U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says if Iranian leaders accept U.S. demands to behave like a normal nation, Americans will visit Iran and treat it as a friend.
In an exclusive interview with VOA's Persian service broadcast Friday, Pompeo said the goal of the new Iran strategy that he revealed earlier this week is to set conditions for Iran's Islamist rulers to behave like "normal leaders." Speaking to VOA at the State Department on Thursday, he said "normal" leaders do not loot from their people or waste their money on "adventures" in Syria and Yemen, as he put it.
"If we can create conditions where [Iran's leaders] will stop that [behavior], the Iranian people will have great success, and we will have Americans visiting there, and we will have all the great things that we do when there are friends and allies," Pompeo said.
The top U.S. diplomat elaborated on one of the 12 conditions from his strategy speech by saying Iran should allow the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect military sites and research laboratories. In the May 21 speech, he had called for the IAEA to have unqualified access to "all sites throughout the entire country."
In his VOA Persian interview, Pompeo also expanded on the U.S. demand for Iran to end threats to destroy Israel and end other threatening behaviors toward neighboring states. He said Iranian leaders should not only stop encouraging public chants of "Death to Israel," but also "Death to America."
"When you have senior leaders [and] others fomenting these sort of fake gatherings to do nothing but … chant, 'Death to America' or 'Death to Israel,' the Iranian leadership ought to stop … because it is not the right thing for their people," he said.
Pompeo reiterated that the U.S. does not seek regime change in Iran and advised exiled Iranian opposition groups not to do so, either. "We do not want them advocating for regime change," he said. Pompeo said that as long as such groups are working toward the same goals as the U.S., he welcomes their efforts.
But, Pompeo said some "smaller" opposition groups have not always aligned themselves with U.S. goals, without naming which groups he was referring to. "We want them working on behalf of the Iranian people, ordinary Iranian citizens who want nothing more than to live their lives, to be able to take their hijab off, to be able to go to work and raise their families and worship in the way they want to worship."
Pompeo said the Trump administration will support congressional efforts to pass legislation that would try to expose the hidden wealth of top Iranian leaders, whose many critics inside Iran view as corrupt.
"The Iranian people deserve the truth. You have senior leaders that are pocketing money, using businesses that are nominally fronts, and frankly, just stealing. To the extent we can prove that and demonstrate that, I would welcome the chance to expose it so the Iranian people can judge for themselves whether these are the individuals they want to lead their country," he said.
The Iranian Leadership Asset Transparency Act would require the U.S. Treasury Secretary to publish reports about the estimated financial assets of senior Iranian leaders suspected of corruption. The bill passed the House in December and has been taken up by a Senate committee.
Pompeo also said the State Department is working "every day" to try to bring home Robert Levinson, an American who disappeared March 9, 2007, while visiting Iran's Kish Island as a private investigator.
"As for other Americans [detained in Iran], we hope that the Iranian leadership [President Hassan] Rouhani, [Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad] Zarif, [Supreme Leader] Ayatollah [Ali Khamenei] all would see that it is in their best interests — and for nothing more than basic humanity — to allow these innocent Americans to return to their families."
This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Persian Service.