The United States is not afraid to sanction top-ranking leaders of the “nightmare” Iranian regime, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday, pursuing a strategy aimed at Iranian compliance with stringent US demands.

Following Washington’s pull-out from the Iran nuclear accord that stunned Washington’s closest European allies, Pompeo on May 21 unveiled the “new strategy” to force Iran’s submission to a dozen demands.

“We weren’t afraid to tackle the regime at its highest level,” Pompeo said in a speech to the Iranian diaspora in California, referring to sanctions levelled in January against Sadeq Larijani, the head of Iran’s judiciary, for human rights violations.

Pompeo also confirmed that Washington wants all countries to reduce their imports of Iranian oil “as close to zero as possible” by November 4, or face American sanctions.

“There’s more to come,” Pompeo said of the US financial penalties.

US President Donald Trump on May 8 decided to restore all the sanctions that had been lifted as part of a multi-national agreement, signed on to by former president Barack Obama’s administration in exchange for curbs on Iran’s nuclear program.

The 2015 agreement was in response to fears that Iran was developing a nuclear bomb.

European allies maintain their support for that hard-won deal and are trying all means to save it.

“Regime leaders – especially those at the top of the IRGC and the Quds Force like Qasem Soleimani must be made to feel painful consequences of their bad decision making,” said Pompeo, a long time Iran hawk.

He was referring to Iran’s Special Forces and Revolutionary Guards.

Roundly applauded by his audience, Pompeo affirmed support by Washington for protesters in the Islamic republic.

“The regime in Iran has been a nightmare for the Iranian people,” he said.

Pompeo announced an intensified American propaganda campaign, with the launch of a multimedia channel with 24-hour coverage on television, radio, and social media.

This will ensure that “ordinary Iranians inside Iran and around the globe can know that America stands with them,” he said.

Regularly suspected of favouring regime change in Iran, Pompeo refused to distinguish between moderates and radicals at the heart of the Iranian republic.

“Our hope is that ultimately the regime will make meaningful changes in its behaviour both inside Iran and globally,” he said.

Under Washington’s tougher line after withdrawal from the international nuclear accord, Pompeo has said the US would lift its new sanctions if Iran ended its ballistic missile program and interventions in regional conflicts from Yemen to Syria.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has dismissed such threats, saying the rest of the world no longer accepts Washington making decisions on their behalf.