(CNSNews.com) – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday criticized Iran’s purportedly “moderate” president for calling on Muslims around the world to unite against America and for describing Israel as a “cancerous tumor.” He said the Iranian people have lived under the Islamic regime’s tyranny for far too long.
President Hassan Rouhani’s remarks about Israel “inflame tensions in the region by seemingly calling for war,” Pompeo said in a statement.
And encouraging Muslims everywhere to unite against the United States, he added, was “a dangerous and irresponsible step that will further deepen Iran’s isolation.”
“The Iranian regime is no friend of America or Israel when they repeatedly call for the death of millions, including Muslims,” Pompeo said.
“The Iranian people know better and do not agree with their government, which has badly represented them to the world for 39 years. The people have suffered under this tyranny for far too long.”
Over the weekend Iran hosted an “Islamic Unity Conference,” attended by Muslim ambassadors, officials, clerics and academics from some 100 countries.
Keynote speakers included Rouhani and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, both of whom used the platform to lash out at the U.S. and Israel.
They criticized the governments of Sunni Gulf states for cooperating with the U.S., but also expressed support for the people of countries like Saudi Arabia, with Rouhani saying in his speech that “all branches of Islam” should work together – because by being united, Muslims could defeat both the U.S. and Israel.
“We will win against Zionism and the U.S. if we become united,” he said.
Rouhani called the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 “the formation of a cancerous tumor in the region.”
“They deployed a power in the region that completely obeys the West in regional matters,” he said. “They formed the fake Israeli regime and killed and displaced the historical nation of Palestine.”
Rouhani argued that achieving unity in the Islamic world was not a temporary or tactical maneuver, but a strategic one, going beyond short-term objectives like ridding the region of enemies like Israel and the U.S.
“We should not say that we should be united today because there is a cancerous tumor called Israel, and to tackle that,” he said, adding that Muslims should remain united even if Israel no longer exists.
“Even if the U.S. leaves this region alone, then we should remain united as well. We should continue to remain united even if we have no enemies,” he continued. “Unity is the basis of our religion.”
Rouhani also slammed President Trump for moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, saying the U.S. was mistaken if it thought that merely by relocating a diplomatic mission it could “take the holy Quds from us Muslims.”
In his speech to the unity conference, Khamenei advised countries like Saudi Arabia to “return to the rule of Islam and come under the authority of Allah because the rule of America and Satan will not benefit you.”
“Certain rulers of the Islamic countries have allied with America in the twin criminal acts in Palestine and Yemen but the victory will definitely be with the Palestinian and Yemeni nations and America and its followers will be defeated,” he said.
Khamenei also claimed that both the U.S. and Israel were now much weaker than before.
‘Not what we could describe as moderate here in the West’
When Rouhani was elected president in the summer of 2013, media commentators used terms like “moderate,” “reformist,” “centrist” or “reformist-backed” to describe him. The New York Times labeled him “pragmatic” and the BBC described him as a “moderate conservative.”
A so-called “moderate” in the Iranian context “is not what we could describe as moderate here in the West,” cautioned Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) at the time.
That fall, when President Obama addressed the U.N. General Assembly in New York, he said he did not believe the difficult history between the two nations could be “overcome overnight,” but that he was encouraged Iranian voters had given Rouhani “a mandate to pursue a more moderate course.”
Rouhani’s “moderate” foreign minister, Javad Zarif, became the Obama administration’s negotiating partner in the multilateral talks that produced the nuclear deal in 2015. Then-Secretary of State John Kerry developed a close working relationship with his Iranian counterpart, and later praised Zarif as “a patriot.”
Pompeo, by contrast, has given short shrift to the notion that either Rouhani or Zarif are moderate.
In a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library last July he likened the search for moderates in Iran to a hunt for “an Iranian unicorn.”
“The regime’s revolutionary goals and willingness to commit violent acts hasn’t produced anyone to lead Iran that can be remoted called a moderate, or a statesman,” Pompeo said.
“Some believe that President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif fit that bill,” he said. “The truth is they’re merely polished front men for the ayatollah’s international con-artistry.”