Pompeo on Iran’s Zarif: ‘I Don’t Know Why Anyone Listens to Him … He Lies All the Time’

Patrick Goodenough | September 23, 2019 | 4:27am EDT
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Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif and then-Secretary of State John Kerry, meet in New York in April 2016. (Photo by Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday ripped into his Iranian counterpart, voicing surprise that anyone would take at face value anything said by a man who, he charged, “lies all the time.”

As Foreign Minister Javad Zarif arrived in New York for this week’s high-level U.N. General Assembly events, Pompeo signaled that the Trump administration will work to mobilize a broad response to Iran following last Saturday’s attack on Saudi oil infrastructure.

“I hope this week, here in New York, the whole world will come together to push back against this and convince the Iranian leadership that this behavior is simply unacceptable,” he told Fox News Sunday.

On CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Pompeo underlined the scale of the drone and cruise missile attack, which knocked out half of Saudi Arabia’s crude oil production.

“We had a nation-state attack another nation-state, the largest attack on a global energy supply, I think in all of recorded history,” he said.

Host Margaret Brennan noted that Zarif has repeatedly denied U.S. accusations that the Iranian regime was behind the attack – rather than its Shi’ite ally in Yemen, the Houthi militia, which claimed responsibility.

“Look, I don’t know why anybody listens to the Iranian foreign minister,” Pompeo said. “He has nothing to do with Iranian foreign policy and he has lied for decades.”

“And then he resigned,” he added, referring to Zarif’s short-lived resignation earlier this year.

“It’s not even worth responding to him,” Pompeo continued. “It’s beneath the dignity of anyone in the world to listen to someone who repeatedly makes the claim that the Houthis launched this attack.”

Pompeo made the same point on the Fox News show: “As for Zarif, I don’t know why anybody listens to him. He has nothing to do with Iranian foreign policy. He lies all the time.”

Zarif and President Hassan Rouhani are expected to take part in this week’s meetings in New York, which come less than a month after President Trump indicated that he could meet with Rouhani on the sidelines of the General Assembly, “if the circumstances were correct.”

Following recent events in the region, the chances of an encounter look slim, although Trump in response to a reporter’s question on Sunday still did not rule it out altogether.

“Nothing is ever off the table completely, but I have no intention of meeting with Iran,” he said before leaving the White House to fly to Texas. “And that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. I’m a very flexible person,” he added. “But we have no intention – it’s not set up. We’re meeting with a lot of leaders. We have about 15 meetings set up, but Iran is not one of them.”

‘They lie a lot’

Pompeo’s dig about Zarif having “nothing to do with Iranian foreign policy” alludes to the fact Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has the final say on foreign and security matters.

Over the years Khamenei has been advised on these issues by noted hardliners. Currently they include foreign policy advisor Ali Akbar Velayati, a former foreign minister accused by prosecutors in Argentina of involvement in that country’s deadliest terror attack; and military advisor Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehqan, a former Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) air force commander and defense minister who in recent months has warned publicly that shipping in the Strait of Hormuz won’t be safe unless Iran enjoys full security there.

Pompeo’s remarks about Zarif lying referred specifically to denials of involvement in the September 14 Saudi attack, but the administration has accused the regime of mendacity on previous occasions.

After the IRGC shot down the U.S. Navy drone with a surface-to-air missile last June the regime claimed the unmanned aircraft had entered Iranian airspace. The Pentagon disputed that, saying the drone was downed while “over the Strait of Hormuz and fell into international waters.”

Trump last week recalled that earlier episode, tweeting, “Remember when Iran shot down a drone, saying knowingly that it was in their ‘airspace’ when, in fact, it was nowhere close. They stuck strongly to that story knowing that it was a very big lie. Now they say that they had nothing to do with the attack on Saudi Arabia. We’ll see?”

When British authorities in Gibraltar last June detained an Iranian supertanker on the grounds it was taking 2.1 million barrels of crude oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions against the Assad regime, Iran repeatedly denied that the ship’s destination was Syria.

Six weeks later Gibraltar released the ship, on the strength of Iran’s written undertakings that it would not take its oil cargo Syria.

The ship then sailed to the eastern Mediterranean, turned off its responders and – according to the British and U.S. governments – transferred the oil to the Assad regime.

“The Iranians lied about this,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said on September 12. “It should be no surprise, but they lied about this to the E.U. and they lied about this to the international community.”

Britain’s foreign secretary summoned the Iranian ambassador over the incident, and Gibraltar’s chief minister – who had released the ship on the basis of Iran’s word – referred to the Iranians having made themselves “look shifty and unreliable.”

After Iran in July announced it had broken up a CIA spy ring, Trump commented that the Islamic Republic was led by “religious leaders – but they lie a lot.”

The Islamic concept known as taqqiyah is defined in one Shi’ite encyclopedia as “concealing or disguising one’s beliefs, convictions, ideas, feelings, opinions, and/or strategies at a time of eminent danger, whether now or later in time, to save oneself from physical and/or mental injury.”


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