WASHINGTON – The Trump administration’s new secretary of state wasted no time on Thursday, traveling from his swearing-in ceremony at the US Supreme Court directly to a State Department plane headed to Europe and the Middle East.
Mike Pompeo’s inaugural trip as top diplomat will take him to Brussels, Riyadh, Jerusalem and Amman, “where [after attending NATO’s foreign ministerial summit] he will meet with Saudi, Israeli and Jordanian leaders to discuss critical regional and bilateral issues,” a State Department spokesman said.
Pompeo has “no plans at this time” to meet with Palestinian leadership while in the region, a Trump administration official told The Jerusalem Post.
Pompeo is expected to engage his European and Mideast counterparts in a critical round of diplomacy over the Iran nuclear deal, which US President Donald Trump has threatened to rip apart in two short weeks absent vows from Britain, France and Germany to “fix” the accord.
France has agreed to negotiate toward a more “comprehensive” agreement on Iran addressing its long-term nuclear work, ballistic missile program and regional military activity, but in any case plans to adhere to the 2015 nuclear accord, which Paris says accomplishes the deal’s stated goal of capping Tehran’s nuclear infrastructure for a short period.
Dore Gold, a former director-general of the Foreign Ministry who now heads the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, praised the selection in March, saying that Pompeo is “a man with a deep understanding of the dangers of the Middle East.” With this understanding of the threats posed by Iran and others in the region, Gold said, Pompeo “would be fitting to become the architect of a new American role in the region.”
Pompeo, 54, graduated first in his class from West Point, and then went on to serve as an officer in the Gulf War. Following his army duty, he went to Harvard Law School and was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. He also built a company providing components for military and civilian aircraft before running for a Kansas congressional seat in 2010 as a Tea Party candidate.
As a congressman and member of the House Intelligence Committee, Pompeo was a harsh critic of the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal. After being appointed to head the CIA last year, he tweeted that he looked forward to “rolling back this disastrous deal with the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.”
As a congressman in 2014, he said it was possible to militarily stop Iran’s nuclear march. “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.”
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.