CIA Chief Mike Pompeo: U.S. Spies Can Make it Harder to Do Business with Iran

The U.S. intelligence community and Treasury Department can make it harder for Iran to meddle in regional affairs by exposing Iranian businesses that have ties to the nation’s elite security force, CIA Director Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster said on Thursday at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ National Security Summit, CNBC reports.

Their comments suggest the investment climate in Iran could become more challenging just as foreign firms seek to build or restore ties in the country following the lifting of sanctions last year.

The remarks also come as the administration overhauls its policy toward the U.S. adversary with President Donald Trump decertifying the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, and beginning campaign to toughen the terms of the agreement and rein in Iranian activities not addressed by the accord.

Those “transgressions” include Tehran’s support for the U.S.-designated terror group Hezbollah, its threats to Israel and Lebanon and its support for Shiite Muslim militias in neighboring Iraq, according to Pompeo.

“It has been far too inexpensive for the Iranians to conduct this adventurism. We should raise the cost of that,” Pompeo said.

He noted that the intelligence community is struggling to determine which Iranian companies are controlled by or connected to the IRGC , a hardline military faction loyal to Iran’s supreme leader that is deeply embedded in the country’s economy.

The Trump administration slapped the Revolutionary Guards with new sanctions on Friday to make it harder for them to fund their operations.

The United States is seeking to convince its European allies to put more pressure on Iran at a time when Europe’s companies have begun to re-enter the Iranian market. Those include energy companies seeking to develop Iran’s vast oil and gas fields.

McMaster said the U.S. needs to expose the IRGC’ network, including financial institutions that allow them to work within legitimate institutions to further their agenda.

“The message to the international business community is ‘don’t do business with the IRGC. Don’t enrich the IRGC. Don’t enable their murderous campaign. Don’t enable their threat to our friends in the region, especially Israel, but also Saudi Arabia and others’,” McMaster said, referring to the Guards.

Pompeo said there is “enormous consensus” among U.S. allies that they should tackle Iran’s destabilizing activities.

“Foreign partners are interested in building intelligence on Iran so they can determine which levers they can pull to curb its behavior,” he said.

Pompeo said that the CIA will soon publish documents revealing Iran’s work with al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. He described the connection between Iran and al-Qaeda as an “open secret”.

“It’s an open secret and not classified information that there have been relationships, there are connections. There have been times the Iranians have worked alongside al-Qaeda,” Pompeo said during an event held by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies on Thursday in Washington DC.

Pompeo added that they have cut deals so as not to come after each other. He said that the intelligence community is still monitoring those ties, especially given the complexity of the situation in Syria. The director also discussed Iran’s interference in regional state affairs, sponsoring terrorism and causing unrest. He also spoke about Iran’s ballistic missiles program and their nuclear efforts.