Iranian politicians have reacted with anger to a promise from newly appointed US secretary of state Mike Pompeo to impose “the strongest sanctions in history’ on the Islamic Republic following the US’ withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal.

Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani said on Monday Mr Pompeo’s background as a former CIA chief made him an untenable choice to make decisions which “affect Iran and the world”.

The remarks carried on Iranian state media were quickly followed by tweets from Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif, who said US diplomacy was a “sham”.

The US was “regressing to old habits”, he added, “imprisoned by delusions [and] failed policies.”

The condemnation comes in the wake of a speech from Mr Pompeo in Washington DC in which he said the US would impose “unprecedented financial pressure on the Iranian regime”. 

 

Any new rapprochement would mean Iran would have to withdraw its forces in Syria and its support for Houthi rebels in Yemen, he added.

US president Donald Trump announced earlier this month the US would withdraw from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) brokered under Barack Obama, calling the nuclear accord a “rotten deal”.

The JCPOA, agreed between Iran and the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia and China, lifted crippling international sanctions on the Islamic Republic in exchange for curbs on its nuclear energy programme and any nuclear weapons ambitions.

The US has already re-imposed old sanctions on Iran’s central bank. Mr Pompeo did not outline what further action will look like.

The unilateral action from the Trump administration has been widely criticised by European diplomats.

After Mr Pompeo’s speech on Monday, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini also rebuked the US, warning there is “no alternative” to the 2015 accord. 

The other five parties to the JCPOA have agreed to honour it, although European businesses may now find themselves running afoul of US sanctions rules if they continue to explore financial opportunities with Iran – one of the world’s biggest oil producers.