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Former Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday is visiting Iranian dissidents in Albania, where he is expected to meet with victims of the regime in Tehran and will deliver a policy speech to those pushing for a democratic and secular Iran.
Pence is visiting the headquarters of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, an umbrella group for dissident groups that oppose the regime and which found support from a number of Trump-era officials including former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
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Pence is expected to meet with NCRI President-elect Maryam Rajavi, meet with those who suffered human rights abuses in the country and will deliver a policy speech. He had spoken at an NCRI event last year when he had warned of the dangers of weakness from the West towards Tehran.
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The NCRI, which has offices in Washington D.C., has pushed for a tougher stance by the West again Iran — and has opposed efforts to re-enter the Iran deal, warning that the regime cannot be trusted to comply with terms. It is the political wing of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, the main Iranian opposition movement which recently launched a number of cyberattacks in Iran that took down security cameras and government websites.
The Trump administration pulled out of the 2015 accord, which placed limits on Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief, in 2018 and began re-imposing waves of sanctions as part of a “maximum pressure” strategy designed to turn up the heat on the regime and curb its aggression via proxies in the region. The administration also launched a strike that took out Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp Quds leader Qassem Soleimani.
Talks designed to bring both the U.S. and Iran back into the deal have stalled amid demands from both Iran’s new hardline government and from Russia, who want to make sure that the sanctions being imposed on Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine will not affect its trading relationship with Iran.
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Many Republicans have opposed the Biden administration’s moves to put the U.S. back into the Iran deal. In March, a group of 49 Republican senators said they would not approve the deal and vowed to reverse any deal that weakened sanctions and lowered nuclear restrictions.
“The nuclear limitations in this new deal appear to be significantly less restrictive than the 2015 nuclear deal, which was itself too weak, and will sharply undermine U.S. leverage to secure an actually ‘longer and stronger’ deal,” they said. “What is more, the deal appears likely to deepen Iran’s financial and security relationship with Moscow and Beijing, including through arms sales.”
Fox News’ Ben Evansky contributed to this report