- REUTERS/Carlos Barria
The CIA just appointed a hardline “chain-smoking convert to Islam” as its new chief of Iran operations, possibly signaling that the agency could take an even harder stance against the regime in Tehran, according to The New York Times.
Michael D’Andrea, known internally by his nicknames “Dark Prince” or “Ayatollah Mike,” previously worked on the hunt for Osama bin Laden, and led the CIA’s controversial drone killing and enemy detainee programs.
D’Andrea was put into his current role by CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who has also been known to take a hardline against Iran. That mirrors the views of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who once listed off his three main priorities as “Iran, Iran, Iran.”
D’Andrea converted to Islam in order to marry his current wife, though the Times notes that he smokes cigarettes often and doesn’t appear to be overly-religious. His past work at the agency has given him plenty of experience, though even coworkers who support him say he’s not easy to work with, the Post reported.
Still, they say he’s a workaholic with a lot of operations under his belt and expert knowledge of terror groups.
“Irascible is the nicest way I would describe him,” a former high-ranking CIA official told the Post. “But his range of experience and relationships have made him about as close to indispensable as you could think.”
During the 2016 presidential campaign, President Donald Trump labeled Iran “the number one terror state.” He also vowed to change or break the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in which Tehran agreed to limit its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions, the Times reported.
The president, however, has not acted on that promise.