U. S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Sunday, July 22, 2018, in Simi Valley, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Pompeo calls Iran religious leaders 'hypocritical holy men'

July 22, 2018 - 10:20 pm
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SIMI VALLEY, Calif. (AP) — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday called the religious leaders of Iran "hypocritical holy men" who amassed vast sums of wealth while allowing their people to suffer, part of a highly critical broadside issued as the republic approached the 40th anniversary of its Islamic revolution and the U.S. prepared to reimpose economic sanctions.

"Sometimes it seems the world has become desensitized to the regime's authoritarianism at home and its campaigns of violence abroad, but the proud Iranian people are not staying silent about their government's many abuses," Pompeo said in prepared remarks for a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum.

"And the United States under President Trump will not stay silent either. In light of these protests and 40 years of regime tyranny, I have a message for the people of Iran: The United States hears you. The United States supports you. The United States is with you," he said.

Pompeo castigated Iran's political, judicial and military leaders, too, accusing several by name of participating in widespread corruption. He also said the government has "heartlessly repressed its own people's human rights, dignity and fundamental freedoms."

America's top diplomat was particularly barbed in his remarks about "the Ayatollahs," saying they "are in on the act, too." He said Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi has generated more than $100 million for himself in the illicit trade of sugar; that Ayatollah Mohammad Emami Kashani is worth millions after the government transferred several lucrative mines to his foundation; and that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has an off-the-books hedge fund, Setad, worth $95 billion.

"The level of corruption and wealth among regime leaders shows that Iran is run by something that resembles the mafia more than a government," he said.

Pompeo's remarks were aimed in part at Iranian-Americans and Iranians living in the U.S. He assured them that the Trump administration shared their dreams for the people of Iran. He also expressed support for those Iranians who have protested their government's actions and called its response "brutal."

"The specific grievances differ. But all those voicing dissatisfaction share one thing: they have been ill-treated by a Revolutionary regime. Iranians want to be governed with dignity, accountability and respect," he said.

Pompeo said the U.S. is undertaking a diplomatic and financial pressure campaign to cut off funds, focusing on reimposing sanctions on its banking and energy sectors. President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal in May and the first sanctions to be reimposed were expected to hit on Aug 4.

"We are asking every nation, every nation who is sick and tired of the Islamic Republic's destructive behavior to join our pressure campaign. This especially goes for our allies in the Middle East and Europe, people who have themselves been terrorized by the violent regime's activity for decades," he said.

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