on the Middle East organised by the US in the Polish capital. “It is an ill-advised step that will only strengthen Iran, weaken the EU and create still more distance between Europe and the United States,” he said.
The Warsaw meeting was attended by more than 60 nations, but major European powers such as Germany and France, parties to the landmark 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, refused to send their top diplomats over fears that the summit was designed largely to build an alliance against Tehran.
The US, by contrast, is represented by Pence, Mike Pompeo, Washington’s top diplomat, and Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law and special aide on the Middle East. The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu is also attending.
The Obama administration eased US sanctions on Iran under the terms of the nuclear deal, but Trump reimposed them when he withdrew the US from the agreement last year.
“You can’t achieve stability in the Middle East without confronting Iran. It’s just not possible,” Pompeo told reporters after his formal opening statement. “There are malign influences in Lebanon, Yemen, Syria and Iraq,” he said, referring to groups Iran supports. “The three H’s: the Houthis, Hamas and Hezbollah, these are real threats…”
Netanyahu described the opening dinner at which he sat alongside senior officials from Arab Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, as a historical turning point. Many Arab states do not recognize Israel, and have not shared a diplomatic stage with the country since a Middle East peace conference in Madrid in 1991, but they have been driven together by their common fear of Iran.
It remains to be seen how far the new alliance can extend to a combined approach to the Palestinian issue. It is expected Kushner will discuss his peace plan with Arab leaders in private as well as at a public session on the sidelines of the summit.
Netanyahu has argued that the Arab world is open to normalised economic ties with Israel that are not dependent on a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict… Palestinian officials have condemned the summit.
Netanyahu, who faces elections shortly, told reporters in Warsaw: “In a room of some 60 foreign ministers representative of dozens of governments, an Israeli prime minister and the foreign ministers of the leading Arab countries stood together and spoke with unusual force, clarity and unity against the common threat of the Iranian regime.”
“I think this marks a change and important understanding of what threatens our future, what we need to do to secure it, and the possibility that cooperation will extend beyond security in every realm of life.”
Officials said Netanyahu spoke around the same table as senior officials of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, none of which have relations with Israel. The country only has diplomatic relations with two Arab states, neighbouring Egypt and Jordan.
Pompeo’s call in his opening speech for a new era of cooperation in the Middle East will [be] viewed with scepticism by EU leaders, who feel they were not consulted on the US decision to pull out of the Iran deal, or the planned withdrawal of 2,000 US troops from Syria.
The Iranian foreign minister, Javed Zarif, described the Warsaw conference as “dead on arrival” and another attempt by the US to pursue an unfounded obsession with Iran…
The Warsaw conference came as the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, increasingly seen as a key player in the Middle East, hosted his Iranian and Turkish counterparts to discuss a final settlement in the Syrian civil war, including the presence of a large number of Islamist fighters in Idlib province.
The three countries, particularly Turkey and Iran, do not agree on the final settlement in Syria, but have been uneasily cooperating to find a solution that does not betray their interests…
“The signs of the times tell us we are surely in the last days. This know also, that in the last days, perilous times shall come. We can see these perils more distinctly here in Europe. Things are rapidly developing. All are ranging under their respective banners; all are preparing for some great event; all are watching for the morning. One class is watching and waiting for their Lord, while the other class is waiting for what Lucifer may perform of his wonder-working power. Kingdoms are in uncertainty, one watching jealously the other. Soldiers are being drilled constantly, preparing for war. There is a rending apart of kingdoms. The stone cut out of the mountains without hands is surely to smite the image upon the feet. The King of Prussia, I think it is, dare not go out of his domain unless the whole passage of his journey is barricaded with soldiers. He seems to be a prisoner in one sense in his own kingdom. Other kingdoms are in jeopardy. They dare not travel for fear of their lives unless in the very heart of a bodyguard of armed soldiers.” Letter 102, 1886.