Pompeo responded to critics who panned his 12-point list of demands for Iran on Monday as unrealistic and lacking a clear strategy.
“It’s not a fantasy to ask Iran not to fire missiles at Riyadh,” Pompeo told reporters during a visit to the State Department briefing room. “That’s something we’d ask any other country in the world.”
It is strange that Pompeo would use that example in his defense. The missiles in question are being fired by Yemenis, and they are being fired at Riyadh because the Saudis and their allies have been bombarding Yemeni cities for three years with U.S. assistance. The Trump administration clearly doesn’t “ask” the Saudis and their allies not to bomb Yemen, and it doesn’t “ask” itself to stop arming and fueling coalition planes that carry out indiscriminate attacks on Yemeni civilians. When the U.S. is actively aiding and abetting Saudi coalition war crimes, it is absurd to object to other governments’ involvement in the conflict, minimal though it may be. Washington has no similar objection to proxy forces armed and supported by the UAE in Yemen or elsewhere, and it has no problem with the governments that have fueled insurgencies in Syria for many years.
The administration’s demands show that it wants Iran to be anything but a normal state that tries to secure its interests. It insists that Iran should yield to U.S. preferences wherever there is a dispute between our governments, and so wants Iran to be a quasi-vassal state that takes direction from the U.S. Even if there weren’t decades of bad blood and mistrust between our governments, Iran would not agree to this. No government could agree to the terms Pompeo laid out for Iran without effectively surrendering their sovereignty and independence. This is the sort of “diplomacy” we can expect from a Secretary of State who values negotiations only as a means to secure the capitulation of the other side.
Of course, the reason why it is unrealistic to demand these things from Iran is that Iran isn’t going to concede any of these points to the U.S. They don’t accept that the U.S. has any business telling them how to conduct their foreign policy, and the fact that Washington wants them to stop doing certain things will make them that much determined to continue doing them to demonstrate that they can’t be forced into acting against their will. Gordon Adams drew up a comparable list of demands that the U.S. would never accept from another government to give us an idea of how unreasonable Pompeo’s list will seem to the Iranians.