Home/Daniel Larison/Pompeo’s Stale Talking Points at the Reagan Library

Pompeo’s Stale Talking Points at the Reagan Library

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

Mike Pompeo had nothing new to say in his Iran speech at the Reagan Library, and throughout his address he used the Iranian people as props to advance policies that inflict serious harm on them. Iran hawks typically dress up their hostility to the country and its people with criticisms of the regime while ignoring the destructive effects of the policies that they favor, and Pompeo’s speech was no different. The Secretary of State didn’t mention the travel ban in his prepared remarks, and offered the same bogus excuse for the policy when he was asked about it in one of the many softball questions he received from the moderator. No Iranian has ever conducted a terrorist attack on U.S. soil, and the pretense that banning Iranians from coming here has anything to do with national security remains as offensive and absurd as ever. He mentioned the persecution of religious minorities in Iran, but had nothing to say about the Iranian religious minorities that the Trump administration has refused to give asylum and left in limbo in Austria. Pompeo boasted about the efforts to strangle Iran with sanctions, but never so much as acknowledged the economic pain this would cause most Iranians. It is as if Pompeo thinks that the administration can present itself as the friend of Iran’s population while repeatedly attacking and insulting them and their country.

One of the many noticeable flaws in Pompeo’s speech was the Secretary’s difficulty in pronouncing Iranian names. This was noticed by many of the people following the speech tonight:

The numerous stumbles and mispronunciations compounded the overall poor quality of the speech’s content, but they also reflected how little familiarity with and knowledge about Iran the administration officials bent on meddling in the country have. Pompeo and other Iran hawks don’t know Iran very well, and they aren’t interested in knowing more about it because that might get in the way of their tendentious ideological view of the country. It was telling that Pompeo was introduced by Tom Cotton, the hard-line senator from Arkansas who has distinguished himself in his short career as one of the most ignorant and belligerent Iran hawks around.

If the purpose of the speech was to win more support from Iranian-Americans for the administration’s Iran policy, I don’t see how it could have succeeded. Pompeo acknowledged none of the concerns and grievances that many Iranian-Americans have about U.S. policy. The speech was the usual litany of regime abuses and cynical exploitation of Iran’s problems that the administration is actively trying to make worse.

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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