The Trump administration has launched an offensive of speeches and online communications meant to foment unrest and help pressure Iran to end its nuclear program and its support of militant groups, U.S. officials familiar with the matter said.
More than half a dozen current and former officials said the campaign, supported by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton, is meant to work in concert with U.S. President Donald Trump’s push to economically throttle Iran by re-imposing tough sanctions. The drive has intensified since Trump withdrew on May 8 from a 2015 seven-nation deal to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
The current and former officials said the campaign paints Iranian leaders in a harsh light, at times using information that is exaggerated or contradicts other official pronouncements, including comments by previous administrations.
The White House declined comment on the campaign. The State Department also declined to comment on the campaign specifically, including on Pompeo’s role.
A senior Iranian official dismissed the campaign, saying the United States had sought in vain to undermine the government since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. He spoke on condition of anonymity.
“Their efforts will fail again,” the official said.
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A review of the State Department’s Farsi-language Twitter account and its ShareAmerica website – which describes itself as a platform to spark debate on democracy and other issues – shows a number of posts critical of Tehran over the last month.
Iran is the subject of four of the top five items on the website’s “Countering Violent Extremism” section. They include headlines such as “This Iranian airline helps spread violence and terror.”
In social media posts and speeches, Pompeo himself also appeals directly to Iranians, the Iranian diaspora and a global audience.
On June 21, Pompeo tweeted out graphics headlined: “Protests in Iran are growing,” “Iranian people deserve respect for their human rights,” and “Iran’s revolutionary guard gets rich while Iranian families struggle.” The tweets were translated into Farsi and posted on the ShareAmerica website.
On Sunday, Pompeo will give a speech titled “Supporting Iranian Voices” in California and meet Iranian Americans, many of whom fled the Islamic Revolution that toppled Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
“Let me be clear, we are not seeking regime change. We are seeking changes in the Iranian government’s behavior,” a State Department official said in response to questions from Reuters.
“We know we are driving Iran to make some hard choices. Either they can change their ways or find it increasingly difficult to engage in their malign activities,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity. “And we believe we are offering a very positive vision for what we could achieve and what the Iranian people could have.”