The finale of Mike Pompeo’s reign in the State Department has been as controversial and clingy as the rest of his 32-month term, but it’s unclear what traces are left after he left.
The last days of Pompeo have been played in a blizzard of congratulatory tweets at a rate of two dozen a day as he seeks to write his own first draft of history.
The former Kansas congressman, with obvious ambitions for a presidential run in 2024, has accentuated his claims of success by frequent derogatory references to the previous administration, portrayed as unhappy appeasers.
Some of the tweets have been erroneously incorrect, such as blaming Barack Obama for a gun control treaty signed by Ronald Reagan.
Other claims are contradictory, as is his insistence that the United States has restored the deterrence against Iran along with his claim that Tehran is a greater threat than ever. On Tuesday, he called Iran “the new Afghanistan”
While Iran’s economy has been successfully toppled by sanctions, as Pompeo points out, its stockpile of low-enriched uranium is now more than 12 times larger than it was when Pompeo took office as US Secretary of State in 2018.
“If the real economic sanctions imposed on Tehran have increased or at least failed to stop the very activities that the policy was intended to reverse, it is a matter of having had an impact without giving a positive result,” said Naysan Rafati, senior analyst. in Iran at said International Crisis Group.
Similarly, Pompeo argues that Donald Trump’s summits with Kim Jong-un led to a standstill in nuclear warheads and long-range missile testing. But he does not mention that Kim has declared an end to this moratorium and is now set to have a significantly larger arsenal than when he started meeting Trump.
The portrait that Pompeo has painted of Trump’s America has been in dramatic contrast to recent events. Two days after Congress was subjected to an unprecedented violent attack by a mob egged on by Trump, Pompeo tweeted bluntly: “Being the largest country on earth is not just about our incredible economy and our strong military; it is about the values we project into the world. ”
He also boasted that his state department team “did more than anyone else to build alliances that secured American interests” days before he had to cancel his tail trip to Europe because his colleagues did not want to see him.
The Luxembourg foreign minister signaled that he would not be able to meet America’s top diplomat and described Trump’s behavior as “criminal”. Belgian Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmès, whom Pompeo should also have met on the trip, made it clear on Twitter that her government expected Joe Biden to restore US unity and stability.
“It is unprecedented for a US Secretary of State to be unwelcome at any time, especially at the end of their term of office, in our closest allies’ State Department,” Brett Bruen, director of Global Engagement at the Obama White House, said. “It just shows how far he has pushed himself.”
In its impending victory lap, Pompeo – known for being skinny – has limited his media interviews to admiring conservative talk show hosts and has not questioned his speeches.
At the headquarters of the state-funded Voice of America station (VOA) on Monday, he mocked his journalists for being insufficiently patriotic and even “degrading America.” He told them “to broadcast that this is the largest nation the world has ever known”.
When a VOA journalist, Patsy Widakuswara, tried to ask him questions after his address, he walked away and ignored her. Hours later, Widakuswara was demoted from his position covering the White House to other duties.
Michael Pack, the man installed by Trump and Pompeo at the helm of the US Global Media Agency, which oversees VOA and other federally funded television stations, seeks to anchor his position by making it harder for the incoming administration to fire him and turn the statutory independence of the Agency to his advantage. But it is unclear whether Pack will succeed, as he has alienated both Democrats and Republicans in Congress with his purges of journalistic and senior staff.
“I do not see the new administration having much trouble helping him find the way out,” Bruen said.
There are other ways in which Pompeo has tried to give a final, dramatic jerk to the wheel of U.S. foreign policy with the intent of making it difficult for the next government to change course.
Within the last ten days, Pompeo has designated Houthi forces in Yemen and Cuba as a terrorist group and a state sponsor of terrorism, respectively, although none of them pose a direct threat to the United States.
The Houthi designation, which aid organizations warn can cause widespread deaths in Yemen by complicating the delivery of humanitarian aid, was made without consulting legislators or their staff.
“You have to stop lying to Congress,” an official told a State Department official in a briefing reported by foreign policy and confirmed to the Guardian by a source familiar with the conversation.
“Like so many other similar briefings we’ve had from this administration, they’re sending these poor people out to defend these ridiculous policies, and they just can not,” said a senior Democratic congressman.
While in the Prime Minister’s Office, Pompeo has spent most of his energy trying to put nails in the coffin of the nuclear deal that the major world powers made with Iran in 2015, from which Trump withdrew in 2018.
This effort has so far been a failure. In response to waves of US sanctions, Iran has stopped complying with some of the agreed restrictions on its nuclear activities, but has signaled that it is ready to negotiate the conclusion of the agreement with the new administration.
The sanctions and terror designations are intended to impose political costs on the Biden team in an attempt to return to the pre-Trump status quo, based on the assumption that it will be unpopular to be seen as rewarding America’s opponents, but that is far from clear. whether it works.
“What he is doing is creating tough news days for the next administration, but it can be handled,” said the senior Democrat, predicting that the traps set by Pompeo can be cleared away without spending too much political capital. “So much of the damage that Trump and Pompeo have done has been through executive action, so it can be reversed through executive action.”