Mike Pompeo Has Hawkish History on Israel and Iran

Mike Pompeo has been one of Congress' most outspoken critics of Barack Obama's foreign policy, particularly the Iran nuclear deal.

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Mike Pompeo, before being sworn in as director of the CIA, at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 23, 2017.
Mike Pompeo, before being sworn in as director of the CIA, at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 23, 2017. Credit: \ JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS
Amir Tibon

This article was originally published on January 24, 2017 and republished after Mike Pompeo was reported to be replacing Rex Tillerson as secretary of state.

Mike Pompeo, who was confirmed on Monday evening by the Senate to run the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, has a record as a strong supporter of the Israeli government and a fierce critic of the Iran nuclear deal. Pompeo's nomination was approved by a vote of 66-32 on the Senate floor, with the support of all Republican Senators except Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and an additional 15 Democrats, among them Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA.) 

Pompeo spent the last five years representing Kansas' 4th District in the U.S. House of Representatives, and was among the most outspoken Republican critics of President Barack Obama's foreign policy in the Middle East. As recently as last November, mere days after Donald Trump's victory in the 2016 elections, Pompeo declared on Twitter, with regards to the Iran nuclear deal, "I look forward to rolling back this disastrous deal with the world's largest state sponsor of terrorism." The tweet was published before Trump announced Pompeo was his candidate for CIA Director. On Monday night, Pompeo's Twitter account was taken off the social network, in line with CIA policy. 

During his confirmation period, Pompeo assured worried Democrats – among them Senator Feinstein – that as CIA Director, he would "objectively monitor" the nuclear deal's implementation by Iran, despite his opposition to the deal while he was a member of Congress. This was one of the reasons that Feinstein eventually decided to vote for him, despite having reservations at the beginning of the confirmation process. 

In the summer of 2015, at the height of the debate over the Iran deal, Pompeo said that the deal "won't stop Iran from getting a nuclear bomb and places Israel at more risk." He also said that the "theory that post-sanctions Iran will moderate is a joke – they want to annihilate Israel, now buying Russian missiles." Pompeo also criticized the Obama administration for not demanding that Iran cease calling for Israel's destruction as part of the deal – a demand proposed and promoted by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. "Ceasing to call for the destruction of Israel should have been a condition of the Iran Deal – along with release of innocent American hostages," Pompeo said in a statement.

In November 2015, Pompeo visited Israel and met with Netanyahu, a meeting which he said left a strong impression on him. "Prime Minister Netanyahu is a true partner of the American people," Pompeo said after their discussion at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem. "Our conversation was incredibly enlightening as to the true threats facing both Israel and the United States. Netanyahu's efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons are incredibly admirable and deeply appreciated." 

During the same visit, Pompeo also met senior officers in the Israeli police and was briefed by them on the "lone wolves Intifada" that included dozens of stabbing and car-ramming attacks by Palestinians across the country. A statement by his office described the Israeli police officers he met as "a group of officers who not only bravely defend the people each day, but have also been targeted themselves by terrorists." Pompeo said that "by putting on their uniform, the men and women of the Israeli National Police put a target on their back for terrorists who want to murder law enforcement. In the fight against terrorism, cooperation between Israel and the United States has never been more important." 

Two weeks after his visit, Pompeo released a statement condemning "the ongoing violence in the State of Israel," explaining that "I can tell you that the Israeli people and the Israeli National Police are demonstrating admirable restraint in the face of unspeakably cruel attacks." He added that "We cannot let these acts of terror go on any longer. Those who carry out, encourage, or defend this violence should be condemned in the strongest possible terms. We must stand with our ally Israel and put a stop to terrorism. Ongoing attacks by the Palestinians serve only to distance the prospect of peace.”

During his confirmation hearing, Pompeo didn't speak at length about Israel, but he did take a tough line against Russia, more than the one promoted by the President who appointed him. Pompeo called Russia a major threat to the United States, and said that Vladimir Putin's country "has reasserted itself aggressively, invading and occupying Ukraine, threatening Europe, and doing nearly nothing to aid in the destruction and defeat of ISIS.” His strong stance on this issue was among the reasons that 15 Democratic Senators voted for him, in addition to a number of Republicans who have been skeptical of Trump's foreign policy priorities. 

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