Trump Speech on Iran: US Officials Defend Policy

U.S. officials have defended President Trump’s new Iran policy since his October 13 speech, in which he decertified Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal. The following are excerpted remarks.


Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

QUESTION: You said recently that Iran is in technical compliance with the deal, but President Trump said on Friday that the Iranian regime has, quote, “committed multiple violations of the agreement.” So which is it? Is Iran in technical compliance or has it committed multiple violations?

SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, the answer is really both, Jake. Under the nuclear agreement, the JCPOA that is a multilateral party agreement, there have been a number of technical violations – carrying too much inventory of heavy water, having materials that are used to construct high-speed centrifuges. But under the agreement – and this is part of the weaknesses and the flaws – Iran has a significant period of time to remedy those violations. And so they have remedied the violations, which then brings them back into technical compliance. I think, though, that demonstrated pattern of always walking right up against the edges of the agreement are what give us some concern as to how far Iran might be willing to go to test the limits from its side of the agreement. Our response to that has been to work with the other parties and demand that we be much more demanding of the enforcement of the agreement – much more demanding inspections, much more demanding disclosures – and that is what we are shifting since we have taken our seat at the table of the Joint Commission.

QUESTION: Okay. President Trump decertified the deal on Friday, but he did not withdraw from the deal as he could have. Did the President want to withdraw unilaterally before people in the administration such as yourself, Secretary Mattis and others, successfully persuaded him to pursue what might be described as a middle course?

SECRETARY TILLERSON: No, what the President wants is a more comprehensive strategy to deal with Iran in its totality. I think for too long – and certainly the last administration really defined the Iranian relationship around this nuclear agreement. This nuclear agreement is flawed. It has a number of weaknesses in it. But – and so the President said throughout his campaign, even, he said I’ll either reform the agreement, I’ll renegotiate the agreement. Basically, he’s saying I’ll either fix these flaws or we’ll have to have a different agreement entirely. And I think his decision around the new policy is consistent with that.

So now we want to deal with the nuclear agreement’s weaknesses, but we really need to deal with a much broader array of threats that Iran poses to the region, our friends and allies, and therefore threats that they pose to our own national security. The policy itself really has three components, and I think it’s important that people understand this, and the President described these in his speech. There is the nuclear agreement, which we are going to undertake an effort to see if we cannot address the many flaws in the agreement, working with partners. It may be a secondary agreement; maybe it’s not within the existing agreement, but we may undertake a secondary agreement. But then there’s a much broader array of threats from Iran: its ballistic missile programs, its support of terrorist organizations in the region, Lebanese Hizballah, Hamas. These are all very threatening organizations. And its destabilizing activities in Yemen to support the rebels, the Houthis, to support the rebels in Syria – the Assad regime. Everywhere you look in the region, Iran’s activities destabilize the region and threaten others.

But the third element of this policy, and the President touched on it in his address, is this is not about the Iranian people. This is about the regime in Iran, this revolutionary regime that ever since it came to power has been intent on killing and harming Americans and harming others in the region. We do not hold the Iranian people accountable for that. So our effort is to support the moderate voices in Iran, support their cries for democracy and freedom, in the hope that one day the Iranian people will retake control of the Government of Iran and restore it to its rich history of the past, reintegrate, and become a fruitful member in trade, commerce in the region.

So that is really the end game here, but that’s a very long game, and we realize that.

QUESTION: Before the Senate not long ago, your counterpart at the Pentagon, Secretary Mattis, was asked if he thought staying in the agreement was in the best interests of the United States. Not a question about whether or not he wanted to improve upon the deal or add a secondary deal, as you just discussed, but whether or not the U.S. should stay in it or leave. And he said staying in it was his course. It sounds like you agree with that as well, that you would not want Congress to immediately impose sanctions that would end this deal.

SECRETARY TILLERSON: No, I do agree with that, and I think the President does as well. That’s why he took the decision he took that, look, let’s see if we cannot address the flaws in the agreement by staying within the agreement, working with the other signatories, working with our European friends and allies within the agreement. But that – as I said, that may come in a secondary agreement as well. So we want to take the agreement as it exists today, as I said, fully enforce that agreement, be very demanding of Iran’s compliance under the agreement, and then begin the process of addressing these flaws that we see around not – the absence of addressing ballistic missiles, for instance. The concerns we have around the sunset provisions, this phase-out of the agreement. We know what that looks like. We’ve seen this in the past, in the ‘90s with North Korea, agreements that ultimately phase out. What happened has put us on the road where we are today with North Korea. We don’t want to find ourselves in that same position with Iran.

QUESTION: Speaking of North Korea, you talk about working with European allies. As you know, our European allies are very concerned about the step that President Trump took on Friday. I want to show you what the German foreign minister had to say. Quote, “My big concern is that what is happening in Iran or with Iran from the U.S. perspective will not remain an Iranian issue but many others in the world will consider whether they themselves should acquire nuclear weapons too given that such agreements are being destroyed.” And I guess the question there is, as voiced by the German foreign minister: Why should North Korea believe anything that the United States has to say if the President has shown his willingness to walk away from agreements about nuclear weapons?

SECRETARY TILLERSON: I think what North Korea should take away from this decision is that the United States will expect a very demanding agreement with North Korea, one that is very binding and achieves the objectives not just of the United States but the policy objectives of China and other neighbors in the region: a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. We intend to be very demanding in that agreement. And if we achieve that, then there’ll be nothing to walk away from because the objective will be achieved.

The issue with the Iran agreement is it does not achieve the objective. It simply postpones the achievement of that objective, and we feel that that is one of the weaknesses under the agreement. So we’re going to stay in, we’re going to work with our European partners and allies to see if we can’t address these concerns, which are concerns of all of us.

