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Pompeo’s Big Nuclear Deal Lies

Then-Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-KS, speaking at a rally in 2013. He faces a senate grilling for his secretary of state nomination today.Mark Taylor/Creative Commons

Pompeo was on the Mark Levin Show yesterday, and he gave this ridiculous answer to one of Levin’s unhinged questions:

QUESTION: Let me move to Iran. Now, this is a terrorist state. This has been a problem since I was in the Reagan administration, obviously, and even before during the Carter administration. They’ve just gotten more aggressive, they’re conquering neighbors, they are inciting terrorist activities, they’re funding terrorist activities, they’re responsible for the death of God knows how many American soldiers.

I’ve been reading lately that they are sprinting towards their goal of ICBMs with nuclear warheads. Do we know anything more about that?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Mark, what I can say is this: The deal that the previous administration entered into actually greenlighted much of the activity that you’re seeing in Iran today. Certainly the missile activity, which was prohibited, now is less so, less constrained – their capacity, that is to deliver heavy payloads, which could include nuclear warheads, over longer distances with more accuracy was freed up. And importantly too, there was a whole lot of money. There was a lot of wealth created for Iran by lifting the sanctions and giving them the capacity to pay scientists, bring in materials, do all the things you need to do to build out a full suite of nuclear weapons capabilities, from the weapons systems to the delivery vehicles and the fissile material that goes with that. It was the central flaw of what John Kerry and President Obama negotiated; it greenlighted their capacity to do that and created the wealth that underpins a capable program.

There is a lot wrong with Pompeo’s answer, but the most important part was his indulgence of Levin’s premise that Iran is “sprinting towards their goal of ICBMs with nuclear warheads.” Iran does not have a goal of building ICBMs or nuclear warheads. The Iranian government has repeatedly disavowed this intention, they are a party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and they have complied with the terms of the JCPOA for more than three years. They can hardly be “sprinting towards” something they are not trying to do. I don’t know where Levin supposedly read this claim, but whatever his source was it is completely untrue. A minimally responsible public official would not indulge or encourage this baseless speculation, but that is exactly what Pompeo does.

Pompeo repeats a number of falsehoods and misrepresentations about the nuclear deal as he always does. The biggest deception here is the suggestion that by providing sanctions relief in exchange for restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program the JCPOA somehow “greenlit” the development of a nuclear weapons program. It is untrue and dishonest, but more than that it is illogical. A nonproliferation agreement with the most intrusive inspections regime in the world is not “greenlighting” nuclear weapons development. Pompeo and all the other nuclear opponents that say things like this are not just lying, but they are also telling unusually stupid lies.

Some of the other things Levin included in his question are also nonsense. Which neighbors is Iran “conquering”? What terrorist activities are they “inciting”? These things aren’t happening, but in the fever swamp of talk radio they are taken as a given. It isn’t surprising that this is where Pompeo goes to promote the administration’s Iran lies, since the audience is already subjected to misinformation on a daily basis.

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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