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Pompeo’s All-or-Nothing View of Diplomacy

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

Uri Friedman reviews Mike Pompeo’s hard-line foreign policy views. Here he quotes Pompeo’s criticism of the negotiations leading up to the nuclear deal with Iran:

The Obama administration failed to take “advantage of crushing economic sanctions to end Iran’s nuclear program,” he declared when the deal was struck. “That’s not foreign policy; it’s surrender.”

Pompeo’s statement is ridiculous, but it does provide us with a useful window into how he understands foreign policy issues. Like many other Iran hawks, he opposes the nuclear deal because it “failed” to bring an end to Iran’s nuclear program. He dubs Iran’s major concessions on the nuclear issue as “surrender” by the U.S. because they were not forced to give up absolutely everything. That reflects the absurd all-or-nothing view of diplomacy that prevails among hard-line critics of the JCPOA.

Iran yielded a great deal, but they were never going to give up their entire nuclear program. That is not just because Iran is permitted to have such a program under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), but also because Iran had already invested so many resources at significant cost that retaining some part of it was a matter of national pride. If the Obama administration had insisted on the elimination of Iran’s nuclear program, the negotiations would have failed and the restrictions on that problem that are now in place would not exist. There would have been no nuclear deal if the U.S. had insisted on maximalist demands. What Pompeo calls surrender is what sane people call compromise. Putting someone so inflexible and allergic to compromise in charge of the State Department is the act of a president who has nothing but disdain for diplomacy, and Pompeo’s all-or-nothing view of the nuclear deal bodes ill for talks with North Korea.

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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