Incoming CIA Director Has Reputation for Confronting Iran

Pompeo pick garners high praise from congressional sources, policy experts

Mike Pompeo

Mike Pompeo / AP

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President-elect Donald Trump's selection of Rep. Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.) to serve as the next CIA director is garnering early praise from senior congressional insiders and foreign policy experts, who told the Washington Free Beacon on Friday that the lawmaker has won plaudits for taking a tough line on Iranian intransigence and investigating the Obama administration's secret negotiations with Tehran.

Pompeo, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, earned a reputation among his Republican colleagues for his aggressive investigations into Obama administration secrecy surrounding last year's nuclear agreement with Iran, multiple sources confirmed.

Multiple investigations by the lawmaker unearthed documents showing that senior U.S. officials engaged in secret talks with Iran that led to the payment of nearly $2 billion to Tehran by the United States.

Pompeo accepted the position of CIA director on Friday morning.

"I am honored and humbled to accept the president-elect's nomination to lead the Central Intelligence Agency," Pompeo said in a statement. "This was a difficult decision. I have genuinely loved representing the people of Kansas in Congress–working to make our community stronger and more prosperous. But ultimately the opportunity to lead the world's finest intelligence warriors, who labor tirelessly to keep this nation and Kansas safe, is a call to service I cannot ignore."

Pompeo's foreign policy acumen and good standing in the local Kansas business community will, according to experts, make him a perfect fit for the CIA, an organization that lost some of its luster in recent years and is suffering from criticism it has failed to effectively combat rogue nations like Iran.

Pompeo "has been terrific on Iran," said Michael Ledeen, a onetime consultant to the National Security Council and State and Defense Departments, as well as a former special adviser at the State Department.

"He's what we used to call a real American. He's very patriotic, the kind of guy who will show up at little league games and high schools."

Asked if Pompeo could help reform the CIA, Ledeen responded, "He sure will try."

Leading critics of the Iran nuclear deal also had high praise for Pompeo.

Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Free Beacon that Pompeo has set the standard for congressional investigations into the Obama administration's secret dealings with Iran.

"Pompeo has led the way in Congress against a nuclear deal that gives Iran patient pathways to atomic weapons, nuclear-warheads carrying ballistic missiles, and regional hegemony," Dubowitz said. "He will bring deep knowledge of the Iranian threat and the ways to use all instruments of U.S. power, including covert action, to counter Tehran's malign activities."

In addition to launching multiple probes into the Obama administration's so-called "ransom" payments to Iran, Pompeo recently spearheaded legislation to block any future similar payments and ensure that American victims of terrorism are fully compensated before the Islamic Republic sees a dime.

Within both the House and Senate, Pompeo has impressed Republican leaders who hold a plethora of top roles, sources said.

"Congressman Pompeo, a leading member of the House Intelligence Committee who graduated top-of-the-class at West Point and served in the Army on the Cold War's front lines before graduating Harvard Law School, is eminently qualified to serve as director of central intelligence," said one senior Senate staffer who handles Iran sanctions and other Middle East issues.

"He has fearlessly held the administration accountable for its disastrous Iran policy and its manipulation of intelligence at CENTCOM," the source added. "Our country needs good people like Pompeo to lead our intelligence agencies."

A senior GOP aide in the House had similar praise for the lawmaker.

"I could not think of a better choice to run the CIA than Mike Pompeo," said the source, who works on a range of national security issues. "He has emerged as one of the most respected and effective national security experts in the House."

"Congressman Pompeo will be a tremendous asset to the intelligence community and the safety of our country."

Another senior congressional aide who works on foreign policy issues said that Pompeo will not shy from addressing the "thorniest" of issues facing the United States.

"On the thorniest and most important foreign policy problems, Congressman Pompeo hasn’t been afraid to get to the bottom of the issues and speak the truth," the source said. "His insistence on perfection, tireless work ethic, and impeccable resume speak to his ability to lead the CIA with success.  The national security community on both sides of the aisle is already praising his selection, and for good reason."

Pompeo also is well respected in the Jewish community, where Iran tops the list of key issues constituents are concerned about.

"Even the most hardcore Trump skeptics on the right will be praising the Pompeo pick," said one senior official at a national Jewish organization. "He's scary smart, his national security instincts are unimpeachable, and he's been a leader in trying to limit the damage done by the Iran deal. The team he assembled in his congressional office kept him deeply briefed on foreign policy issues, so he'll be able to hit the ground running."

Adam Kredo   Email Adam | Full Bio | RSS
Adam Kredo is senior writer reporting on national security and foreign policy matters for the Washington Free Beacon. An award-winning political reporter who has broken news from across the globe, Kredo’s work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, Commentary Magazine, the Drudge Report, and the Jerusalem Post, among many others. His Twitter handle is @Kredo0. His email address is kredo@freebeacon.com.

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