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Pompeo and the Possibility of War with Iran

Mike Pompeo, CIA director (Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons)

Thomas Wright speculates that Mike Pompeo and John Bolton could be headed for a clash in the future:

Pompeo has a longer time horizon than Bolton. He needs his term as secretary of state to be a success and recognized as such. He can’t afford his own version of the Iraq war, whether it is against Iran or North Korea [bold mine-DL]. So he now has a consequential choice to make: Does he align with Mattis, believing that this sage warrior will be vindicated over the medium and long term? Or does he jump aboard the Trump-Bolton train of disruption?

It is possible that Bolton and Pompeo won’t get along, but if they do clash I don’t think it will be over attacking one or both of these countries. Pompeo is on record publicly advocating the same bombing of Iran that Bolton has repeatedly endorsed:

Rep. Mike Pompeo, who participated in the roundtable with Cotton, added that the United States and its allies should consider striking Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

“In an unclassified setting, it is under 2,000 sorties to destroy the Iranian nuclear capacity. This is not an insurmountable task for the coalition forces,” Pompeo, R-Kan., said.

Pompeo’s overconfidence in the efficacy of military action and his glib endorsement of starting a war against another country are very similar to Bolton’s views, so I would assume that they are more likely to be in agreement than not. Pompeo made this statement about bombing Iranian nuclear facilities in 2014, so I doubt that he has changed his mind about this in the last few years. His past support for attacking Iran matters because it suggests that Pompeo is like most hawks in minimizing the risks of war and assuming that military action offers a relatively easy solution to thorny international problems. It may be true that he “can’t afford his own version of the Iraq war,” but hawks never think that the wars they support will cost as much or last as long as they do. If Pompeo was talking up the idea of bombing Iran as recently as 2014, that strongly suggests that he hasn’t learned anything from America’s desultory foreign wars. Now that the U.S. is out of the nuclear deal–something Pompeo has wanted for years–it is not a stretch to think that he and Bolton would work together to push for an attack on Iran that both of them have supported as the alternative to negotiating with Iran.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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