Iran’s attempts to assassinate former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are real and ongoing, his successor Antony Blinken told Congress on Tuesday.
Blinken testified before a Senate committee, confirming details released last month in a sensitive State Department report that described a security arrangement for the former secretary that included round-the-clock government protection.
“I’m not sure what to say in a candid environment, but broadly let me say that there is an ongoing threat against American officials, both current and historical,” Blinken said. “We make sure and we will make sure that we protect our current and former people when they are threatened.”
Pompeo, a former US Secretary of State and CIA director under President Donald Trump, was one of the architects of the Trump administration’s crackdown on Tehran, which reinstated sanctions following the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and the assassination of Qassem Soleimani supported, a top Iranian general.
All former foreign ministers automatically receive 180 days of protection from the State Department’s Office of Diplomatic Security after leaving office.
However, Blinken has repeatedly extended those protections for 60-day periods at a time due to “a serious and credible threat from a foreign power or agent of a foreign power as a result of duties performed by former Minister Pompeo while he was on the department,” according to the Sensitive State report the department to Congress last month.
The department spends over $2 million a month protecting Pompeo and one of his former top assistants, Brian Hook, and has spent over $13 million to date, according to the report.
Blinken was responding to a question from Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who asked the secretary if the Biden administration required Iran “not to assassinate a former secretary of state.”
“They know what they would need to do to address this issue, and it’s pretty simple,” Blinken said. “In the context of all engagements that we have directly or indirectly with Iranians, one of the strong messages we send to them is that they must stop targeting our people – period.”
The State Department did not respond to a request for additional comment. A Pompeo representative did not comment.
The Biden administration has been dealing with the threats against Pompeo and Hook since January.
“Make no mistake: The United States of America will protect and defend its citizens,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said at the time. “As Americans, we have our disagreements on politics. We have our disagreements on Iran policy. But we are united in our determination against threats and provocations. We are united in defense of our people.”
This story was originally published Apr 26, 2022 6:12 p.m.