—Oct. 15, 2017, in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper


QUESTION: First to the interview our Elizabeth Palmer did with Foreign Minister Zarif. He said that you didn’t give the Iranians a heads-up. Why not?

SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, we had had an exchange on the margins of the UN General Assembly meeting, and so I think he had a pretty good sense of where this decision the President would take would likely go. But we did speak with all the other signatories to the Joint Commission Plan of Action, the Iran nuclear agreement, to ensure that they understood exactly the decision the President was taking.

QUESTION: But if you’re trying to get Iran to change and agree to some new terms, or maybe you’re not, why not talk to him? Why not – you know how these negotiations work; you want to talk to the other side.

SECRETARY TILLERSON: I think the time will come when we do need to engage with Iran. We want to ensure, though, that our friends and allies and the other parties to the nuclear agreement have great clarity around the President’s policy, which is far beyond just the nuclear agreement, John. This Iran policy really has three important elements to it, and the President outlined all of those in his speech. And I think one of the unfortunate aspects of our relations with Iran over the last several years has been it has been defined almost entirely by this nuclear agreement to the exclusion of so many other issues that we need to deal with with Iran. So part of this conversation is to deal with the nuclear arrangement, but also deal with these broader issues that concern us.

QUESTION: What the European allies, the other signatories to this say is, yes, they agree with you with all those other issues, but they say you do them in two different parts. The way we used to do it with the Soviets: You negotiate on the nuclear, you lock in gains there, and then you work on these other things. The Senate passed sanctions against Iran over the summer. So you work that other channel, but you don’t jeopardize what you’ve got locked in on this agreement. Why are they wrong?

SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, they’re not wrong. And in fact, that’s exactly what the President’s decision, I think, reflects, is that the President has said look, we’re going to decertify under the Iranian Review Act – this is a domestic law; it is not a decertification under the nuclear agreement that involves the multilateral parties. But he is, I think, signaling to Iran and to our other partners there are serious flaws in this agreement. Everyone acknowledges there are serious flaws. And so he would like to get the Congress to give us their sense of this issue so we have a strong voice, a strong unified voice once and for all representing the American position, which then allows us to engage with friends and allies and other signatories around how do we address these gaps and these flaws in this nuclear agreement?

QUESTION: If Congress doesn’t act, if they don’t get the 60 votes, what happens? Does the President – does that mean the agreement’s dead? Is that what the President was saying?

SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, there’s three options now that the Congress has. The Congress can do nothing, in which case everything maintains its status quo and it’ll be up to the President then to decide how does he want to motivate addressing the gaps in this issue. And as we’ve discussed this under the JCPOA, under the nuclear agreement, it may be that we’re not able to reopen that agreement with everyone being willing to play, but it doesn’t mean we cannot undertake negotiations to address the areas of concern, which are their ballistic missile program, the sunset provisions, expiry provisions, and perhaps lay a second agreement down alongside of this agreement.

QUESTION: So you’d keep the original – I guess what I’m trying to fix on here is it sounded like at the end of his remarks, the President said a hammer is going to come down if there’s no action from Congress, and this first agreement is done, the U.S. is out. Is that a misunderstanding or is that the message?

SECRETARY TILLERSON: No, I think the President is being very clear not just to the Congress, but he’s being very clear to Iran and to the other signatories of the agreement as well that if we cannot see movement, if we don’t see some encouragement that we’re going to begin to address these, then there’s no reason to stay in and he has every intention of walking out.

—Oct. 15, 2017, in an interview with CBS News’ John Dickerson


U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley

Our goal in discussing the Middle East is to work on peace, security, and human rights for the region. We can’t talk about stability in the Middle East without talking about Iran. That’s because nearly every threat to peace and security in the Middle East is connected to Iran’s outlaw behavior.

For the international community’s engagement with Iran, this is a time of clarity and opportunity. The United States has now embarked on a course that attempts to address all aspects of Iran’s destructive conduct, not just one aspect. It’s critical that the international community do the same.

Every six months, the Secretary-General delivers a report on the implementation of Security Council Resolution 2231, which the Council unanimously passed. The report has always noted the IAEA’s findings that Iran is implementing the nuclear deal. But then it goes on: it lists the regime’s multiple, flagrant violations on the resolution’s non-nuclear provisions. Every six months, the Security Council is presented with this laundry list of bad news, but somehow manages to only hear the good news. Some countries, to their credit, have called out Iran for its malign behavior. But as a Council, we’ve adopted a dangerously short-sighted approach.

Judging Iran by the narrow confines of the nuclear deal misses the true nature of the threat. Iran must be judged in totality of its aggressive, destabilizing, and unlawful behavior. To do otherwise would be foolish.

This clarity brings opportunity. It gives the Council the chance to defend its integrity. It gives us the chance to work together as a community of nations to uphold the provisions of resolutions we have all worked so hard to pass. The Security Council has repeatedly passed resolutions aimed at addressing Iranian support for terrorism and regional conflicts. But Iran has repeatedly thumbed its nose at those efforts.

Worse, the regime continues to play this Council. Iran hides behind its assertion of technical compliance with the nuclear deal while it brazenly violates the other limits on its behavior. And we have allowed them to get away with it. This must stop.

The list of the Iranian regime’s violations of Security Council resolutions is too long to repeat here. So I will confine myself to the highlights.

Resolution 2231 bans the transfer of conventional weapons from Iran. Yet today we see Iran identified as a source of weapons in conflicts across the region, from Yemen to Syria and Lebanon. The United States, France, Australia, Ukraine, and others have intercepted Iranian shipments of rocket-propelled grenade launchers, machine guns, and anti-tank missiles, among other weapons, that are bound for Yemen.

