Iran's Zarif Says U.S. Trying to 'Flood' Region With Weapons After UAE Deal

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has accused Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of trying to "flood" the Middle East with weapons following a normalization deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, which will open a path for the UAE to purchase advanced American arms.

Zarif's latest attack on Pompeo and President Donald Trump's administration comes as the White House is trying to extend a United Nations arms embargo on Iran, warning that the expiration of the embargo in October risks destabilizing the region.

Pompeo visited Israel this week to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz—due to take over as prime minister in 2021 under a power-sharing deal—to express America's continued commitment to Israeli military superiority in the region.

The visit came amid concerns that the Israel-UAE normalization deal would allow the Emiratis to purchase American F-35 stealth jets and advanced drones, potentially undermining Israel's qualitative military edge over its neighbors.

Pompeo has fronted Trump's combative "America First" foreign policy since he became secretary of state in 2018, making him a favored target of U.S. adversaries critical of the White House.

Zarif branded Pompeo an "outlaw" and said he had "no qualms about violating his own country's laws," referring to reports that the Trump administration is seeking to bypass arms control rules to sell advanced drones to Gulf states.

"Standing next to World's #1 nuclear threat," Zarif continued, referring to Israel, "he declares his desire to flood our region with even more US weapons—all while trying to impede lawful normalization of Iran's defense cooperation with the world." Zarif also warned the UAE that it cannot buy security from Israel.

Zarif and other Iranian officials have been celebrating the U.S. failure to extend the arms embargo, which was imposed in 2015 as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—i.e. the Iran nuclear deal. Pompeo was unable to pressure fellow UN Security Council members to extend the freeze.

The U.S. is now threatening to trigger the JCPOA "snapback" mechanism to reimpose a raft of crippling sanctions on Iran in retaliation. But other JCPOA signatories have said that the U.S. is no longer a party to the deal, Trump having withdrawn from it in 2018.

Zarif wrote to the Security Council last week arguing that Washington, D.C. has "no right" to reapply sanctions on Tehran. "The Trump administration has never acted in good faith—an inseparable part of international relations," he wrote."

"The Iranian people expect the UN Security Council to bring the U.S. to account for the irreparable harm inflicted on the entire Iranian nation merely for reasons of personal aggrandizement or domestic political expediency."

Trump's "maximum pressure" campaign on Iran has left its economy creaking, undermining vital exports and exacerbating already sluggish performance. The regime in Tehran is battling with the sanctions, the coronavirus pandemic and internal dissent over its authoritarian rule.

Iranian officials have repeatedly said the regime will survive Trump's sanctions. Observers have said Tehran is watching closely to see whether Trump wins November's presidential election. If so, the regime could face another four years of punishment, though a victory for former Vice President Joe Biden may bring rapprochement and eased sanctions.

Mike Pompeo, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel, UAE, Iran
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on August 24, 2020. DEBBIE HILL/AFP via Getty Images/Getty