CIA Director Mike Pompeo has described Iran as a “very serious threat” for the U.S. interests and revealed that the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump is “working on ways to push back against Iran.”
Pompeo said Tehran had a “significant foothold” in Syria and is seeking to create a corridor through Syria and Iraq as part of its effort to become the “kingpin” of the Middle East.
Pompeo was addressing national security officials and intelligence experts at the Aspen Security Forum, an annual gathering in Colorado on July 20, and he dedicated a significant part of his speech to the topics of Iran, Russia, the Syrian crisis, and Washington-Moscow relations.
Insisting on the United States’ current efforts to shift its position against Iran’s “expansionist policies,” the CIA director said, “We are working diligently to figure out how to push back against Iran, not only in the nuclear arena but in all the other spaces, as well.”
According to Pompeo, one of the first steps to counter Iran’s expansionist moves is reflected in the fact that “Trump has been working with [the Persian] Gulf states and Israel to find a common way to push back against Iranian aggression in the region.”
“When we have our strategy in place, I’m confident you will see a fundamental shift in [U.S.] policy toward Iran,” Pompeo noted.
Earlier, U.S. Foreign secretary, Rex Tillerson had also reiterated that Washington was reviewing its comprehensive policies on Tehran.
Responding to questions about the formation of a “Shi’ite crescent from Tehran to Beirut,” Israel’s concerns over Iran’s influence in areas close to its borders, the recent ceasefire in Syria as well as the presence of an Iran-backed militia in Iraq, Pompeo reminded his audience that all of these issues reflect Iran’s ambition to dominate the region.
“The Islamic Republic is currently trying to increase its influence in Damascus and is seeking to create a corridor through Syria and Iraq,” said Pompeo, while warning “that is a very serious threat against U.S. interests.”
Pompeo also said it was difficult to imagine a stable Syria with the president, Bashar al-Assad, still in power.
He labeled Assad a “puppet of the Iranians,” who now had a “significant foothold in Syria.”
According to the CIA director, U.S. interests are not limited to Syria and it goes much further than that. “We should create a situation in the Middle East that will make the region’s as well as U.S. security more stable,” he said.
Meanwhile, the CIA director described Iran and the so-called Islamic State as the United States’ enemies in Syria.
Tehran has repeatedly denied meddling and intervention in regional affairs.
Tehran and Moscow vehemently support Assad’s government, which still has a permanent representative to the United Nations and argue that their presence in Syria is quite legitimate as it is based on Damascus’ formal request as well as their own will to fight against terrorism.
The unrest in Syria, grew out of discontent with Bashar al- Assad’s government and escalated to a civil war after protests calling for democracy and his removal were violently suppressed, in 2011.
On Moscow’s position in the region, Pompeo said, “The Russians are seeking a ‘warm-water naval port’ in Syria, and intelligence shows they have no “intention” to leave the country.
“They [Russians] love to stick it to America. I’m sort of kidding, but I think they find any place that they can make our lives more difficult,” Pompeo said, though he added there may be opportunities for Washington and Moscow to work together on countering terrorism.
Before heading the CIA, Pompeo was a Republican congressman and a strong opponent of the deal Iran signed with world powers during the Obama administration to limit its nuclear program in exchange for lifting some of the international sanctions imposed on Tehran. While Trump’s administration has recently verified that Iran is keeping its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action, JCPOA, the CIA director expressed his doubts over its sincerity.
“They [Iran] don’t pay their rent, you call them and then they send a check and it doesn’t clear and then they send another one,” Pompeo said. “And then the next day there’s an old, tired sofa in the front yard and you tell them to take it away, and you know they drag it to the back. This is Iranian compliance today: grudging, minimalist, temporary.”