U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says "regime change" is not the goal of President Donald Trump’s policy toward Iran, falling in line with recent comments by other members of the U.S. administration.
"It’s not about changing the regime," Pompeo told VOA in an interview broadcast on May 25.
"It’s about changing the behavior of the leadership in Iran to comport with what the Iranian people really want them to do," he added.
Pompeo's comments come just over two weeks after Trump pulled the United States out of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal that Iran signed with six world powers and which provided Tehran with sanctions relief in return for significant curbs on its nuclear program.
Trump has long complained about the terms of the deal, although the five other signatories -- Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China -- had urged Washington to remain within the agreement.
The controversy over "regime change" surfaced after John Bolton, considered, like Trump, to be a hard-liner on Iran, was named the president's national security adviser in March to replace H.R. McMaster.
Before taking the position, Bolton told Fox News in January that the United States should increase economic pressure on Tehran and provide support to government opponents and that "our goal should be regime change in Iran."
However, after taking office, he said regime change was not part of the administration’s policy, playing down his previous remarks.
"I’ve written and said a lot of things over the years when I was a complete free agent," Bolton told CNN.
Pompeo told VOA that, while he supports many Iranian opposition groups in the United States and Europe, he does not back calls for regime change in Tehran.
"We don’t want them advocating for regime change, either," he said.
"We want them working on behalf of the Iranian people, ordinary Iranian citizens who want nothing more than to live their lives, to be able to take their hijab off, to be able to go to work and raise their families and worship in the way they want to worship."
Pompeo said he made Iran the subject of his first foreign-policy speech because of the importance Trump places on the efforts to prevent Tehran from getting nuclear weapons and to halt its interference in the affairs of its Middle Eastern neighbors.