CIA Director Mike Pompeo delivered a speech on Thursday at the University of Texas in which he castigated the Islamic Republic of Iran, calling it a "thuggish police state" and comparing it to the Islamic State.
Pompeo's hardline speech was delivered as the keynote for the UT National Security Forum and was aimed at "setting the stage" for President Donald Trump's announcement on the Iran nuclear agreement on Friday, according to NBC News.
Trump is expected to withhold recertification of the nuclear agreement, which will send the Obama-era issue to Congress to decide whether they want to reimpose sanctions that were lifted when the nuclear deal was made. Congress will have 60 days to make a decision.
There have been reports the Trump administration might label Iran's Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) as a terrorist organization, which has prompted Iran to threaten serious "consequences." Pompeo did not give an indication of whether the IRGC will be listed as a terrorist organization, but his remarks in respect to Iran and its operations were, as a senior U.S. intelligence official told NBC, "an aggressive indictment," according to NBC.
"Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps are the cudgels of a despotic theocracy, with the IRGC accountable only to a Supreme Leader," Pompeo said. "They're the vanguard of a pernicious empire that is expanding its power and influence across the Middle East."
He also suggested that the IRGC is becoming bolder in its operations.
"In recent years, the IRGC has become more reckless and provocative, seeking to exploit the vacuum left by instability in the Middle East to aggressively expand its influence," he added. "It openly vows to annihilate Israel. And when you look at the death and destruction inflicted in Syria, Yemen, and Iraq by Tehran and its proxies, the threat is clear: Iran is mounting a ruthless drive to be the hegemonic power in the region."
In a particularly fiery comparison, Pompeo compared Iran to the Sunni terror group ISIS, a group Iranian-linked Shiite militias have fought in bloody battles for years.
"For unlike ISIS and its mirage of a caliphate, Iran is a powerful nation-state that remains the world's largest state-sponsor of terrorism. The Islamic Republic is Iran's version of what the caliphate ought to look like under the control of an Ayatollah and his praetorian guard, the IRGC," Pompeo said.
Pompeo also argued the IRGC had previously attempted to orchestrate a terrorist attack in Washington, D.C. and suggested a U.S. serviceman was killed by an IED linked to Iran.
Manssor Arbabsiar was sentenced four years ago to a 25-year sentence in prison for plotting to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador in Washington. Pompeo accused the Guards' Quds Force of being part of the plot to carry out the attack, according to NBC.
While Arbabsiar was convicted, a number of Iranian experts inside and outside the U.S. government questioned whether he was really acting on behalf of the IRGC, suggesting instead that the plot was a "rogue operation."
As for Iran's complicity in attacks using IEDs, or improvised explosive devices, Pompeo mentioned the possibility that a Tyler, Texas, soldier had been killed this month by Iranian weapon, noting he had been killed "in an area controlled by a Shia militia aligned with Iran."