The Iranian regime has been a key source of arms and strategic military support to the Houthi rebels, both directly, through its military, and indirectly, through its Hizballah proxy forces. Not only is this a violation of Resolution 2231, it also violates Resolution 2216, which imposes an arms embargo on the Houthi rebels. Iran has repeatedly and brazenly violated not one but two UN Security Council resolutions in Yemen. And yet few on this Council have said anything at all.

Resolution 2231 also bans travel outside Iran by senior Iranian officials, including Major General Soleimani. And yet the Secretary-General’s report lists multiple press photos and reports of the general traveling to Syria and Iraq. You can even find pictures on social media of him visiting Russia. This is an open and direct violation of Resolution 2231. And yet, where’s the outrage of this Council?

There’s more. Plenty more.

In Resolutions 1701 and 1559, the Council unanimously called on Hizballah to disarm. Nonetheless, Hizballah is building an arsenal of war in Lebanon with weapons supplied by Iran. Again, none of this is going on in secret. The leader of Hizballah talks openly about the support Iran provides. He has reportedly boasted that sanctions can’t hurt Hizballah because “everything it eats and drinks, its weapons and rockets, come from the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

And these are only the Iranian regime’s activities on which the Security Council has taken a clear position.

What about Iran’s support of arms, financing, and training and fighters to the bloody Assad regime in Syria? And there’s the consistent Iranian threats to freedom of navigation in the Persian Gulf. And there’s the Iranian regime’s cyber attacks against the United States, Israel, and other UN Member States. And then there’s Iran’s imprisoning of foreign journalists and tourists on made-up charges. Some Americans, like Bob Levinson, have not been heard from in over a decade.

Unfortunately, we’re not done yet. The Iranian regime abuses its own people. It imprisons or murders political opposition. It persecutes Christians and other religious minorities. It denies freedom of speech. It executes gays and lesbians.

And there’s one more thing. The list of Iran’s dangerous and destructive behavior that I just outlined does not even include the regime’s most threatening act: Its repeated ballistic missile launches, including the launch this summer of an ICBM-enabling missile – that should be a clarion call to everyone in the United Nations. When a rogue regime starts down the path of ballistic missiles, it tells us that we will soon have another North Korea on our hands. If it is wrong for North Korea to do this, why doesn’t that same mentality apply to Iran?

With our decision to take a comprehensive approach to confronting the Iranian regime, the United States will not turn a blind eye to these violations. We have made it clear that the regime cannot have it both ways. It cannot consistently violate international law and still be considered a fit and trusted member of the international community.

This Council now has the opportunity to change its policy toward the Iranian regime. I sincerely hope it will take this chance to defend not only the resolutions, but also peace, security, and human rights in Iran.

—Oct. 18, 2017 in remarks at a U.N. Security Council open debate on the Middle East


Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Sigal Mandelker

Thank you so much for inviting me. It's a great honor to be invited to speak at AIPAC and terrific to be here with so many friends. AIPAC does such important work to support the strong relationship that Israel has with the United States and to promote peace and stability in the Middle East.

As the Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, the offices I lead are tasked with preventing terrorist organizations and other illicit actors from accessing funds.

Among other things, we use our very strong economic authorities to cut funding from and put pressure on rogue states, proliferators of weapons of mass destruction, state sponsors of terrorism, human rights abusers, and other illicit actors.

These issues – and this relationship – hit home for me in a very powerful way. My parents were both Holocaust survivors. They were young children in Poland during World War II. They both spent a significant amount of their childhood hiding from the Nazis, whether underground in the forest, in haystacks in a barn, or hidden by righteous gentiles.

After the war, they like so many others, lived in displaced persons camps until they eventually made it to Israel. In fact, my mother was on the ship Exodus – which as many of you know – was not allowed to enter then-Palestine.

My father was on a similar ship, the Ben Hecht. They both ultimately made it to Israel - my father in '47 after being in a DP camp in Cyprus and my mother in '48 after being in a DP camp in Germany. They eventually moved to the United States in the late '60s to pursue their studies.

Shortly after I began my job as the Under Secretary of TFI, I learned that one of the offices I oversee, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (or OFAC), was actually born out of an effort to prevent Nazis from seizing U.S.-held assets in countries that the Nazis invaded.

In fact, I recently read through a series of documents in which then Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, who oversaw this effort, later appealed within the Roosevelt Administration that it take significant action to save the Jews during the Holocaust after some in the government had attempted to hide what was happening.

To learn that one of the offices I now oversee was instrumental in that effort is profoundly moving. At the Justice Department, I also oversaw the Office of Special Investigations, the section of prosecutors who pursued Nazis who lied their way into our country.

Here I stand, the child of Holocaust survivors, over 70 years after my parents were hiding as young children underground and in haystacks, over 70 years after 3 of my grandparents were killed or died as a result of the Holocaust, and over 70 years after 6 million Jews and many, many others were slaughtered. Here I stand with the opportunity to make a significant difference in some of the greatest national security threats of our time.

It is truly humbling and nothing short of a miracle that my parents survived and that I subsequently have been able to take on this important mission.

The Threat Posed by Iran:

And there are few more pressing national security concerns for the United States and the international community right now than the growing threat posed by Iran.

The Iranian regime is wreaking havoc on the Middle East and beyond. Iran continues to pursue ballistic missile capabilities in defiance of UN Security Council Resolution 2231, and it provides a lifeline to the Assad regime as he slaughters his people, including children, and sends millions of refugees to Europe.

All the while, the Iranian regime's grievous human rights abuses against its own people continue unabated. And the regime continues its threats against the United States and Israel. As the President said on Friday, the regime's two favorite chants are "Death to America" and "Death to Israel."

