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Pompeo to face big tests early as top US diplomat

WASHINGTON, Mike Pompeo, a former Kansas congressman who graduated first in his class from the US military academy and received a degree from Harvard Law School, is expected to play a central role in the Trump administration’s foreign policy after his likely confirmation by the US Senate this week.

The current director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) will be tested early as the new top US envoy during upcoming negotiations with North Korea, having secretly met this month with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

A hawk who, like Trump, has been highly critical of the 2015 international nuclear agreement with Iran, Pompeo will likely have major influence on whether President Donald Trump pulls the US out of that agreement in mid-May, when the deal’s latest six-month review date arrives.

Trump nominated Pompeo last month to succeed Rex Tillerson as head of the US State Department. Trump reportedly never established a good working relationship with Tillerson, a former ExxonMobil executive, but by all accounts has good chemistry, as well as more agreement on major global issues, with Pompeo.

Pompeo, 54, was born in Orange, California.

After graduating from the US Military Academy at West Point, New York, in 1986, Pompeo served until 1991 in the US Army, reaching the rank of captain.

In 1994, he received his doctorate from Harvard, then worked as a lawyer in Washington, DC.

In 1998, he moved to Wichita, Kansas, after he and three of his West Point friends acquired four aircraft parts-making companies and named the new firm Thayer Aerospace.

In 2006 he sold his interest in the firm to Highland Capital Management, then became president of Sentry International, an oil-field equipment company.

A member of the conservative Tea Party movement with the Republican Party, Pompeo was elected from Kansas to the US Congress in 2010, then re-elected to the two-year terms in 2012, 2014 and 2016.

In 2013, Pompeo gave a speech on the House floor in which he said Muslim leaders who fail to denounce acts of terror committed in the name of Islam are “potentially complicit” in the attacks.

As a congressman, he also co-sponsored legislation to add the Muslim Brotherhood to the US list of designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations. He also opposes closing the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Pompeo actively opposed the Iran nuclear agreement, stating, “I look forward to rolling back this disastrous deal with the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.” Also while a congressman, Pompeo said the US “must stand with our ally Israel and put a stop to terrorism. Ongoing attacks by the Palestinians serve only to distance the prospect of peace.” In late 2016, at the time president-elect, Trump tapped Pompeo as his choice to lead the CIA, and Pompeo was confirmed to that post by the US Senate in January 2017. The next month, Pompeo traveled to Turkey and Saudi Arabia, where he discussed regional issues with top leaders.

Pompeo has also taken a tough line on Russia, saying during his CIA chief confirmation hearing that Moscow “has reasserted itself aggressively, invading and occupying Ukraine, threatening Europe and doing nearly nothing to aid in the destruction and defeat” of the so-called Islamic State.

Last September, Pompeo sought authority for the CIA to make covert drone strikes in Afghanistan without involvement from the Pentagon.

Source: Kuwait News Agency