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March 13, 2018 6:30 pm

Experts and Critics Say Pompeo Appointment at State Signals Tougher Stance on Iran

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

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Secretary of State-designate Mike Pompeo. Photo: CIA.

President Donald Trump’s appointment of CIA Director Mike Pompeo to replace Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State was both hailed and condemned on Tuesday due to the belief that Pompeo will take a much harder line against Iran than his predecessor.

Pompeo is known for his hawkish views on the Islamic republic and its nuclear program. He has said that former president Barack Obama’s nuclear accord with Iran will not “stop Iran from getting a nuclear bomb” and “places Israel at more risk.” Shortly after President Trump was elected, Pompeo tweeted, “I look forward to rolling back this disastrous deal with the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.” He also strongly condemned the Obama administration’s claim that the nuclear deal would lead to a less aggressive Iran, saying, “The theory that post-sanctions Iran will moderate is a joke – they want to annihilate Israel.” In addition, Pompeo stated, “Ceasing to call for the destruction of Israel should have been a condition of the Iran Deal.”

Pompeo will likely take a hard line against Iranian expansionism in general, as he has called Iran “a despotic theocracy” and “the vanguard of a pernicious empire that is expanding its power and influence across the Middle East.”

On Tuesday, Trump himself hinted that he dismissed Tillerson because his views on Iran were too dovish. “We got along actually quite well but we disagreed on things,” he told the press. “When you look at the Iran deal: I think it’s terrible, I guess he thinks it was OK. I wanted to break it or do something, and he felt a little bit differently.”

Supporters and opponents of the Iran deal agreed that Pompeo’s appointment will have a major influence on the future of the agreement.

Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, an NGO that pushed hard for the Iran deal, told The Independent, “This is a disaster for American diplomacy. … For all his faults, Tillerson was a supporter of military restraint and negotiated solutions to our key security threat. … He will now be replaced by an inexperienced hawk who opposed the Iran Deal in Congress.”

Journalist Barak Ravid of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz tweeted, “The appointment of Mike Pompeo as SecState is expected to strengthen the Anti-Iran line of the Trump administration and especially the Anti-JCPOA line. Pompeo is a mega Iran hawk.”

Philip Klein, Managing Editor of the Washington Examiner, directly linked Tillerson’s firing to the Iran issue, stating, “Pompeo is fiercely opposed to Iran deal, which Tillerson was fighting to preserve.”

Mike Doran, a former senior US official who is now an analyst at the Hudson Institute, laconically tweeted, “It will be interesting to see what this portends for May 12, Iran decision.”

Jackson Diehl of The Washington Post was more explicit, tweeting, “One big consequence of Tillerson/Pompeo switch: the chances that US will scrap the Iran nuclear deal just went up a lot.”

Iranian-American journalist Negar Mortazavi concurred with Diehl, saying, “Pompeo is a big hawk on Iran, both in policy and rhetoric, has always been against the Iran deal, and has spoken in favor of regime change and military intervention in Iran. He will push Trump to further increase pressure on Iran on all fronts. The #IranDeal might not last long.”

A report at the Washington Free Beacon appeared to confirm this, stating, “In the weeks leading up to Tillerson’s departure, he had been spearheading efforts to convince European allies to agree to a range of fixes to the nuclear deal that would address Iran’s ongoing ballistic missile program and continued nuclear research. While Trump had prescribed a range of fixes that he viewed as tightening the deal’s flaws, Tillerson recently caved to European pressure to walk back these demands and appease Tehran while preserving the deal, according to these sources.” With Tillerson’s exit, these concessions will likely be abandoned.

Former Obama-era State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki expressed apprehension at Tillerson’s exit, noting, “The difference between Tillerson and Pompeo? Like @realDonaldTrump Pompeo favors military intervention over diplomacy=scary given DPRK and Iran deal. Tillerson more mainstream, but not seen as speaking for @realDonaldTrump=powerless on global stage.”

Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon was even more strident, saying, “Nothing in Pompeo’s record indicates he believes in diplomacy as an effective tool. He’s acted as a hardline partisan, defended torture & warrantless surveillance, and tried to blow up the deal that has kept Iran from developing nuclear weapons. So this news is deeply concerning.”

National security journalist Jordan Schachtel, in contrast, pointed approvingly to the difference between Tillerson and Pompeo, saying, “Pompeo is the polar opposite of Tillerson, in a good way. He’s tough on Iran, much better on Israel, and is a proven Reaganite. Tillerson was an unenthusiastic Arabist who appeared way in over his head. Conservatives will celebrate Pompeo’s nomination.”

