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AMN’s 2016 interview with Mike Pompeo on being denied entry to Iran to inspect nuclear deal shows his consistent thinking

U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo prepares for morning interviews with FOX and CBS news at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on November 4, 2018. (U.S. State Department/Released)
March 13, 2018

In 2016, American Military News interviewed now-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shortly after he had been denied entry into Iran to confirm and inspect details of Obama’s Iran nuclear deal. Pompeo is a West Point graduate who represented Kansas’ 4th Congressional District in Congress before he served as CIA director starting in January 2017.

The insights gathered throughout the interview reflect how Pompeo views Iran, which has become even more timely given his new appointment and the political climate surrounding the Iran nuclear deal, which President Donald Trump has said is one-sided and not a good deal for the United States. Trump has also said the U.S. would leave the deal if things don’t change.

American Military News interviewed Pompeo exactly one year after the Iran deal went into effect to discuss his concerns with the parameters of the deal, as well as the ramifications it had had on the United States and the world in one year. The Iran deal was signed on July 14, 2015.

Pompeo has been consistent in his criticism of Iran, and just this past October compared Iran to ISIS when making a speech at the University of Texas.

“For unlike ISIS and its mirage of a caliphate, Iran is a powerful nation-state that remains the world’s largest state-sponsor of terrorism. The Islamic Republic is Iran’s version of what the caliphate ought to look like under the control of an Ayatollah and his praetorian guard, the IRGC [Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps],” he said.

In the exclusive 2016 interview, Pompeo explained how he discovered secret side deals of the Iran nuclear deal, and what the implications of those deals meant for the American public.

Pompeo discussed how he learned about developments that there were two side deals made between the U.S. and Iran that were intentionally kept secret. Pompeo explained that he first heard about the secret side deals when he was going to meet with the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) in Vienna with Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton.

“We were asking questions about the deal. We were very concerned about what America was doing entering into an agreement with the Ayatollah and in the course of asking questions about how the heck we were gonna inspect all of the former nuclear sites of the Iranians, we asked what the process was going to be and the IAE was very plain,” Pompeo continued. “They told us there were two side deals that the American people were never gonna get a chance to see.”

“We found that deeply disturbing,” he said, and acknowledged that he thinks it was the first moment that anyone outside of the deal heard that there were secret side deals included in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

When asked what the side deals were, Pompeo affirmed that, like all Americans, he did not know the details of the deals.

“We know that they have to do with the inspection processes surrounding places like Parchin in Iran, places where the Iranians build nuclear weaponry and the capacity to deliver that weaponry all across the world,” he said.

He continued: “America agreed, unknowingly, to secret side deals in which no American could ever go inspect, and indeed the IAE itself is not permitted to physically inspect those sites,” which he said will lead to bad outcomes for the American people.

Pompeo also said he was surprised when he first learned about the side deals.

“I had read the deal many, many times. I understood the agreement at a pretty sophisticated level, at least I thought, and so to learn that the documents that I had been presented by my own Government weren’t complete, my first reaction was to be surprised and confused because I had understood what I had been able to read was the entire deal. It turns out it was not,” he said.

When asked if these new revelations about the secret side deals were something he expected, he said: “No, I thought I’d seen the whole thing.”

“We had repeated representations that Congress had been presented the deal in its entirety. So, I didn’t expect it. I was very surprised and confused,” he stated, and explained that after trying to dig deeper into the news, they found that there were “at least two of those deals”.

Pompeo also went into detail about his attempt to obtain a visa to visit Iran, along with Congressman Lee Zeldin from New York and Congressman Lee LoBiondo from New Jersey, saying he thinks it’s important for American officials to travel to other countries to have a better understanding of how foreign regions operate – but the then-Obama Administration took a different stance.

Pompeo said that he and the two other representatives were interested in seeing the election operations, inspecting the nuclear sites and conducting congressional oversight in Tehran, explaining that since then-President Barack Obama said Iran is a “partner in peace,” they wanted to see if that was the case.

After applying and asking for the visas personally, Pompeo said they were denied several months later.

“Were were notified they were not gonna let three members of Congress in, and in spite of the fact that they had now let many American business people come visit Iran,” he said. “It’s completely unacceptable.”

Pompeo had said he plans on continuing the fight and will keep pushing the Iranian foreign ministry to let them in.

“It seems like a very reasonable ask,” he said, “when it’s the case that you are trying to negotiate further arrangements with our government, you’re trying to get our government to help you accomplish many of the tasks that Iranians want done, to let members of Congress who have the duty to spend money and to spend it responsibly on behalf of the taxpayers – to let them go see what’s really going on.”

Pompeo had said that since the deal was put into place, things have only gotten worse and Iranian terror is spreading. He said that Iran has been more active in Middle Eastern territories and that moving forward, certain steps must be put into place to turn things around to keep civilians and U.S. military forces safe.

“Step one is to push back on Iranian terror and Iranian expansion all around the world. Step two is to fundamentally renegotiate the understanding between our two countries. We are happy to help the Iranians develop a peaceful nuclear program for energy in their country,” he said.

However, he specified that they “can’t enrich, can’t spread terror, and they can’t foment their expansionist efforts to spread the governorate of the Islamic Republic of Iran around the world.”

Pompeo finished by addressing whether the world is more or less safe since the Iran deal was enacted a year ago. He said: “You don’t have to take my word for it,” and that it is a “deeply held view all around the world that today the world is less safe as a result of the nuclear deal.”