CIA director Mike Pompeo said on Saturday he sent a letter to a top Iranian military official warning him that the U.S. would hold Tehran accountable for any attacks it conducted on U.S. interests in Iraq, The Guardian reports.
Pompeo, who has voiced staunch opposition to Iran and was this week reported to be under consideration to become secretary of state, said he sent the letter to Gen Qassem Soleimani, a leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and elite Quds Force, but the general didn’t read it.
“I sent a note. I sent it because he had indicated that forces under his control might in fact threaten US interests in Iraq. He refused to open the letter – didn’t break my heart to be honest with you. What we were communicating to him in that letter was that we will hold him and Iran accountable … and we wanted to make sure that he and the leadership of Iran understood that in a way that was crystal clear,” Pompeo said at a defense forum at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute in Simi Valley, California.
Pompeo said Iran was working to strengthen its influence throughout the Middle East. As a Republican congressman from Kansas, he was highly critical of the Iran nuclear deal which the US and other nations negotiated with Tehran to lift sanctions in exchange for reductions in its nuclear program. Pompeo said Iran is currently in compliance with that agreement.
In Iran, Mohammad Mohammadi Golpaygani, chief of staff for the country’s supreme leader, said Soleimani ignored the letter.
“Recently, when … the CIA chief through one of his contacts in the region sent a letter to Gen Soleimani, he responded by saying, ‘I did not either receive or read the letter. I have nothing to tell these people’,” Golpaygani said.
Gulpaigani said that the American official sent the letter to Soleimani through an intermediary. He did not mention the time of the alleged incident, but said it happened “recently,” Fars News Agency, close to the IRGC reported.
“The head of the CIA through one of its intermediaries in the region sent a letter to General Soleimani, but he [Soleimani] responded: I will not accept your letter, nor will I read it. I have nothing to do with these people,’” Gulpaigani quoted the Iranian commander as saying.
In a wide-ranging panel discussion, Pompeo would not answer questions about speculation that he could replace Rex Tillerson at the state department. Pompeo, an outspoken conservative, has a close relationship with Donald Trump and personally delivers an intelligence briefing to the president nearly every day.
Pompeo declined to say if he has had conversations with Trump about the possibility of replacing Tillerson, saying only that he was very focused on his job as CIA director.