Iran's state support of terrorism is second-to-none. It finances and supports Hizballah, Hamas, and the Taliban, as well as Bahraini, Iraqi, Syrian, and Yemeni militant groups. It seeds these terror groups with increasingly destructive weapons as they try to establish footholds from Iran to Lebanon and Syria.

This aid is primarily delivered by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (or the IRGC) and its Quds Force, which is one of Iran's principal vehicles to cultivate and support terrorists abroad. These efforts are supported by entities like U.S.-designated Mahan Air, which carries weapons, fighters, and money to the Assad regime and its supporters like Hizballah in Syria.

The IRGC has even threatened terrorist attacks right here in the United States, plotting the murder of Saudi Arabia's Ambassador to the United States on American soil in 2011. Such an attack—if not thwarted by our terrific law enforcement and intelligence officers—would have not only killed a Saudi diplomat, but likely innocent bystanders here in Washington, DC.

The list of Iran's malign activities goes on, including: unrelenting hostility to Israel, with threats to destroy it; threatening freedom of navigation in the region; aggressive and sustained cyber-attacks against the U.S., Israel, and America's allies and partners in the Gulf; and arbitrary detention of foreigners, including U.S. citizens, on specious charges, without due process, often in brutal conditions.

An increasingly emboldened Iran, with a patient pathway to a nuclear weapon, is not something the United States can live with. Strategic patience didn't work with North Korea, and it won't work with Iran.

The Trump Administration's Strategy to Counteract Iran:

That is why the President's Iran strategy that he laid out on Friday focuses on far more than just the nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or the JCPOA. It is a broad and comprehensive strategy to counter Iran's support for terrorism, ballistic missile development, and human rights abuses.

It is designed to neutralize Iran's destabilizing influence and support for terrorists and militants. It includes four strategic objectives:

First, we must neutralize Iran's destabilizing activities and constrain Iran's aggression, particularly its support for terrorism and militants with a focus on its activities in the Middle East and in Afghanistan. That includes its actions in Syria, which threatens Israel, and its support to terrorism through groups like Hizballah, Hamas, Iraqi Shia militant groups and others.

Second, we must work to deny Iran and especially the IRGC funding for its malign activities, including its funding for terrorists and militant proxies, but also the funding that has allowed it to hijack a large portion of the Iranian economy;

Third, we must counter Iran's ability to threaten the U.S. and our allies using ballistic missiles and other asymmetric weapons; and

Fourth, we must deny Iran all paths to a nuclear weapon. As the President said during his speech, we must ensure that Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon.

That fourth line of effort, of course, is tied to what the President announced on Friday with respect to the JCPOA.

As the President has consistently made clear, the JCPOA is a flawed agreement with one of its greatest shortcomings being the so-called "sunset provisions," which over time would allow Iran to openly pursue an industrial scale nuclear fuel enrichment program.

This would move Iran one step closer to achieving a rapid nuclear weapons breakout capability, and put it in a position to sprint to becoming a nuclear weapons state in a matter of months if it chooses that path.

Further, the Iranian regime has sought to exploit loopholes in the JCPOA and to test the international community's resolve. Iranian military leaders have stated publicly that they will refuse to allow IAEA inspections of their military sites, which flies in the face of its commitments under the JCPOA and the Additional Protocol.

We must not forget that, not long ago, Iran hid its nuclear facilities on military sites in order to avoid detection. This is why Iran's stated refusal to allow IAEA access to its military sites cannot be tolerated.

In North Korea, we now see the consequences of agreeing to flawed deals with rogue regimes. We cannot allow that to happen with Iran. We cannot keep kicking the can down the road.

In light of these concerns, the President on Friday declined to certify that the agreement is appropriate and proportional under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, or INARA. The President believes that Iran's activities outside the scope of the nuclear file severely undercut whatever positive contributions to regional and international peace and security the JCPOA sought to achieve.

The decision not to certify the deal allows Congress and the Administration to work together to fully address Iran's threats and the shortcomings of the deal, including the sunset clauses, inspection access, and failure to prevent Iran from developing an ICBM.

The President's decision gives the Congress an opportunity to weigh in in a meaningful way. Through the INARA process, we will work together to address the deal's deficiencies and the dangers posed by Iran and to amend INARA.

I want to make one point clear about the President's decision. It is important not to confuse the internal U.S. legal process of certification under INARA with our continued implementation of the JCPOA.

By declining to certify under INARA, the United States has not violated its commitments under the deal; our country still remains a party to the JCPOA. Rather, the President can now start the process of working with Congress to help strengthen the deal.

In addition to working with Congress, the President directed the Administration to work with our allies to fully enforce the agreement while addressing the deal's many flaws so that the Iranian regime can never threaten the world with nuclear weapons.

And we are also working with our allies to aggressively and proactively address Iran's continued aggression. Yes, we must work to fix the fatal flaws contained in the JCPOA. But the President has made clear that our Iran policy is about much more than the JCPOA.

And so as part of the strategy to support all four lines of effort, the President intends to revitalize our traditional allies and regional partnerships as strong counterparts against Iran so that we can together serve as a better deterrent against Iran's destabilizing activity.

As you have seen, the President is engaging the international community to condemn the Iranian regime and particularly the IRGC's malign and destructive behavior. Our conversations with our allies are therefore about much more than just the JCPOA.

Rather, they are focused on a revitalized effort together to take a comprehensive approach to counter Iran's destructive behavior, while working with our allies and partners to address the problems with the JCPOA.

Treasury's Role in This Strategy:

At the Treasury Department, we use our strong economic authorities to play a vital role in implementing the President's strategy.

