CIA CHIEF: Rus­sia likes to ‘stick it to Amer­ica.’

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - DEB RIECHMANN

ASPEN, Colo. — CIA Di­rec­tor Mike Pom­peo said Thurs­day that Rus­sia has no plans to leave Syria and will con­tinue to try to med­dle in U.S. af­fairs to “stick it to Amer­ica.”

He re­it­er­ated his be­lief that Rus­sia in­ter­fered in the U.S. pres­i­den­tial elec­tion and de­scribed the U.S.-Rus­sia re­la­tion­ship as “com­pli­cated.”

“I think they find any­place that they can make our lives more dif­fi­cult, I think they find that’s some­thing that’s use­ful,” he said.

Pom­peo also said he has seen only min­i­mal ev­i­dence that Rus­sia has pur­sued a se­ri­ous strat­egy against Is­lamic State mil­i­tants in Syria. He said any sug­ges­tion that Rus­sia has been a U.S. ally in Syria is not borne out by what’s hap­pen­ing on the ground.

But Pom­peo said he was hope­ful there will be places in the world where the U.S. and Rus­sia can co­op­er­ate on coun­tert­er­ror­ism.

He said it’s dif­fi­cult to imag­ine a sta­ble Syria with Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad still in power. He called As­sad a “pup­pet of the Ira­ni­ans,” who now have a “sig­nif­i­cant foothold in Syria.”

Rus­sia will stay in Syria, he said, be­cause it loves its naval port in Tar­tus, off the Mediter­ranean Sea.

The CIA di­rec­tor spoke in a wide-rang­ing con­ver­sa­tion at the Aspen Se­cu­rity Fo­rum, an an­nual gath­er­ing of in­tel­li­gence and na­tional se­cu­rity of­fi­cials and ex­perts in Aspen, Colo.

He said the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is working on ways to push back against Iran, which wants to be a “king­pin” in the Mid­dle East.

Pom­peo con­tin­ued his crit­i­cism of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s nu­clear deal with Iran. The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion re­cently con­firmed that Iran had met its obli­ga­tions un­der the deal but warned that it would face con­se­quences for breach­ing “the spirit” of the ac­cord — re­fer­ring to Iran’s con­tin­ued pur­suit of a bal­lis­tic mis­sile pro­gram.

When it comes to Ira­nian com­pli­ance with the agree­ment, Iran is a “bad ten­ant,” Pom­peo said. He likened their com­pli­ance with a renter who doesn’t pay rent un­til the land­lord de­mands it and then sends a bad check. He noted that Pres­i­dent Donald Trump has been working with Gulf states and Is­rael to find a com­mon way to push back against Ira­nian ag­gres­sion in the re­gion.

What won’t work is ap­peas­ing Tehran or forc­ing the gov­ern­ment into com­pli­ance, he said.

“When we have our strat­egy in place, I’m con­fi­dent you will see a fun­da­men­tal shift in pol­icy” to­ward Iran, Pom­peo said.

Pom­peo also ad­dressed the threat from North Korea and said Trump asks ques­tions about Py­ongyang nearly every time he sees him.

“It is at the front of his mind,” Pom­peo said.

It’s one thing for North Korea to have a mis­sile that can harm the United States and an­other for it to have an arse­nal of such weapons, he said, adding that steps can be taken to nar­row its ca­pac­ity to de­velop a stock­pile.

While some peo­ple be­lieve North Korea’s leader is ir­ra­tional, Pom­peo said he is con­vinced that Kim Jong Un un­der­stands his core mis­sion — “which is to keep him­self in power.”

Pom­peo said he’s “hope­ful that we will find a way to sep­a­rate that regime” from its nu­clear ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

“The North Korea peo­ple — I’m sure are lovely peo­ple — and would love to see him go as well. You know they don’t live a very good life there,” Pom­peo said.

On an­other is­sue, Pom­peo said he be­lieves that Wik­iLeaks will “take down Amer­ica any way it can.” He noted that the anti-se­crecy group’s web­site urges stu­dents to be­come CIA in­terns so they can be­come whis­tle-blow­ers.

Pom­peo ac­knowl­edged that Donald Trump said dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign that he loved Wik­iLeaks.

“I don’t love Wik­iLeaks,” Pom­peo said.

Be­sides Ed­ward Snow­den, a for­mer Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency con­trac­tor who leaked doc­u­ments re­veal­ing ex­ten­sive U.S. gov­ern­ment sur­veil­lance, Wik­iLeaks has re­leased nearly 8,000 doc­u­ments that it says re­veal se­crets about the CIA’s cy­beres­pi­onage tools for break­ing into com­put­ers. Wik­iLeaks pre­vi­ously pub­lished 250,000 State Depart­ment ca­bles and re­leased hun­dreds of thou­sands of the U.S. mil­i­tary’s logs from Iraq and Afghanistan.

AP/JACQUELYN MARTIN

“I think they find any­place that they can make our lives more dif­fi­cult, I think they find that’s some­thing that’s use­ful,” CIA Di­rec­tor Mike Pom­peo, shown in a May file photo, said on Thurs­day about Rus­sia.

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