By Lesley Wroughton
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran on Wednesday for threats to American missions in Iraq and said the United States was terminating a treaty of amity with Tehran, which is the target of increasing U.S. sanctions over its missile programs.
“Iran is the origin of the current threat to Americans in Iraq,” Pompeo told reporters at the State Department days after he announced the closing of the U.S. consulate in the Iraqi city of Basra.
“Our intelligence in this regard is solid. We can see the hand of the ayatollah and his henchmen supporting these attacks on the United States.”
The United States announced on Friday it will effectively close the consulate in Basra and relocate diplomatic personnel assigned there following increasing threats from Iran and Iran-backed militia, including rocket fire.
On Wednesday, the World Court ordered the United States to ensure that sanctions against Iran, due to be tightened next month, do not affect humanitarian aid or civil aviation safety.
Judges at the International Court of Justice handed a victory to Tehran, which had argued that sanctions imposed since May by the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump violate the terms of a 1955 Treaty of Amity between the two countries.
Washington responded by pulling out of the treaty, a little- known agreement that was signed long before Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution that turned the two countries into archenemies.
Pompeo said the United States should have pulled out of the treaty decades ago.
“Today marked a useful point, with the decision that was made this morning from the ICJ, this marked a useful point for us to demonstrate the absolute absurdity of the treaty of amity between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
He added: “We’re disappointed that the court failed to recognise that it has no jurisdiction to issue any order relating to these sanctions measures with the United States, which is doing its work on Iran to protect its own essential security interests,” Pompeo said.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry said the court’s decisions “proved once again the Islamic Republic is right and the U.S. sanctions against people and citizens of our country are illegal and cruel.”
Pompeo said the United States would work to ensure it is providing humanitarian assistance to the Iranian people and accused Iran of squandering money it could use on its own people.
(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Writing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Franklin Paul and Jonathan Oatis)