Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Image Credit: AP

Abu Dhabi: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo yesterday (Tuesday) said America and its Gulf Arab allies want to show Iran that its actions have “a real high cost”, stepping up his warnings after Tehran threatened to disrupt Mideast oil supplies.

Pompeo’s comments came during a visit to the UAE during which he held talks with His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed and Pompeo discussed ways to bolster strategic cooperation between the UAE and the US as well as joint coordination in combating extremism and terrorist organisations.

The talks in Abu Dhabi touched on a mechanism to bolster security and stability in the region.

Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed and Pompeo spoke about recent events and developments in the Middle East and their repercussions on security and stability of people in the region. They discussed regional and international issues.

The meeting was attended by Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Yousuf Al Otaiba, UAE’s Ambassador to the US, and other officials.

In an interview with Sky News Arabia, Pompeo later said: “The one that we are most focused on today is ... that we deny Iran the financial capacity to continue this bad behaviour.” 

“So it’s a broad range, a series of sanctions aimed not at the Iranian people, but rather aimed at the single mission of convincing the Iranian regime that its malign behaviour is unacceptable and has a real high cost for them.”

Strait of Hormuz

Pompeo made a point to mention recent threats by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani over the Strait of Hormuz, through which a third of all oil traded by sea passes. While in Europe last week, Rouhani said any disruption to Iran’s oil exports would result in the whole region’s exports being disrupted.

Iran “should know that America is committed to keeping sea lines open, keeping the transit of oil available for the entire world,” Pompeo said. “That’s the commitment we have had for decades. We continue under that commitment.”

In Tehran, Iran’s deputy parliament speaker Ali Motahari praised Rouhani for making the threat. “The Americans are not ready for any new war in the Gulf so the president’s remark was a good threat which will have positive impacts and will be a deterrent factor against cutting Iran’s oil export,” Motahari said, according to a report on parliament’s website.

Global oil prices have risen on the expectation that the US will push its allies to stop importing Iranian crude oil, further tightening the world energy supplies. 

Already, regular petrol prices in the US are $2.86 a gallon, up from $2.26 the year before. Trump himself has been tweeting that oil suppliers must do more to lower prices ahead of midterm elections this fall.

While US State Department officials earlier acknowledged that some allies will get waivers to continue importing Iranian oil, Pompeo seemed to strike a harder line yesterday. He warned such imports largely would be “sanctionable activity and we will enforce those sanctions.”

“We will consider [waivers] but make no mistake about it: We are determined to convince the Iranian leadership that this malign behaviour won’t be rewarded and that the economic situation in the country will not be permitted to be rectified until such time that they become a more-normal nation,” he said.

Among the top importers of Iranian oil are China, India, Turkey and South Korea.

— With inputs from WAM, AP