Sources have told the New York Times and Al Jazeera that the Trump administration has appointed a top counterterrorism and Middle East operative to head Central Intelligence Agency's Iran operations.
Previously, the name of Michael D'Andrea was tied to an aggressive and effective campaign against Al Qaeda that put an end to Osama Bin Laden and many other top members of the notorious organization.
Along the way, D'Andrea has earned nicknames such as, the "Dark Prince", "Ayatollah Mike" and the "Undertaker", among his CIA peers. He headed the agency's counterterrorism operations from 2006 to 2015, serving two presidents; Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Barack Obama. Reportedly, he was the major figure in organizing the drone campaign that targeted many terror suspects in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen.
Current and former intelligence officials who spoke to the NYT and Al Jazeera on condition of anonymity characterized this appointment as part of Trump administration's effort at establishing an aggressive strategy on Iran.
It is also believed that under the new CIA Director, Mike Pompeo the agency has adopted a more aggressive approach to anti-terror and information gathering operations.
The CIA has never officially reveled the identity of Mr. D'Andrea. The first time the media identified him was in a report by the NYT in 2015.
The Wall Street Journal also reports that the CIA has created a new mission center for Iran to focus exclusively on gathering intelligence on a country, which is a hard target for the CIA and also a high priority for the Trump White House.
As major international media reported this development, it quickly became the top story on Iran's Fars news agency on Saturday morning. Fars, which is close to Iran's Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), focused on the WSJ story and emphasized that the U.S. will now try to recruit spies and penetrate the country for espionage.
This is usually a favorite theme for the IRGC and Iranian hardliners, who often accuse dissenters as potential or real "enemy" spies. It also helps them to advance a siege mentality, which is used to justify heavy handed and repressive policies.
Officials who spoke to Al Jazeera said that D'Andrea who married a Moslem woman has converted to Islam. He has served in different Middle Eastern countires and reportedly was the top CIA operative in Iraq between 2003 and 2006 when he returned to Washington to head the Counterterrorism Center.