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  • Kris Kristian

    Thank GOD that Trump finally woke up about Titterson’s pro Arab stance.
    It was Tillerson who stopped Trump from saying that the US embassy will move to Jerusalem, on their first visit to Israel
    With Tillerson gone, the Jews can celebrate that Tillerson is no longer SoS
    Why Trump appointed an Arabist in the first place, did not make sense
    This should be celebrated as a Jewish holiday.
    GOD Bless President Trump and his new SoS.

  • bertha yellowfinch

    Why not a “tougher stance” on israel??? Take the time to count the israeli atrocities.

    • Kris Kristian

      Please name a few. Israeli atrocities.
      Are you referring to Israel protecting themselves from terrorists, Hamas, Hezballa, Abbas
      Why dont you refer to Syria where Muslims are killing Muslim by the hundreds. But the Israeli atrocities, are that Israel has taken in thousands of injured Syrians, treating them at no cost, in the best hospitals, best food, and even new clothes.
      Bertha Yellowfinch, your antiSemitism smell to high heaven.
      Have you ever been to Israel to see the truth?
      Obviously NO>
      So you beiieve in every propaganda lie from the anti Semites
      WAKE UP.

  • Paul

    It is amazing to hear intelligent people state that the Iran deal will prevent Iran from getting the Bomb. It specifically says that after 10 years, they can go ahead. In the meantime, they can perfect the support tools for the bomb, so they can make bombs after about 10 years plus one month. THIS IS PREVENTION ?
    The second crazy thing about all this talk is the idea that the Iranian bomb is principally a threat to Israel. Does ANYBODY think the Iranians are naive, transparent negotiators ? They are crafty and devious. If they paint “Death to Israel” on the missiles they parade through their streets – you can be sure this is a red herring, not their true intention. The most STUPID thing they could do would be to fire a nuclear bomb at Israel – the country that is alleged to have 200 nuclear missile-borne bombs. all aimed at Teheran. What they WOULD do is force the regional oil producers to surrender to Iran. They would then control the oil of the world and become a superpower. The Ayatollas have larger plans plans than destroying Israel – they want Moslem world domination, as dictated by their extreme version of the Koran. The same Koran that says the Jews should be left till last, to be destroyed at the end of days.
    During WW2, chamberlain was a much more decent and civilised person than Churchill. He too said “Peace in our time”. The longer it takes for the West to wake up, the harder it will be to fight this evil, active menace.

  • Sword of Honor

    We all know that there is a historic showdown coming. Only cowardlly liberals in the West throw titbits to a ravenous enemy, hoping, on the one hand, to buy off the implacable, corrupt nemesis of the Jews and, on the other, denying their debt to the Jews for their own best values.

    Anti-Semitism is anti-civilization and anti-freedom. As at the Red Sea, we need only trust and stop panicking: “Do not fear: stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will show to you to day… The LORD will fight for you and you shall hold your peace.” (Exodus 14:13-14)

    Donald Trump has had the rare courage not to be intimidated but to stand up for truth and righteousness. He must be supported, as we all remember how unlikely the rise of such a champion has seemed only very recently. As for Jewish liberals who possess influence, they should recall the words of Mordecai to Esther: “Do not think to yourself that you will escape in the king’s house, more than all the Jews. For if you altogether hold your peace at this time, then shall enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place, but you and yout father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13-14)

    When the enemy is amassing and spies are abroad, it is the time for forthright courage, not vain speculation about cowardly compromise.

  • shloime

    it’s not at all clear why north korea is suddenly willing to negotiate with washington, but it may have something to do with transferring the results of their nuclear and missile tests to iran.

    if pompeo can help trump cut through that gordian knot, they will have accomplished more than obama did in 8 years of “engagement”.

  • Efram Paul

    Good! It’s about time! Now, maybe, Jerusalem, Israel will appear on passports, as they should have been from the moment President Trump finally acknowledged that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital! The number one antisemite in Trump’s administration is finally unemployed!

    • shloime

      it’s better to pick your battles. the passports thing isn’t even important enough to be trivial.

      instead, they should look for sanctioned iranian assets to pay off the court judgments against iran, on behalf of the victims of terrorism.

    • bertha yellowfinch

      Efram, please explain how any refusal to pander to israel and expressions of disgust regarding israel’s behaviors, translates to “antisemitism”. Are you saying israel is no Democracy? Well, it isn’t. Thank you.