"The time has come for our European partners to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and join with us as we bring the economic and diplomatic pressure necessary to give the Iranian people, the region and the world, the peace, security and freedom they deserve," Pence said in his speech.
The conference which was orgainsed jointly by the US and Poland was originally planned to focus on Iran, although following criticism the US State Department denied that it was aimed at any single country. However, comments made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others before it started made clear that one of the goals of the Warsaw comference was to rally governments against Tehran. Pence’s speech put this beyond doubt.
"The universal view of those who spoke last night at this conference was that Iran has actually become more aggressive since the JCPOA was signed, not less," Pence said. "The United States reimposed sanctions that should never have been lifted in the first place." While those Middle East countiries that had recently put pressue on Iran were praised by Pence, harsher words were directed at the Europeans.
"Sadly, some of our leading European partners have not been nearly as cooperative — in fact, they have led the effort to create mechanisms to break up our sanctions," Pence complained. "Just two weeks ago, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom announced the creation of a special financial mechanism designed to oversee mirror-image transactions that would replace sanctionable international payments between EU businesses and Iran."
"They call this scheme a Special Purpose Vehicle," Pence said. "We call it an effort to break American sanctions against Iran’s murderous revolutionary regime. It's an ill-advised step that will only strengthen Iran, weaken the EU and create still more distance between Europe and the United States."
The European powers, and EU officials in Brussels, insist that the JCPOA is worth preserving because it has successfully halted Iran’s nuclear weapons program — an assertion that Pence rejected in his speech. Pence said that the US is prepared to intensify sanctions to bring the Iranian regime into submission, while the EU has in the past stated that it views the reimposition of sanctions as illegal.
Speaking later, the Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki, described the conference as a “huge step in promoting a future of peace and security” in that conflict-ridden region. Choosing to concentrate on the wider scope of the conference, which included issues such as missile proliferation, energy security, emerging cyber-based threats, counterterrorism, migration crises and humanitarian aid, Morawiecki said that Poland was “committed to play its role in addressing refugee and humanitarian challenges, but most of all peace challenges in the Middle East.”
He told the conference “to avoid conflicts that result in refugee and humanitarian crises, we must ensure stability and sustainability in the region”, adding: “And we must employ politics when we talk about it – because peace is, in the end, a political good.”
In a joint opinion piece published by CNN on the eve of their co-hosting the conference, Poland’s foreign minister Jacek Czaputowicz and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said they sought "solidarity from all countries this week in Warsaw" and that “our goal is to forge stronger partnerships and advance our common security goals in a region riddled by conflict.”
After Mike Pence’s speech, it seems that US EU solidarity on Iran is in rather shorter supply than might have been hoped. On Iran, Poland is now caught between its position as, in Mike Pence’s words “one of our most crucial allies and a major player in world affairs” and its membership of the EU. It is a fine line to tread, but if the birthplace of “Solidarity” is able to help restore US EU solidarity on Iran, Poland will have gained much from the conference.
Author: Nicholas Richardson