I want to spend my remaining time focusing on the second pillar of the President's strategy, which involves placing additional sanctions on the regime to block their financing of terror and other destabilizing activities. That is where my office plays a very large role.

Over the last 10 months, since this Administration took office, OFAC, one of the offices that I oversee, has issued seven tranches of sanctions, designating 72 targets in China, Iran, Lebanon and Ukraine in connection with the IRGC, Iran's ballistic missile program, support for terrorism, and human rights abuses.

And we are continuing to ramp up the economic pressure on Iran's illicit networks using all of the tools and authorities at our disposal.

On the day of the President's speech, OFAC designated the IRGC for support to terrorism under Executive Order 13224, consistent with section 105 of the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act passed in August. The President also authorized us to take additional action against the IRGC's officials, agents, and affiliates later this month.

The IRGC designation, which was announced along with additional sanctions on four entities connected to the IRGC or previously designated defense-related entities, further increases the pressure on the IRGC.

It also highlights the nefarious nature of the organization. Beyond being a proliferator of weapons and a supplier of militants and military equipment – actions for which it has been previously sanctioned by the United States – the IRGC has helped make Iran the world's leading state sponsors of terrorism.

The IRGC provides the organizational structure that allows them to export their militant extremism across the globe. It has been the Iranian regime's main weapon in pursuit of its radical goals and is a lifeline for Hizballah, the Syrian regime, the Houthis in Yemen, Shia militant groups in Iraq, and others.

The IRGC's control over large portions of the Iranian economy furthers its ability to support these groups and enrich its members.

In order to deny the IRGC the resources and financing it needs to spread instability, we must and we have been engaging our allies and partners, including those in the private sector.

We have consistently raised concerns regarding the IRGC's malign behavior, the IRGC's level of involvement in the Iranian economy, and its lack of transparency. We have pointed out that the IRGC continues to be an integral part of the Iranian economy, including in the energy, construction, mining, and defense sectors.

And as we have urged the private sector to recognize that the IRGC permeates much of the Iranian economy, we have told them that those who transact with IRGC-controlled entities do so at their own risk.

Our fight against Iran's malign activities extends beyond the IRGC. We will continue to aggressively target other organs of state power in Iran that foment instability and support terrorism.

Likewise, we have been pressing Iran to implement a rigorous and effective anti-money laundering and counter financing of terrorism regime that promotes transparency, forcing it to stamp out terrorist financing and corruption or be excluded from the international financial system.

We will continue to hold Iran accountable to its Financial Action Task Force action plan, and if it fails to meet its commitments, will call on FATF countermeasures to be re-imposed. As long as Iran fails to adequately criminalize terrorist financing, it should remain on the FATF's black list.

We will also continue implementing new measures to pressure Iran to cease its support for terrorism, human rights abuses, and promotion of regional instability for the benefit of international peace and security and also for the Iranian people, who, as the President said, have paid a heavy price for the violence and extremism of its leaders.

And in all of this important work we will continue working very closely with our great ally Israel to constrain this dangerous organization.

—Oct. 16, 2017, in a speech to the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee


Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis

Q: And are you concerned the Iranians will be more provocative? Because there's talk about being more provocative, if the president adds more sanctions --

SEC. MATTIS: Right now, I -- we keep an eye on the potential for more provocations from the Iranians. But right now, we've not seen that. Again, I've been with you, so I may not be current on this, but I don't -- I don't think there's been anything.

Now we always watch for this. The Iranians' destabilizing record -- from Lebanon, to Syria, from Yemen, to Afghanistan. Of course, we watch for this.

Q: Are you planning on changing your posture after the speech?

SEC. MATTIS: No, right now, we are not changing our posture. We're postured against ISIS. At the same time, we're dealing with issues along the -- that -- we used to call them a disputed zone there, where the Kurdish forces are aligned with the Iraqi forces.

So far, we have not seen any turning away from the primary mission; in other words, they're holding in positionright now. There's been -- there's been movement along there. I don't think it's been combat organizations engaged in a thing called "movement to contact."

When you -- when you're going into combat, you organize, and you move to contact. We have not seen that kind of movement on either side.

We watch for Iran's destabilizing movements and activities everywhere; from Bahrain, to Jordan; from southern Lebanon, against Israel, to Yemen. It's part and parcel for the way they conduct (inaudible).

—Oct. 13, 2017, statement in an on the record media availability


CIA Director Mike Pompeo

JUAN ZARATE: Mr. Director, first talking about Iran, the president gave his speech on October 13th reshaping U.S. policy on Iran. I think the first question on this is why was that speech and that shift necessary? And is Iran in violation of the JCPOA? Or what's the animating principle behind this shift?

POMPEO: We often focus a lot on the JCPOA, and I'm happy to share the intelligence elements that are buried there, but the president has come to view the threat from Iran as at the center of so much of the turmoil that bogs us down in lots of places in the Middle East—right? Whether it's Lebanese Hezbollah, the threat that it presents to both Lebanon and to Israel; whether it's the Shia militias—you can see the impact that they're having today, even in northern Iraq; the threat that they pose to U.S. forces— we had an incident last week.

The list of Iranian transgressions—the missile program, their cyber efforts. The list of Iranian transgressions is long. And from an intelligence perspective, we shared that with the president. I think he concluded that we needed to reconfigure our relationships, not only with Iran but with the Gulf states and with Israel, to ensure that we are addressing what he views as the real threat to the United States in a comprehensive way.

ZARATE: The president seems to be shifting that in the policy, and I think that the administration seems to be pushing, not just on the deal, but around the deal. So how do you explain to people your view of the JCPOA itself and the role it plays in the policy?

