The US has threatened Iran with "the strongest sanctions in history" if it does not comply with a set of US demands, which critics have said is nothing short of a call for regime change in Tehran.
The demands were made by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in his first major foreign policy speech since entering office last month. It was also the first time the US laid out details of its plan for a new nuclear deal with Iran since pulling out unilaterally from the previous one against the advice of its European allies and the two non-Western partners to the deal; Russia and China.
Describing the demands as "very basic requirements" that were not "unreasonable", the former director of the CIA laid out a list of 12 concessions Washington was seeking from Tehran in order for the nuclear deal to be put back on track.
As suspected, the Trump administration's new strategy on Iran placed demands that were wide in scale, intended to reign in what the US believes is Iran's destabilising influence in the region. But the range of concessions Washington is seeking from Iran has been criticised as unrealistic and designed to be rejected due to its broad nature.
Among the 12 points listed by Pompeo were the following: "Iran had to ease threatening behaviour against its neighbours, threats to destroy Israel, firing missiles into Saudi Arabia and the UAE; end support to Middle East terrorist groups, including Lebanese Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad; stop uranium enrichment and never pursue plutonium reprocessing; withdraw all forces under Iranian command from Syria."
Warning the Iranian regime that "this is just the beginning," Pompeo said, the US would "apply unprecedented financial pressure on the regime" unless it met the stricter demands. "They may end up being the strongest sanctions in history by the time we are complete," he said.
As expected, Tehran had nothing but denunciations for Pompeo. "Who do you think you are to make decisions for Iran and the world?" said President Hassan Rouhani, according to the semi-official ILNA news agency.
"The world today does not accept America to decide for the world, as countries are independent … that era is over … We will continue our path with the support of our nation," Rouhani added.
While the speech did not explicitly call for regime change, critics have said the goal of the current US administration is anything but to see the Mullahs in Tehran toppled.
Suzanne Maloney, deputy director of the Brooking Institution think tank's foreign policy programme, said Pompeo's speech amounted to a strategy of "regime change".
"There is only one way to read it," said the former adviser to the State Department on Iran, "and that is that Trump administration has wedded itself to a regime-change strategy to Iran, one that is likely to alienate our allies. One with dubious prospects for success."
The administration's approach "explicitly puts the onus on the Iranian people to change their leadership or face cataclysmic financial pressure," Maloney added.
Other analysts described the demands as unachievable. "It's completely unrealistic and a total pipe dream; he's asking for unilateral surrender by the Islamic Republic of Iran," said Barbara Slavin, Iran expert at the Atlantic Council, reported the Financial Times.
American allies were equally dismissive of the speech. Federica Mogherini, the EU's foreign policy chief, rejected the approach saying there was "no alternative" to the existing nuclear deal which the US has reneged on. "Secretary Pompeo's speech has not demonstrated how walking away from the JCPOA has made or will make the region safer from the threat of nuclear proliferation or how it puts us in a better position to influence Iran's conduct in areas outside the scope of JCPOA," she said.
UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said that "the prospect of a new jumbo Iran treaty is going to be very, very difficult."
"I think if you try now to fold all those issues – the ballistic missiles, Iran's misbehaviour, Iran's disruptive activity in the region and the nuclear question – if you try to fold all those into a giant negotiation, a new jumbo Iran negotiation, a new treaty – that's what seems to be envisaged – I don't see that being very easy to achieve, in anything like a reasonable timetable," Johnson told journalists in Argentina.