CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s expected move to lead the State Department is likely to lead to harder-line policies toward Iran and North Korea, though his ability to shape policy under President Donald Trump remains to be seen.
Pompeo has advocated for military strikes against Iran while lobbying hard against the nuclear deal with Tehran. He’s also been a force behind the administration’s drive to squeeze North Korea.
In the short term, the announcement that Pompeo would take on the leadership of the oldest US Cabinet agency is creating uncertainty and instability, observers said, as the Trump Administration pushes out Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
Pompeo forged a close bond with the mercurial President through the daily intelligence briefings, which the former Republican congressman from Kansas delivers in person three to four times a week, White House officials have told CNN.
But Pompeo’s ability to move beyond reporting on events to shaping them by creating policy and working with allies remains to be seen, lawmakers and analysts said. Some suggested his close alignment with Trump means policies aren’t likely to change.
Tough on North Korea and Iran
If confirmed, Pompeo’s first task as secretary of state will be to consider the urgent issue of a summit meeting with North Korea set for May. A source close to the White House told CNN that the reason Trump is putting Pompeo at the State Department was because he “wanted a strong team ready for North Korea.”
Indications are that Pompeo will aim to keep the heat of the maximum pressure campaign against Pyongyang and its leader Kim Jong Un turned up to high.
Patrick Cronin, senior director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, notes that one of Pompeo’s first acts as CIA director was to revamp the way intelligence was collected on North Korea. This overhauled approach informed the administration’s maximum pressure campaign on North Korea.
“From day one, Mike Pompeo and President Trump had been on the same wavelength, not just in general, but in particular on North Korea,” Cronin said.
Cronin said that Pompeo’s hawkish views on how to deal with North Korea will help push the isolated regime and its leader to make concessions, and says that Pompeo’s shift to the State Department will keep the pressure up.
“With somebody who is as hawkish as Mike Pompeo coming in as the top diplomat, he’ll know that there’s no room to escape,” Cronin said, speaking of North Korea’s Kim.
Pompeo has also held deeply hawkish views on the Iran nuclear deal, advocating for its dissolution and military strikes against Tehran instead of diplomacy with it.
Speaking to a roundtable of reporters in 2014, as the Obama administration and allies entered the final days of negotiations, Pompeo said that it would take “under 2,000 sorties to destroy the Iranian nuclear capacity. This is not an insurmountable task for the coalition forces.”
The advocacy group Diplomacy Works said in a statement that “Pompeo will be a destabilizing leader for the State Department who is certain to advise the President to withdraw the United States from our obligations under the nuclear agreement and could plunge our nation into another war in the region.”
Source » cnn