POMPEO: Look, the mission set that the president laid out with respect to the deal was to ensure that there were no pathways for the Iranians to achieve a nuclear capability, to not put a president in the future in the same place this administration is with respect to North Korea, to close down all the various avenues.

And so, there are many pieces to that. From an intelligence perspective, we need even more intrusive inspection. The deal put us in a marginally better place with respect to inspection, but the Iranians have on multiple occasions been capable of presenting a continued threat through covert efforts to develop their nuclear program along multiple dimensions, right? The missile dimension, the weaponization effort, the nuclear component itself.

So we need to make sure from an intelligence perspective that we're enabled to do that. And the president has given us the resources to go achieve that and all the various tools that we have, the various legal authorities.

And so, when the president stared at the deal and asked us what this meant from a proliferation perspective inside of Iran, two years, three years, the difference of a breakout time across a handful of months, it didn't seem satisfactory to him. That's no surprise; he's tweeted about it.

It didn't seem satisfactory to him. So he asked us all to go evaluate how we might present a more comprehensive effort to push back against the Quds Force, the IRGC more broadly, and the Iranian regime itself. The effort—the notion—and I'll stay on the analytic side, the notion that the entry into the JCPOA would curtail Iranian adventurism or their terror threat or their malignant behavior has now, what, two years on, proven to be fundamentally false. So...

ZARATE: Has the opposite happened? Have they gotten more aggressive than you would anticipate, or....

POMPEO: So it depends on which dimension. Look, they've been developing their missile system pretty consistently for an extended period of time now.

In terms of testing, about the same as where they were pre-JCPOA. But their desire to put guided rocketry in the hands of Hezbollah, the efforts with the Houthis in Yemen, launching missiles into the—or attempting to launch missiles to the Emirates and into Saudi. These are new and aggressive, and show no signs of having been curtailed by even the increased commerce that they've achieved through having Europeans back in the game in Iran.

ZARATE: I mean, they seem to be pushing on all of the pressure points and what does that mean for us to be able to confront and push back?

POMPEO: All the tools available of U.S. power, so I'll begin with a handful. I could—we could talk about this for a long time, but I'll begin with a handful. It has been far too inexpensive for the Iranians to conduct this adventurism. We should raise the cost of that. The Agency has an incredibly important role there, providing the intelligence basis for us to help, not only the United States, but our partners in the region, which is the second piece of this.

We need all of our partners. Sometimes I hear folks talk about the JCPOA and our partners, and nary a mention of the Saudis, the Emirates, the Israelis, but lots of talk about Germans, and Brits and French, and that's great. They're important partners, too. We need them all working against the continued expansion of the Iranians.

Treasury, too, has an important role. Juan, you lived this in your roles at Treasury. Secretary Mnuchin is keenly aware of the tools that are in his arsenal as well. I mean, think about this today imagine you're a—the Iranians have complained a great deal that they haven't seen the benefits, the economic benefits they had expected. But imagine you're a European CEO, or board of directors or a lender; the intelligence community struggles mightily to figure out which companies are controlled by the IRGC or the Quds Force. It is a difficult, complex intelligence undertaking to sort out which entities are controlled by the Quds Force, which ones have shareholders. It is intentionally opaque, but as much as 20 percent of the Iranian economy is controlled by them.

Imagine that you're a businessperson deciding whether it was appropriate to take that risk or not, whether the return was there for your company. I think we can make it even more difficult, and I think in order to push back against all these non-nuclear activities—put aside the nuclear issues in the deal, to push back against these non-nuclear activities I think is something the president's intent on doing.

ZARATE: The Treasury Department has designated actors who've been—Al Qaeda actors—who've been in Iran and supported—the 9/11 Commission raised the question, frankly, that was unanswered with respect to Iran's potential role in 9/11. And the president actually raised it quite openly, which I found to be really startling and interesting. Can you talk about that, the Iranian-Al Qaeda links that the president mentioned?

POMPEO: I can't say a whole lot more than he said, but I think it's an open secret, and not classified information, that there have been relationships, there are connections. There have been times the Iranians have worked alongside Al Qaeda.

We actually, the CIA is going to release, here, in the next handful of days, a series of documents related to the Abbottabad raids that may prove interesting to those who are looking to take at this issue—take a look at this issue a little bit further.

But there have been connections where, at the very least, they have cuts deals so as not to come after each other. That is, they view the West as a greater threat than the fight is between them two along their ideological lines. And we, the intelligence community, has reported on this for an awfully long time. It is something we are very mindful of.

And, with the defeat of the real estate proposition in Syria and Iraq for ISIS, we watch what's going on in Idlib. You've got ISIS folks, Al-Nusra Front, Al Qaeda folks up in the north. We're watching to see if there aren't places where they work together for a common threat against the United States.

ZARATE: What are your concerns about the links between Iran and North Korea, and the issue of proliferation writ large?

POMPEO: There's a long history there—deep, there are deep conventional weapons, ties as between the two countries. These are two national states that don't have deep export control provisions within their countries.

And so it is a Wild, Wild West exercise and we do have an obligation to ensure that we account for that, as an intelligence community and then do our best efforts to ensure that we don't have capabilities transition between the two.

It could be the case, I can't say much, but you can imagine that each of these countries would have relative expertise in certain technologies, certain capacities and there won't even be dollars exchanged, but rather, there will be expertise or technology exchanged, as well, for the betterment of each of their weaponization programs, there missile programs and then their capacity to do explosive testing on nuclear devices, as well.

—Oct. 19, 2017, at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ National Security Summit


National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster

MCMASTER: So as we establish first-order principles for President Trump's national security strategy, the importance of using every element of national power—diplomatic, informational, military, economic, law enforcement, intelligence—in an integrated way is at the top of that list.

