The final of Mike Pompeo’s tenure in the State Department is as controversial and noisy as the rest of his 32-month term, but it is unclear what traces will remain after he leaves.
Pompeo’s last days were played out in a blizzard of self-congratulatory tweets, amounting to two dozen a day, as he tried to write his own draft of the story.
The former Kansas congressman, with clear ambitions to run for president in 2024, has highlighted his claims of success through frequent disparaging references to the previous administration, presented as unfortunate pacifiers.
Some of the tweets are in fact false, such as accusing Barack Obama of a gun control agreement signed by Ronald Reagan.
Other allegations are contradictory, with his insistence that the United States restore deterrence against Iran, along with his claim that Tehran is a greater threat than ever. On Tuesday, he called Iran the “new Afghanistan”, claiming – without evidence – that it had become a center of al Qaeda operations.
While Iran’s economy has been successfully sanctioned, as Pompeo points out, low-enriched uranium reserves are now more than 12 times larger than when Pompeo took over as US secretary of state in 2018.
“If the real economic coercion imposed by the United States against Tehran increases, or at least fails to stop the very activities that politics had to reverse, it is a matter of making an impact without achieving a favorable outcome,” said Naisan Rafati, a senior Iranian analyst in the International Crisis Group, he said.
Similarly, Pompeo argues that Donald Trump’s summits with Kim Jong Un have led to a lull in the nuclear warhead and long-range missile testing. But he does not mention that Kim has announced an end to this moratorium and is now set to have a significantly larger arsenal than when he began meeting with Trump.
The portrait that Pompeo paints of Trump’s America is in dramatic contrast to recent events. Two days after Congress was subjected to an unprecedented violent attack by a mob fired by Trump, Pompeo wrote lightly on Twitter: “Being the greatest country on earth is not just about our incredible economy and strong army; it is about the values we project in the world. “
He also boasted about the State Department team “doing more than anyone else to build alliances that serve American interests” days before he had to cancel his swan song 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 with the American top diplomat and described Trump’s behavior as “criminal”. Belgian Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmes, whom Pompeo was also scheduled to meet during the trip, said on Twitter that her government was counting on Joe Biden to restore US unity and stability.
“It’s unprecedented for the US Secretary of State to be unwelcome at all times, especially at the end of their term, in the foreign ministries of our closest allies,” said Brett Bruen, who was director of global engagement at the Obama White House. “It just shows how far he’s radiated himself.”
In his potential victory round, Pompeo – known for his thin skin – limited his media interviews to admire conservative talk show hosts and did not ask questions after his speeches.
At the headquarters of the state-funded Voice of America (VOA) station on Monday, he rebuked its journalists for not being patriotic enough, even for a “humiliating America.” He told them “to broadcast that this is the greatest nation the world has ever known.”
When VOA journalist Patsy Vidakushwara tried to ask him questions after his address, he walked away, ignoring her. Hours later, Widakushwara was demoted from his White House position to other duties.
Michael Pack, the man set up by Trump and Pompeo to head the US Global Media Agency, which controls the VOA and other federally funded broadcasters, is trying to strengthen its position by making it difficult for the incoming administration to fire him, turning the agency into legal independence. in his favor. It is not clear, however, that Pack will succeed after alienating both Democrats and Republicans in Congress with his purges of journalists and management.
“I don’t see the new administration having a hard time helping him find a way out,” Bruen said.
There are other ways in which Pompeo is trying to give a final, dramatic turn to the wheel of American foreign policy, with the intention of making it difficult for the next administration to change course.
In his last 10 days, Pompeo has identified Houthi forces in Yemen and Cuba as a terrorist group and a state sponsor of terrorism, respectively, although neither poses a direct threat to the United States.
The definition of Hutus, which aid agencies warn could cause widespread deaths in Yemen by complicating the delivery of humanitarian aid, was made without consulting lawmakers or their staff.
“You have to stop lying to Congress,” a State Department official said during a briefing reported by Foreign Policy and confirmed to the Guardian by a source familiar with the conversation.
“Like many other similar briefings we’ve held with this administration, they’re sending these poor people to defend these ridiculous policies, and they just can’t,” said a senior congressman from the Democratic Party.
While at the State Department, Pompeo spent the most energy trying to drive nails into the coffin of Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal, which Trump withdrew in 2018.
So far, these efforts have been unsuccessful. In response to waves of US sanctions, Iran has stopped adhering to some of the agreed restrictions on its nuclear activities, but has signaled it is ready to negotiate a new agreement with the new administration.
Sanctions and terrorist definitions are intended to impose political costs on Biden’s team in trying to return to the pre-Trump status quo based on the assumption that it would be unpopular to see to reward America’s opponents, but it is far from clear whether it will work.
“What he’s doing is creating difficult news days for the next administration, but it’s manageable,” said a senior Democratic official, predicting that the traps Pompeo sets could be removed without spending too much political money. capital. “So much of the damage that Trump and Pompeo have done is from enforcement action, so it can be reversed through enforcement action.”