WASHINGTON - Mike Pompeo, President Donald Trump's nominee to be the next secretary of state, said on Thursday in his first hearing before the Senate that he thinks the U.S. should try to fix and strengthen the nuclear deal with Iran, and withdraw from it only if that proves to be impossible to achieve.
"I want to fix this deal. That's the objective, that's in the best interest of the United States," Pompeo said, in reply to a question on the subject from Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), the most senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
"It's not a yes or no question. If we conclude that this cannot be fixed, that there are serious shortcomings, then I will recommend to the President that we work with our allies to achieve a better outcome and a better deal."
The deadline for Trump's next decision on whether to keep the Iran deal in place or withdraw from it is May 12. Pompeo said that the hypothetically, if "we are close" to achieving a fix to the deal and the deadline approaches, a decision could be taken to give it more time. However, he made clear that any decision on that would have to be made by Trump himself.
In his opening statement before the committee, Pompeo said that Iran "has been on the march and has paid too low a price for its dangerous behavior. Our administration has developed a strategy to counter Iran that will raise that cost. The issues surrounding Iran’s proliferation threat are real and we, along with our allies, must deal with the long-term risk that its capability presents."
He added that "we cannot let the nuclear file prevent us from acting against Iran’s cyber efforts or its attempts to provide missiles to the Houthis to attack Saudi Arabia and Americans who travel there. Iran’s activities in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon threaten the very existence of Israel, and the global reach of Hezbollah threatens us right here in the homeland."