- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 13, 2018

President Trump, who cited his differences Tuesday with Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson over the Iranian nuclear deal as one reason he was fired, is set to get a much tougher voice on Tehran with Mike Pompeo, Mr. Tillerson’s replacement.

The CIA director was a sharp critic of the Obama administration’s 2015 deal to lift international sanctions in return for new curbs on Iran’s nuclear programs while serving in Congress, and has been noticeably more skeptical of the deal’s usefulness than Mr. Tillerson since joining the Trump administration.

In public appearances last year, Mr. Pompeo compared Iran to the terror group Islamic State as a threat to U.S. interests, and said the Obama administration’s hopes that the deal would curb Tehran’s aggressiveness in the region or its military build-up have been dashed.

Like Mr. Trump, he has criticized the temporary nature of the deal — many of its nuclear provisions expire in a decade — and Iran’s refusal to moderate its policy toward Israel or America’s Arab allies in the region.

“The challenge of the agreement is that it is short-term,” Mr. Pompeo told the Aspen Security Forum last July. “It doesn’t avail us the capacity to truly identify all the things that Iran might be up to, and then covers only such a narrow piece of the Iranian risk profile. … We’re working diligently to figure out how to push back against Iran not only in the nuclear arena but in all other spaces as well.”

Mr. Tillerson, backed by Defense Secretary James Mattis and many top officials at the Defense Department, clashed with Mr. Trump over the wisdom in staying in the multinational accord. The president faces another deadline soon on pulling out of the accord after saying last year he could not certify that the deal was still in the U.S. national interest.

Mr. Pompeo told the Aspen gathering the Trump administration was already preparing the ground for a sharp break with Iran.

“When we get our strategy in place, I am confident that you will see a fundamental shift,” he said. “One of the first things the president did is to go build a coalition of the Gulf states and Israel to help find a platform which could uniformly push back against Iranian expansionism.”

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