Pompeo Demands a King’s Ransom from Iran

    Curt Mills

    Security, Middle East

    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivers remarks on the Trump administration's Iran policy at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, U.S. May 21, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

    The secretary’s much-anticipated speech at Heritage was nothing short of a hardliner’s wishlist.

    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took center stage at the Heritage Foundation in Washington Monday morning, laying out the administration’s strategy after President Donald Trump announced U.S. secession from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or Iran deal, earlier this month. Iranian failure to meet a series of U.S. demands—including Iran’s withdrawal of forces from Syria—would result in the “strongest sanctions in history,” Pompeo said.

    “President Trump withdrew from the deal for a simple reason: it failed to guarantee the safety of the American people from the risk created by the Islamic Republic of Iran,” the secretary said. “No more.”

    For Pompeo and Heritage, the event was high-stakes. For Pompeo, it was his most specific enunciation of views on the subject assuming the mantle at Foggy Bottom this month.

    Much of Pompeo’s early tenure has been focused on North Korea, with two high-profile visits to the country already. The scuttled Trump administration ambassador to South Korea, Victor Cha, told a small crowd in Washington earlier this year that Pompeo had been given the North Korea “portfolio,” while new National Security Advisor John Bolton has been given the same for the Middle East and Russia.

    As a congressman, Pompeo was a hardliner on Middle Eastern issues—a vociferous critic of the JCPOA—and among the most hawkish on Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, even when that position lost favor on the right, including with then-presidential candidate Donald Trump.

    But compared to Bolton, Pompeo has been perceived to be a relative restrainer. Pompeo is a likely future candidate. And as Thomas Wright put in a piece in Politico earlier this month:

    Pompeo has a longer time horizon than Bolton. He needs his term as secretary of state to be a success and recognized as such. He can’t afford his own version of the Iraq war, whether it is against Iran or North Korea.

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