On March 13, President Donald Trump announced that he was replacing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo. Pompeo has been outspoken on Iran both as a Republican congressman from Kansas (2011-2017) and as CIA director. The Senate confirmed Pompeo on April 27. The following is a collection of his key remarks on Iran.
The end of the Cold War forced new thinking among policymakers and analysts about the greatest challenges to U.S. national security. The emergence of al Qaeda, cybercriminals, and other dangerous entities affirmed the threat of nonstate actors. But equally daunting has been the resurgence of outlaw regimes—rogue states that defy international norms, fail to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, and act against the security of the American people, U.S. allies and partners, and the rest of the world.
Chief among these outlaw regimes are North Korea and Iran. Their transgressions against international peace are many, but both nations are most notorious for having spent decades pursuing nuclear weapons programs in violation of international prohibitions.
—Oct. 16, 2018, in Foreign Affairs
SECRETARY POMPEO: For the previous eight years, we had an administration that showed more respect to the leaders of Iran than to the people of Israel.
President Obama thought he – thought if he made dangerous concessions, removed economic sanctions, and flew a plane full of cash to Tehran, he could somehow hug Iran’s leaders into behaving well and rejoining the community of nations.
But those leaders aren’t from a Disney movie. They’re real. They’re not tragically misunderstood. They are murderers and funders of terrorism who lead chants – today, still – of “Death to America.” Their goals include profiting off the misery of their own people and wiping Israel off the face of the Earth.
By and large, I think the American people understand the threat that Iran poses. It’s why they opposed the deal that the previous administration made by a margin of two to one, and it’s why they sent to our country a very different kind of president in 2016.
Today, after just under two years, there’s a long list. Tom talked about some of them. But it’s worthy of just grinding through real fast because the magnitude of the change is extraordinary.
Tom mentioned the move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Common sense, I think.
He pulled out of the JCPOA and imposed some of the harshest sanctions in history on the regime in Iran to change its behavior, and more are to follow.
He supported the commitment of the largest-ever security support of $3.8 billion annually.
And he took a stand against anti-Semitism on the world stage by withdrawing from the U.N. Human Rights Council.
We have also exposed Hamas for what it really is, and we are making a truly historic push for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
The bottom line? I think – I actually had the privilege to speak with Prime Minister Netanyahu today on a couple of issues of the moment, and we were talking about things a little more broadly, and it reminds me that the bottom line is that the U.S.-Israel relationship is stronger today than it has been ever. And that’s good. And that’s good for – it’s good for both countries. And I want to talk for just a minute, and then I’m going to take a few questions. I want to talk about the challenges that Iran is presenting to Israel, to America, and, indeed, to the world.
Iran has seen this instability in Syria as a golden opportunity to tip the scales. Its goals have included expanding the reach of its Revolutionary Guard, gaining an entrenched position near the Golan Heights, and, ultimately, establishing a second front from which proxies like Hizballah can terrorize the Israeli people.
Today the Syrian conflict is reaching a new juncture. Assad has tightened his grip thanks to Russia, Iran, and other regional actors.
ISIS, though not completely snuffed out, has been beaten into a shadow of its former self. And these changing circumstances have required the reassessment of America’s mission in Syria. Defeating ISIS, which was once our primary focus, continues to be a top priority, but it will now be joined by two other mutually reinforcing objectives. These include a peaceful and political resolution to the Syrian conflict and the removal of all Iranian and Iranian-backed forces from Syria. (Applause.)
Under President Trump’s leadership, the Department of State has been now engaged in a months-long diplomatic process aimed at making headway on each of these three strategic objectives.
Last month at the U.N. General Assembly in New York, I expressed our full support for U.N. Security Council Resolution 2254, which sets a political process for ending this conflict in Syria. And we’re urging every nation to support it.
At the UN we were also encouraged to find increasing international consensus that Iran and its proxies must not be allowed to maintain a foothold in Syria. The onus for expelling Iran from the country falls on the Syrian Government, which bears responsibility for its presence there.
We’ve been clear: if Syria doesn’t ensure the total withdrawal of Iranian-backed troops, it will not seek – not receive one single dollar from the United States for reconstruction.
Our efforts at the U.N. were just a small public window into our efforts. I’ve named a team. Spearheading our effort is Special Representative Jim Jeffrey. Many of you would know him. Nobody understands the web of regional interests and the political complexities better than he does. His resume includes ambassadorships in Albania, in Turkey, and Iraq, among much other parts of his storied career in diplomacy.
Meanwhile, to coordinate our efforts on Iran, I’ve asked Brian Hook to lead our Iran Action Group. We are leading a historic international campaign to apply diplomatic and economic pressure against the Islamic Republic of Iran. Our goal is simple, is to cut off the revenues the regime uses to spread terror and chaos, to fund its nuclear programs, and line its own pockets with money that should be given to the Iranian people.
