Secretary of State Mike Pompeo promises 'strongest sanctions in history' and vows US won't allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon: 'Not now, not ever'

Mike Pompeo
Eric Thayer | Reuters
Mike Pompeo
  • In the aftermath of President Trump's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal agreement, Pompeo said the U.S. will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon: "Not now, not ever."
  • He also threatened "the strongest sanctions in history" against Iran.
  • He also called for a ban on a heavy-water reactor, which is the most basic way to develop nuclear energy.

Mike Pompeo ripped into Iran on Monday during his first major speech as secretary of State — and on the heels of President Donald Trump's decision to tear up an Obama-era nuclear deal with the Middle Eastern nation.

In the aftermath of the U.S. withdrawal from the agreement, Pompeo demanded major changes from Iran and said America will not allow the country to develop a nuclear weapon: "Not now, not ever."

Pompeo discussed the Trump administration's plans for dealing with Iran after the president's withdrawal of the U.S. from a nuclear deal struck by President Barack Obama's administration, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.

He threatened even tougher sanctions against Iran. Sanctions that had been lifted under the agreement are due to go back into effect, and they are expected to pressure an already shaky economy.

"This is just the beginning. The sting of sanctions will be painful," Pompeo said before a packed house at the conservative Heritage Foundation. "These will be the strongest sanctions in history when complete."

Among other demands, Pompeo said Iran must stop developing ballistic missiles, release Americans who are being held in prisons in the country, and stop support of militant and terrorist groups in the Middle East and beyond. He also called for a ban on a heavy-water reactor, which is the most basic way to develop nuclear energy.

"Iran will never again have carte blanche to dominate the Middle East," Pompeo said.

While threatening heavy consequences for Iran's economy if the country does pursue nuclear weapons, he also reached out to the Iranian people — painting a picture of a corrupt regime that steals from its people while boosting international terrorist groups.

"Is this what you want your country to be known for?" Pompeo asked, referring to Iranian support for groups such as Hezbollah. "The United States believes you deserve better."

Pompeo also offered potential benefits to Iranians: "Unlike the previous administration, we are looking for outcomes that benefit the Iranian people, not just the regime."

The secretary of State also used the administration's ongoing negotiations with North Korea as a model for a new agreement with Iran, saying it demonstrates a commitment to diplomacy against even the biggest adversaries of the U.S.

Pompeo is a former GOP congressman who previously was director of the Central Intelligence Agency under Trump.