Looking back over previous statements from Mike Pompeo, I was struck by something he said about the nuclear deal with Iran at a forum in Aspen last year:
This is Iranian compliance today. Grudging, minimalist, temporary with no intention of really what the agreement was designed to do [bold mine-DL], it was designed to foster stability and have Iran become a reentrant to the Western world, and the agreement simply hasn’t achieved that.
The nuclear deal with Iran was always designed to restrict Iran’s nuclear program and make it practically impossible for their government to develop and build nuclear weapons. That was why the deal was negotiated, and that is what it was designed to do. There may have been hopes in some quarters that it could become the foundation for a more constructive relationship between the U.S. and Iran, but the deal’s opponents did their very best to make sure that this could never happen. It is risible that a leading opponent of the deal would fault it for “failing” to do something that he and other Iran hawks have opposed just as bitterly. Iran hasn’t become a “reentrant to the Western world” because opponents of the nuclear deal keep looking for every excuse to impose new sanctions on other issues and renege on the agreement itself. The JCPOA couldn’t have done what Pompeo describes, but we know that Iran hawks including Pompeo would have fought tooth and nail against cultivating a post-deal rapprochement with Iran.
Opponents of the JCPOA don’t hate the deal because it fails to restrict Iran’s nuclear program. The deal has been a remarkably successful nonproliferation agreement and does exactly what it is supposed to do. Iran has remained in compliance since 2015 despite the overt efforts by the agreement’s opponents in the West to sabotage it. These opponents hate it because it deprived them of a pretext for war and because it was a compromise with an adversary that they wanted to see capitulate. They misrepresent what the deal was supposed to do so that they can declare it a failure, but they have no interest in a successful agreement that comes at the price of compromising with a government they want to attack. As usual, hawkish objections to the nuclear deal are made in bad faith. Pompeo’s hostility to one of America’s biggest diplomatic successes in decades should make clear that the man Trump is putting charge of the State Department shares the president’s deep disdain for diplomacy and the compromise it requires.