While the Trump administration has been focused on changing American foreign policy, President Trump has primarily focused on the influence of Iran, both regionally and globally. During his first visit to the Middle East, the President encouraged the Arab and Muslim leaders present to stand together in response to Iran.
On the intelligence side of the spectrum, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has named Michael D’Andrea as the official running the CIA’s Iran operations. This appointment is the first major sign that the Trump administration is invoking the hard line the president has maintained since his campaign. This administrative move is one of a number of moves inside the spy agency that signal a more muscular approach to covert operations under the leadership of Mike Pompeo, the conservative Republican and former congressman, according to officials.
Iran is a hard target for the CIA, and the agency has extremely limited access to the country, because there is no American embassy is open to provide diplomatic cover, and Iran’s intelligence services have spent nearly four decades trying to counter American espionage and covert operations.
Mr. D’Andrea, a chain smoking convert to Islam, is considered one of the key officials responsible for weakening Al Qaeda.
“He can run a very aggressive program, but very smartly,” said Robert Eatinger, a former C.I.A. lawyer who was deeply involved in the agency’s drone program. While the C.I.A. declined to comment on Mr. D’Andrea’s role, noting that it does not discuss the identities or work of clandestine officials.
Trump has called Iran “the number one terror state” and pledged throughout his campaign to dismantle or revise the landmark deal between Iran and six world powers in which Tehran agreed to limit its nuclear program in exchange for relief from specific sanctions. While he hasn’t followed through on that yet, he has invoked his hard line on Iran in other ways.
Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the council’s senior director for intelligence, has told other administration officials that he wants to use American spies to help oust the Iranian government, according to multiple defense and intelligence officials. This appointment is clearly a sign that the C.I.A. is planning to take a more aggressive line toward Iran.