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Pompeo visits Hill to support GOP push for Iran sanctions

Pompeo visits Hill to support GOP push for Iran sanctions
© Greg Nash

Former Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoThe Hill's Morning Report - After high-stakes Biden-Putin summit, what now? Nikki Haley warns Republicans on China: 'If they take Taiwan, it's all over' The Hill's Morning Report - Dems to go-it-alone on infrastructure as bipartisan plan falters MORE said Wednesday he was on Capitol Hill as a “private citizen” to throw his support behind Republican-led legislation aimed at maintaining the former Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign of sanctions against Iran.

Pompeo joined GOP lawmakers from the Republican Study Committee to preview the legislation in a press conference outside the Capitol building, as protesters shouted across the street for the former secretary to “go home.”

Pompeo said that in leaving the government, he felt it was important to continue to speak out about the danger of the Iranian government and efforts to prevent Tehran from achieving a nuclear weapon.

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“I’m here in my status as a private citizen. As a private citizen, I care deeply that Iran never has a nuclear weapon and when I saw this legislation forming, I talked to Congressman [Jim] Banks [R-Ind.]. I said I wanted to be part of making sure that this is successful," he said.

The legislation, called the Max Pressure Act, was introduced by Banks, chairman of the Republican Study Committee. The legislation has 83 co-sponsors and stands in opposition to the Biden administration’s efforts to rejoin the Obama-era nuclear deal with Iran that former President TrumpDonald TrumpChinese apps could face subpoenas, bans under Biden executive order: report Kim says North Korea needs to be 'prepared' for 'confrontation' with US Ex-Colorado GOP chair accused of stealing more than 0K from pro-Trump PAC MORE withdrew from in 2018.

Pompeo served as a Republican congressman from Kansas between 2011 and 2017 and was a member of the Republican Study Committee before entering the Trump administration.

He is considered to be laying the groundwork for a potential run for president in 2024. The sanctions campaign against Iran, which Pompeo introduced in May 2018 with the withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, as well as the previous administration’s close support of Israel, are key tenets of Pompeo’s legacy at the State Department.

“It’s equally special to be here supporting a piece of legislation that matters an awful lot for the security of every one of the constituents of every member of Congress that’s behind me. We’ve got to get this right, our administration did just that,” Pompeo said, referring to the Trump administration.

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“You saw us build out an enormous coalition, Israelis, Saudis, Bahrainis, Arabs from all of the Gulf states understood that Iran was the central bad actor creating instability in the Middle East and they joined together alongside of us to push back against them," he said.

Biden officials are in Vienna this week in ongoing discussions with signatories to the nuclear agreement, formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, about a pathway for both the U.S. and Iran to take steps putting them back into compliance with the deal. 

Signatories include Germany, France, the United Kingdom, the European Union, China, Russia and Iran.

The Biden team has said they are prepared to lift sanctions that are not in compliance with the agreement, and then use mutual compliance as a starting point to negotiate a “longer and stronger” deal that addresses a host of other activity by Iran that the U.S. considers malign.

But Republican lawmakers have railed against any lifting of sanctions.

“We’re seeing Biden’s weak approach take route with regards to Iran,” Banks told reporters Wednesday.

“That’s why we’re here today, to communicate to the Biden administration that we will fight to maintain sanctions on Iran and show our adversaries that if Joe BidenJoe BidenChinese apps could face subpoenas, bans under Biden executive order: report OVERNIGHT ENERGY:  EPA announces new clean air advisors after firing Trump appointees |  Senate confirms Biden pick for No. 2 role at Interior | Watchdog: Bureau of Land Management saw messaging failures, understaffing during pandemic Poll: Majority back blanket student loan forgiveness MORE temporarily lifts sanctions, we will reimpose them later,” he said.