US to sustain pressure on Iran till it behaves like normal nation: Pompeo

Lalit K Jha

Washington, Feb 28 (PTI) The US will sustain its pressure on Iran till it behaves like a 'normal nation' and halt campaigns of carnage, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo informed lawmakers here on Friday.

Testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Pompeo accused Iran of being the world's number one state sponsor of terror and anti-Semitism, wanting to wipe Israel off the face of the earth.

“Going forward, we will sustain our pressure until Iran behaves like a normal nation. We will continue to protect the American people and American interests by any means necessary. We will continue to impose costs on the regime for its campaigns of carnage,” Pompeo said during the Congressional hearing.

He said that Iran and its proxies are responsible for death of hundreds of Americans in Iraq.

'Iran and its proxies are responsible for the death of hundreds of Americans in Iraq, including an American contractor who was killed on December 27, 2019. Its forces, Iran's forces and the militias it supports, prop up Bashar Assad, undermine democracy in Lebanon, Iraq and steal humanitarian aid in Yemen,' he said.

Justifying the killing of Iran's Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani in an air strike, Pompeo said that he was the regime's top terrorist and the mastermind of the killing of innocent Americans, Syrians, Iraqis and others.

“Removing him from the battlefield was a de-escalatory measure. His death reduced the risk to our personnel overseas, both my diplomats and our military, and made clear that we are willing and able to impose costs on our adversaries if they threaten or attack us,” he said.

Soleimani, 62, the head of Iran's elite al-Quds force and architect of its regional security apparatus, was killed last month when a drone fired missiles into a convoy that was leaving the Baghdad International Airport.

The strike also killed the deputy chief of Iraq's powerful Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force and some local Iran-backed militias.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel said that Soleimani was a dangerous terrorist.

'But it's important that we look at foreign policy in terms of whether it makes Americans safer and advances our interests,” he said.

Pompeo said that Iran is responsible for downing a civilian airliner in January that killed 176 people.

'The regime lied about that tragedy, and still hasn't turned over the black box,” he said.

A Ukranian airliner crashed in January, shortly after Iran launched missiles at bases hosting American forces in Iraq in response to the killing of Soleimani.

“The Iranian regime slaughtered at least several hundred of its own people, with reports of up to 1,500, during the protests last November. Many millions more have suffered since the Revolution began more than 40 years ago,” he said.

“The regime just rigged an election - yet again denying the Iranian people the free and fair elections they've sought for 41 years. More than 7,000 candidates that didn't get the regime's seal of approval were banned from running. What a tragedy,” Pompeo said. PTI LKJ PTI RUP