The president's new strategy toward Iran is a good example. Instead of focusing almost exclusively on JCPOA, the new strategy—or the Iran Nuclear Deal—the new strategy considers the full range of Iran's destabilizing behavior and malign activities, including its material and financial support for terrorism and extremism; its complicity in the Assad regime's atrocities against the Syrian people; its unrelenting hostility to Israel; its repeated threats to freedom of navigation, especially strategically, in the Persian Gulf; its cyberattacks against the U.S., Israel, and America's allies and partners in the Gulf; its grievous human rights abuses; and its arbitrary detention of foreigners, including U.S. citizens, on specious and false grounds.

As the president made clear in his speech on October 13, our strategy integrates all elements of national power, and is oriented on neutralizing the government of Iran's destabilizing influence, and constraining its aggression, particularly its support for terrorism and militants.

Second, revitalizing our traditional alliances and regional partnerships as bulwarks against Iranian subversion, and to restore a more stable balance of power in the region, and this is an area where the president's leadership has paid off tremendously, as you've seen, with the growing together, the—of a mutual understanding, much closer relationships and common understanding of problems and common action with our traditional allies and partners in the region.

They are denying the Iranian regime, and especially the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps funding towards malign activities—this is where Juan's work is extremely important—and opposing IRGC activities that extort the wealth of the Iranian people; and countering threats to the United States and our allies from ballistic missiles, and other asymmetric weapons.

What we must do is we must rally the international community to condemn the IRGC's gross violations of human rights, and its unjust detention of American citizens and other foreigners. And last, we must deny Iran all paths to a nuclear weapon.

So this is the strategic direction that the president has given us. Our next challenge is to execute, and as I mentioned, rally all of our friends to the cause. As the Secretary of State said at the CSIS yesterday, states that use terror as an instrument of policy will only see their international reputation and standing diminish.

MARK DUBOWITZ: There is a power vacuum that the Iranians are filling and have filled both territorially and through using various influence—instruments of Iranian influence so what is the message to the Iranians today with respect to Iraq?

MCMASTER: The message has to be that Iran has to stop using illegal armed groups in Iraq to advance its own interest at the expense of the Iraqi people and at the expense of security, stability, in the region.

If you think about one of the greatest sources of strength for ISIS and groups like ISIS it is again their ability to portray themselves as protectors of, in this case, mainly the Sunni Arab community and one of the drivers of that conflict is Iran.

I mean Iran has perpetuated these conflicts in a way that has created a humanitarian and a political catastrophe across the region mainly in Syria but also in Iraq, the challenges inside of Iraq.

And so, the message has to be that none of us, the Iraqis, the United States, our partners in the region, our European allies can tolerate this degree of subversion and support for terrorist and militia—terrorism and militias.

DUBOWITZ: What are you trying to achieve with respect to the IRGC and its maligned activities?

MCMASTER: OK, what we have to do is recognize that this is a hostile organization that has victimized, I mean countless people across the greater Middle East and beyond, has planned terrorist attacks here, elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere.

So, what do we have to do?

What we need, we need a strategy along with our allies and partners to cope with the IRGC.

What the IRGC is is that it is a terrorist enabler. It is a network that is involved in a broad range of illicit activities to advance its—the Iranian regime’s malign agenda.

And so, what are the elements of the strategy?

Well first of all we have to understand the problem and we have to pull the curtain back. I think one of the most important things that we could do, FDD is doing, others can do this, is to pull the curtain back on what Iran is doing in the region and show it to the world and have them pay a price in terms of their reputation for what they are doing to perpetuate violence.

And then we have to ask some big questions right, we can’t just jump in and start doing things. We have to say, “OK, what is the IRGC,” and all of us can work on this, understanding what this organization is more broadly.

And then what is its goal?

And expose that, understand its strategy. What is the strategy of the Iranian regime and the IRGC in particular?

We need more work on how it’s organized and we’re working with our intelligence community on this, to understand obviously nodes in this network and what they do to enable terrorists and militias and criminal activity across the world really. But then to understand relationships between those nodes, within the organization and with outside organizations.

What are their connections to licit businesses, to financial institutions, to those who provide them cover for action, the ability to move freely, to achieve anonymity and work within legitimate state institutions and functions and subvert those institutions for their own designs?

So, it’s not just the network itself, but its relationships and then we have to understand relationships of authority and difference in antagonism within and in relation to this network.

And then we have to see flows, flows—and this is where law enforcement could be a huge lever; international law enforcement, U.S. law enforcement, often underutilized as a tool of foreign policy and national security strategy.

Financial tools thanks to Juan and others now are more routine but some of the most overworked and valuable people in our government are in the Treasury Department. They are doing an amazing job, we need more of them and I mean they’re just a great team and we have to learn from what they do in OFAC and apply it more broadly across more departments and agencies.

Justice is getting more involved. You know, the—our Attorney General has established a team, they’re using an established team to really reinvigorate the Department of Justice’s role in national security.

And so, you—we have to be able to see flows through these networks internationally of people, money, weapons, narcotics right, other illicit goods, illicit fuel and other items that they smuggle and used to enrich themselves.

I mean what the IRGC does, they are a great narcotics trafficking organization that has been able to use the opium and heroin trade coming out of Afghanistan to enrich themselves while they poison the world and to use that money to commit murder, right.

I mean so we have to—we have to take a holistic approach at it, see flows through the networks internationally and then ask questions like, what are their sources of strength and support and what are their weaknesses? And then work hard at isolating them from sources, strength, and support, and attacking weaknesses. And these are physical sources, support, and physical weaknesses.

But there are also psychological and informational and economic and financial sources of support and weaknesses that work into a strategy.

