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With the Iran deal gone, Trump plans to squeeze Iran's finances dry

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WASHINGTON (Circa) -- With the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear agreement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made it clear on Monday that the Trump administration will clamping down hard on the regime going forward.

Pompeo unveiled the administration's new strategy while speaking at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, on Monday. To say it differs from the previous administration's strategy would be quite the understatement.

"Iran will be forced to make a choice," said Pompeo. "Either fight to keep its economy off life support at home, or keep squandering precious wealth on fights abroad. It will not have the resources to do both."

The Trump administration aims to force the Iranian regime into that choice with "unprecedented financial pressure," which will include not only the reapplication of sanctions from before the 2015 nuclear agreement, but also new measures.

"These will end up being the strongest sanctions in history when we are complete," said Pompeo.

In this picture released by an official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei attends a meeting with a group of the air force commanders in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017. Iran's supreme leader said Tuesday that "newcomer" President Donald Trump had shown the "real face" of the United States, after the American leader accused Iran of being ungrateful for sanctions relief approved by the Obama administration and vowed a tougher stance. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)
In this picture released by an official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei attends a meeting with a group of the air force commanders in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017. Iran's supreme leader said Tuesday that "newcomer" President Donald Trump had shown the "real face" of the United States, after the American leader accused Iran of being ungrateful for sanctions relief approved by the Obama administration and vowed a tougher stance. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

Pompeo claimed Iran's behavior has only become more aggressive since the singing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the nuclear agreement is formally known. He noted that the regime's newfound wealth has been siphoned off to to support Iran's various proxy groups across the Middle East, including Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and the Houthi rebels in Yemen. These groups, according to Pompeo, have in turn become more brazen, and have attacked U.S. allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia. Part of the new strategy is a reassurance to these allies, both of which are critics of the nuclear agreement, that the U.S. stands by them.

"No more wealth creation for Iranian kleptocrats, no more acceptance of missiles landing in Riyadh and the Golan Heights, no more cost-free expansions of Iranian power," said Pompeo, who added that the U.S. will "track down Iranian operatives" and "crush them."

According to all parties, including the Trump administration, Iran was following the rules of the JCPOA limiting the regime's nuclear capabilities. But the agreement only covered nuclear issues, meaning Iran's support of terrorist groups and its ballistic missile development was purposefully not included. Some critics of the deal claimed the singular focus on the nuclear issue was a flaw, while supporters of the deal noted the other issues could be dealt with separately.

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Iran's influence has been noticeable across the region since the signing of the agreement. The regime has had some kind of involvement in nearly every Middle Eastern conflict ever since, including support for the Houthis in Yemen, propping up the Assad regime in Syria, or supporting Iraq's fight against the Islamic State. Qassem Soleimani, the favorite agent provocateur of Iranian hardliners who heads the country's elite Quds Force, has been seen traveling across the region's various conflicts. Pompeo noted that "wealth from the West has fueled his campaigns." The administration plans to "strangle" Soleimani's ability to operate in the Middle East.

Iran Protest
In this photo taken by an individual not employed by the Associated Press and obtained by the AP outside Iran, a university student attends a protest inside Tehran University while a smoke grenade is thrown by anti-riot Iranian police, in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017. A wave of spontaneous protests over Iran's weak economy swept into Tehran on Saturday, with college students and others chanting against the government just hours after hard-liners held their own rally in support of the Islamic Republic's clerical establishment. (AP Photo)

In the midst of his tough line with the regime, Pompeo attempted to offer a hand to the Iranian people. While the administration plans to squeeze the regime, Pompeo attempted to separate the Iranian people themselves, and called on the regime to respect human rights, including women. He claimed that protests earlier this year were proof that the populace was disappointed with the regime's actions. But winning the support of the Iranian people may not be so easy. While support for the nuclear agreement has decreased since 2015, 89 percent believe Europe has been wary of investing in Iran due to U.S. pressure, and 67 percent supported retaliation against Washington should it not uphold the agreement, according to data from IranPoll.com.

Winning the support of European partners will also likely be a difficult endeavor. French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel failed in their attempts to convince Trump to stay in the nuclear agreement. Additionally, European countries have economic interests in Iran which may limit interest in new sanctions.

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