Middle East/North Africa

Pompeo limits US diplomats’ contact with Iranian opposition groups

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is limiting U.S. diplomats’ contact with Iranian opposition groups, according to a cable sent to all U.S. diplomatic outposts Tuesday.

Pompeo’s order says diplomats should not meet with Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK) or five other groups because it could damage the United States’ chances to negotiate with Iran, the cable obtained by Bloomberg said. 

“Direct U.S. government engagement with these groups could prove counterproductive to our policy goal of seeking a comprehensive deal with the Iranian regime that addresses its destabilizing behavior,” the cable said, according to Bloomberg. It also added that these groups “try to engage U.S. officials regularly to gain at least the appearance of tacit support and enhance their visibility and clout.”

The Hill reached out to the State Department for comment. 

This instruction from the secretary of State comes as the relationship between Iran and the U.S. has become more strained after a U.S. strike killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani last week. Iran responded by promising retaliation against the U.S.

The Trump administration has wanted to get Iran back to the negotiating table after withdrawing from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, but it has also imposed sanctions on the country and killed Soleimani. 

This order comes as the State Department seems to be trying to balance the desire for a “maximum pressure” campaign with allowing room for potential discussions. 

The MEK, which has previously been on a U.S. terrorism list, hired President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani in the past and paid former national security adviser John Bolton to speak at one of its rallies, Bloomberg reported. 

The other groups diplomats are discouraged from meeting with are the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of al-Ahwaz and the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan because “Iran’s regime appears to assess that the United States and/or Israel support this group of militant Kurds,” according to Bloomberg. 

Tags death of soleimani Donald Trump Iran Iran strike John Bolton Mike Pompeo Rudy Giuliani
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