Trump’s National Security Picks Are No Fans of Iran or the Nuclear Deal

By Patrick Goodenough | November 21, 2016 | 4:17am EST
Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kansas, is President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for director of the CIA. (AP Photo, File)

( – In his first two key national security picks, President-elect Donald Trump has chosen two men who are fervent critics of the Iranian regime and the Obama administration’s touted nuclear deal.

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kans.) nominated as director of the CIA, has been a leading voice in Congress in opposition to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and has authored legislation targeting “ransom” payments in exchange for Iran’s release of imprisoned Americans.

Former Defense Intelligence Agency Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s choice for national security adviser, has also criticized the JCPOA in harsh terms, characterizing the regime as Tehran as one that cannot be trusted, and “want[s] to see the destruction of our way of life.”

Their naming – Pompeo requires Senate confirmation, Flynn does not – gives a boost to opponents of the nuclear deal, and those who would like to see the new administration take a harder line on Iran than the outgoing one.

Flynn, who advised Trump during his campaign for the White House, has not been averse to putting Iran and the jihadists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL) in the same category when referring to the threat to America.

In a Fox News Sunday interview in March 2015, for example, he stated that “both Iran and these radical Islamists, these extremists, they – we have to acknowledge that they do not like our way of life. In fact, they have stated that they want to see the destruction of our way of life.”

“I don’t trust Iran,” Flynn said during that interview. “What I’ve seen over certainly the last 10 years, if not the last 30, they are not a nation to be trusted.”

Accusing the Obama administration of “almost a policy of willful ignorance,” he advised: “Stop all engines on this nuclear deal. Take a step back. Really take a deep-dive look at everything going on in the Middle East.”

Four months later, as the Obama administration and its P5+1 allies – Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany – raced to finalize that deal with Iran, Flynn told Fox News that the administration was “about to give Iran $150 billion and put them on the pathway to develop a nuclear weapon – whether that’s in five years, ten years or 15 years, it doesn’t matter.”

Pompeo has repeatedly challenged the administration over its policies towards Iran, sending letters calling for answers on everything from Secretary of State John Kerry’s assurances to Iran on the tightening of the U.S. visa waiver program; to the administration’s “delayed and weak” response to Iran’s ballistic missile launches; to secret “side deals” between Iran and the U.N. nuclear watchdog; to the administration’s transfer of $1.7 billion in cash to Iran.

Last January the Iranian regime freed four imprisoned Americans, on the same day as the administration flew $400 million in cash into Tehran. The administration rejected claims that it amounted to a “ransom,” saying that the money, plus another $1.3 billion in cash paid later, was settlement of a long-outstanding Iranian legal claim.

Along with others Pompeo, a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, sought to get to the bottom of the payments. He also introduced legislation designed to prevent future such payments, and requiring Iran to repay the $1.7 billion.

Other Iran-related legislation authored by Pompeo includes a bill that would impose new sanctions against anyone who knowingly aids Iran’s missile program, and also targets entities that are controlled or owned at least 25 percent by Iranian ballistic missile organizations.

Secretary of State John Kerry led the U.S. team in the negotiations with Iran and five other countries that produced the nuclear agreement. (AP Photo, File)

Last Friday, before the CIA nomination news broke, Pompeo tweeted a link to a story about how a Trump administration could reverse the JCPOA, and added the comment, “I look forward to rolling back this disastrous deal with the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.”

While campaigning, Trump pledged repeatedly to dismantle or re-negotiate what he described as one of the worst deals he had ever seen.

Since his election, Iranian officials have stressed that the deal must be honored. European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who serves as overseer of the JCPOA, has disputed that Trump could change the agreement. She pointed out that it is a multilateral deal, enshrined in a U.N. Security Council resolution.

Other prominent advisors to Trump who may get key government posts include former New York City mayor Rudi Giuliani, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton, all of whom have been high-profile supporters over the years of the exiled National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI)/People’s Mujahedeen Organization of Iran (MEK), a group reviled by the clerical regime.

The MEK was a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization until then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delisted it in 2012, pointing to its renunciation of violence and “the absence of confirmed acts of terrorism by the MEK for more than a decade.”

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