He’s only been on the job 13 days, but there aren’t a lot of people making more history than Mike Pompeo. In just two weeks, the new secretary of state has made some blockbuster headlines — and even more admirers. Today, he’s on an Air Force jet with three of them: American hostages released yesterday from North Korea.
“We have been asking for the release of these detainees for… 17 months,” Pompeo told reporters, who were as surprised as the rest of the world to hear that he was on his way to meet with Kim Jong Un. Like his April visit, this one was kept under wraps. While he was in the air, President Trump was on air, making the announcement that he was withdrawing America from the Iran nuclear agreement. Outlets like the New York Times wondered why Pompeo wasn’t there for the press conference. Now they know — he was bringing our prisoners home.
For the Trump administration, it was a busy day — shredding one deal and inching closer to another. For the president and Pompeo, the last 24 hours were significant ones in cementing America’s resolve, not only in holding Iran accountable but in bringing North Korea to the table. As far as the White House is concerned, Kim’s gesture of goodwill — releasing three innocent Americans — is another sign that their tough approach is working. “I am pleased to inform you that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is… on his way back from North Korea with the 3 wonderful gentlemen that everyone is looking so forward to meeting,” the president celebrated. “They seem to be in good health. Also, good meeting with Kim Jong Un. Date & Place set.”
For the prisoners, who were grabbed and detained for supposed crimes against the North Korean government, the sight of Mike Pompeo must have been emotional. U.S. doctors gave all three men the green light to travel but hinted that their captivity had taken a toll. Kim Dong Chul, who was arrested in 2015, was accused of espionage and sentenced to a hard labor camp. The image of him wiping his eyes at his sentencing is still heartbreaking. Tony Kim and Kim Hak-song were snatched by North Korean officials two weeks apart. Both of them were charged with “hostile acts” while working at a university that’s run by a Korean Christian. After years of wondering whether they would ever see him again, the family of Tony Kim rejoiced in the news that he was finally coming home. “We also want to thank the President for engaging directly with North Korea. Mostly, we thank God for Tony’s safe return,” they said in a statement.
While the plans for a Trump-Kim meeting move forward, the Iranian backdrop is a meaningful one. “The message to North Korea,” national security advisor John Bolton said, “is [that] the president wants a real deal.” In both cases, President Trump has made it clear that he won’t let up until the two nations — who share information and a nuclear physicist — agree to “full denuclearization.” The countries’ close ties make Tuesday’s announcements a warning shot to both.
In the meantime, security experts continue to cheer the administration’s decision to pull the plug on a pact that did more to encourage Iran’s nuclear program than deter it. Thanks to Israeli intelligence, the White House had tens of thousands of pages of proof that President Hassan Rouhani has been lying about the country’s activities for years. “At the heart of the Iran deal was a giant fiction that a murderous regime desired only a peaceful nuclear energy program,” the president told the press. “Today, we have definitive proof that this Iranian promise was a lie.”
Over at NRO, Andrew McCarthy says that Americans everywhere should be thrilled that this White House is canceling the blank check Obama gave to a nation of terrorist-backers. “President Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal is the greatest boost for American and global security in decades,” he wrote jubilantly.
Obama said the mullahs would use the windfall to rebuild their country (while Kerry grudgingly confessed that a slice would still be diverted to the jihad). Instead, billions of dollars poured into Iran by Obama’s deal promptly poured out to Syria, where it funded both sides of the war. Cash flowed to the Taliban, where it funded the war on the American-backed government. It flowed to Hamas and Hezbollah for the war on Israel. It flowed to Yemen, funding a proxy war against Saudi Arabia…
The [deal] made Iran better at war than it has ever been — and that’s saying something.
President Trump isn’t isolating the U.S., he points out. He’s proving that America “is the indispensable nation.” Other countries will be put to a choice: “You can have access to the U.S. economy or you can have commerce with Iran — not both. Our European allies know this is not a real choice: They can’t isolate us — they need us, our markets, and the umbrella of our protection. They’re angry because they’d like to pocket the benefits they get from us while cutting profitable deals with our enemies. That’s not ‘isolating us;’ that’s a tantrum. They will get over it…”
When they do, America will be ready to move forward — not from a position of weakness, like the last eight years, but of strength.