So, we are already doing it.

DUBOWITZ: So General, I want to sort of pick up on that part of it because the IRGC as you know, control something like 20 percent of the Iranian economy. They are huge influencers in all of the key strategic sectors of Iran’s economy that many of our allies are interested in doing business in. What is your message to the international business community that today is looking for opportunities to engage with the Iranian economy?

MCMASTER: Well the message would be, “don’t do business with the IRGC; don’t enrich the IRGC; don’t enable their murderous campaign; don’t enable their threat to our friends in the region and to—especially Israel but also Saudi Arabia and others.”

And so, it’s in everyone’s interest to really work hard on business intelligence to understand who are the beneficial owners of these companies who were you know, opening up checkbooks and do business with in Iran.

And so, what we’ll want to do is take an approach that is analogous to President Trump’s approach to Cuba where he said, he’s, “We’re not going to do business with GAESA.”

We’re not going to do—we’re not going to enrich the Castro regime and allow them to tighten their autocratic grip on the Cuban people and continue to choke them and deny them the freedom and liberty that they deserve.

We will do business with actually legitimate—a legitimate Cuban private sector you know, such as it is and that maybe we can incentivize and emerge in—but we cannot afford to do business with the IRGC. And because all of us, the world, will pay for it later.

DUBOWITZ: What’s the administration thinking with respect to human rights issues and internal issues within Iran, help protect the Iranian people from the IRGC and its repression?

MCMASTER: And so, I think the—what’s to focus on in the speech is, is that talk to the Iranian people who were oppressed by you know, by the IRGC, the Basij. They are also oppressed by these Bonyads. I mean that – these are essentially criminalized patronage networks that suck the resources out of the Iranian economy to enrich themselves and to keep the Supreme Leader’s autocratic grip on power.

And so, the more that this can be exposed internationally, but also to the Iranian people. I mean what would be better—what could be better—than an Iranian regime that is no longer fundamentally hostile to everyone, right? Including its own people.

So, the President has great respect for the Iranian people, their rich culture, their heritage, and it was very important to him in the speech to distinguish between the regime and the Iranian people.

DUBOWITZ: What is wrong the Iran nuclear deal?

MCMASTER: there are fundamental flaws with it. I mean, part of it was the payment up-front. And so some people said, "Hey, you know, it's—they got all the money up-front. They get all the money up-front. This is a gift that gives over time, right?" And so if you—if Iran was pumping what, one billion—I mean, no, million barrels a day. Now it's, like, getting up close to 2.5 million barrels a day. What are they doing with that money? You know, what is—what are they doing with their defense budget? What are they doing to foment violence across the region and beyond, with that money? With their missile program.

So it's the benefit that went to the regime that was out of proportion to the benefit to the international community. What is—what has Iran done since then, right? This is what the president calls "the spirit of the deal," right? They are not acting within the spirit of the deal.

And then other fundamental flaws are what lay outside the deal. That behavior of the IRGC but also the missile program, which is continuing unabated, right? Now, the—and also the anemic capacity to be able to verify compliance with the deal. And so look at the regime's behavior since 1979, right? Are you going to bet the farm on their goodwill and that they're going to adhere to an agreement?

And so the noise that they've been making about, "Oh, you can't come to military sites." There's nothing in the deal about that. So, Section T has to be implemented in terms of monitoring of the JCPOA.

And then, of course, there's the fundamental flaw of the sunset clause, right? So Iran continues to advance its technological understanding of how to develop a nuclear weapon, how to develop its nuclear technology, and use this deal as just—as cover for, then, announcing a threshold capability or doing a mad dash to a nuclear capability.

So, I mean, I could go on. I mean, but these are just some of the problems with the deal. And what the president decided is, is that the, though, is that the best approach, now, recognizing all these flaws—he get—how can he certify to Congress, right? Under the proportionality clause of INARA that this is in our interest, he can't do that.

And so what he would like Congress to do is, instead of having legislation that has us reporting to each other, let's have some legislation that can address some of these flaws. That can, at least from a unilateral perspective, lay out a marker on where we think this should evolve. And then work with our allies and partners to rigorously enforce, get IAEA capacity up, enforce this thing. But hold Iran accountable for its behavior that lies outside the deal.

And so there's been a lot of misunderstandings, and you've seen that the president decertified their compliance. That wasn't what it was. It was that—it is—what the relief that Iran has gotten, and the way that this is being implemented, is not proportional. Is not proportional to what we've—what we achieve, in terms of greater security, from this horrible regime. So, yeah. I'm sorry, I know we're almost out of time and I want to give back to you, Mark.

But it is a fundamentally flawed deal that the president has decided to do his best to try to rectify in the interest of the security of the American people. And to work with allies and partners who now should see this as an opportunity, now—and they do—as an opportunity to work together on the broad range of Iran's destabilizing behavior, to address the flaws in this deal while we work on rigorous monitoring and enforcement.

DUBOWITZ: And you're confident that our allies, particularly our European allies, will come along with this strategy of pressure and fix?

MCMASTER: I think they already are coming along. So I think if you see some of the actions of our European partners to—and Canada and others, to improve the capacity of the IAEA. To make clear, we're not going to listen to this Iranian bluster about, you can't do this, you can't do that, heck, yes, we can do that. And that's what we're going to do to enforce the agreement."

You have seen more and more of our allies and partners joining us on sanctions against Iran's destabilizing behavior. Our Treasury Department, now, and our State Department, are working with allies and partners as part of the implementation of the congressional legislation that gives—now, that gives the president and Treasury more authorities to sanction Iran's behavior.

—Oct. 19, 2017, at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ National Security Summit

Some of the information in this article was originally published on October 16, 2017.