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Nuclear Arms, Iran and Venezuela: Pompeo’s Likely Agenda With Putin in Russia



Since then, tensions with Iran have dominated Mr. Pompeo’s agenda, and the issue is certain to be discussed again on Tuesday. Earlier this month, the United States sent an aircraft carrier strike group and B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf, citing Iranian threats.

Then the secretary of state canceled a trip to Germany and instead traveled to Baghdad to meet with Iraqi officials, to discuss what he called the increased dangers from Iran’s forces and allies. He also went to Brussels to discuss concerns over Iran with European leaders.

Russia and Iran are strategic allies in Syria, and recently announced they would hold joint naval exercises in the Persian Gulf this year. Mr. Lavrov, in a news conference this month with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif of Iran, denounced the “unacceptable situation” created by the “irresponsible behavior of the United States” in regard to the sanctions.

On Monday, a day before his meeting with Mr. Pompeo, Mr. Lavrov reiterated Russia’s stance, calling the American sanctions on Iran “illegitimate” during a news conference in Sochi. He said that he planned to have a “candid” conversation with Mr. Pompeo about the issue and encouraged the European nations that remain part of the agreement to aid Iran.

Venezuela has been gripped by a simmering conflict for months, after an opposition leader declared himself interim president and urged the military to back his claim. The current president, Nicolás Maduro, has refused to step down, dividing the international community between the government and the opposition.

Moscow has thrown its support behind Mr. Maduro, who began a second term earlier this year after elections widely condemned as fraudulent. Russia has close economic and personal ties to Venezuela — both under Mr. Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chávez — and has allowed the country to buy billions of dollars of weapons, trucks and grain on credit.

Washington has recognized Juan Guaidó, the head of the country’s legislature and the leader of the opposition, as Venezuela’s rightful interim president, putting the United States directly at odds with Russia. Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Lavrov discussed Venezuela, among other issues, on the sidelines of an Arctic Council meeting in Finland earlier this month.

“We want the Cubans out, we want the Iranians out, Russia’s military out,” Mr. Pompeo told reporters in Finland. “We started to talk about how our interests might be able to find a way forward. I don’t know that we’ll get to the right place, but we’ll have further conversations.”

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