The State Department’s diplomacy itself is just one part of our interagency effort all across this administration.
Underlying this approach is President Trump’s unwavering belief that Israel – like all nations – has the right to defend its own sovereignty. (Applause.) That means we’ll continue to stand up for its right to target Iranian-backed militias within Syria for as long as that threat remains.
Now, I want to leave plenty of time for discussion, so let me close with just one last thought.
Israel is everything we want the entire Middle East to look like going forward.
It is democratic and prosperous. It desires peace. And it is a home to a free press and a thriving free market economy.
Compare that to Iran, whose corrupt leaders assault the human rights of their own people, finance terrorism, and undermine U.S. interests in every corner of the Middle East.
Rarely in world affairs is the contrast between two sides so stark.
Under President Trump’s leadership, the United States is standing where it should firmly be: on the side of Israel. …
DR MAKOVSKY: I want to ask the first question about Iran. You mentioned you – the administration, to their credit, is – you’re imposing the toughest sanctions, re-imposing the sanctions, but imposing them in a very tough way, commendably.
Let me ask you that – at JINSA, we propose a range of ways of broadening the policy or a range of other policies. I just wanted to raise it with you, and I wanted to get your thoughts about that or other policies that you might be thinking about in ways that pressure the Iranians. …
SECRETARY POMPEO: So the sanctions get a lot of the headlines. The policy that President Trump has put in place is much broader than that. I can’t go into all the details on each of those. We don’t have time for all of that. But there’s a lot of work being done on interdiction. You don’t see it all, it’s not very noisy; I did some of it in my former job. It’s a full range of things to do the simple task of convincing the Iranian leaders to behave like a normal nation.
I listed 12 things that the Iranians have to do for us to get back in a relationship with them, and when you read through them they’re nothing more than what we ask Belgium to do, right? Like stop launching rockets into major international airports, for starters. It’s really – it seemed daunting, but at the end of the day, just be it. Just be a normal country. But it’s not just sanctions.
So five capitals, right? Beirut, Damascus, Sanaa, Tehran itself, and Baghdad. Those are the pressure points. That’s the dream of the Islamic Republic for hegemony and we are pushing back in each of those capitals, in each of those places, with every tool available to the United States Government to achieve that goal: to get the Iranian regime to behave like a normal nation.
DR MAKOVSKY: Yeah, okay, sure. The other suggestion was – it was about how – ways we can help Israel further and also what our policy is about the Syrian Kurds who have been our allies with the – against ISIS and so on.
SECRETARY POMPEO: So look, we’ve worked closely with the Syrian Kurds now for my entire time in service in this administration. They have been great partners. We are now driving to make sure that they have a seat at the table. The political process that I referred, the hardest part, the reason it hasn’t made progress is because we’ve demanded that every element in Syria gets an opportunity to be part of that future government, and in the absence of that and in the absence of their representation, we won’t participate in what will be a big check that someone’s going to have to write to fix the situation in Syria, and the Syrian Kurds will surely be part of that.
DR MAKOVSKY: And how would you define the administration’s overall objective? I used the term “rollback” which doesn’t – “containment” was maybe the policy perhaps – perhaps at times of the previous administration, but how would you define, if you had to think of a couple words to define the objectives we have towards Iran?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah. I mean, I don’t know how else to say it. We won’t be settled until we have solved each of the files adequately, right? A permanent solution to ensure that Iran never has the capacity to have a nuclear weapon for all time, in any form. And second – second – to push back against this terror regime which is not only taking place in Iraq and in Syria and in Lebanon, but in European capitals, around the world. It’s remarkable and we – I hope we can get more support from our European partners of this effort. I’m convinced that we will over time.
And then, finally, I’ll put the other bucket, the broader set of Iranian malign activity – there’s much of it – and that’s the mission statement. I don’t know how to put it into three or four words, but it’s to take each of those three spaces and ensure that Iran ceases its current activity which is so fundamentally detrimental to the world and, frankly, very detrimental to Iran’s own people.
—Oct. 10, 2018, in remarks at the 36th Annual Jewish Institute for National Security of America Awards Dinner
While the Iranian people struggle, #Iran’s outlaw regime has wasted over $16 billion since 2012 propping up Assad and supporting its other partners and proxies in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. pic.twitter.com/e99jCQ2vJQ— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) October 9, 2018
#Iran’s regime violates the basic human rights of its own people. Today, there are over 800 prisoners of conscience. The regime targets journalists and restricts freedom of expression. Watch this video on the injustice of life under Iran’s outlaw regime. pic.twitter.com/D2hLiWLzgf— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) September 28, 2018
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s an appropriate but sad irony that we’re talking about Iran during the 73rd UN General Assembly. So many times over the years, the UN – during the UN, Iranian regime leaders and diplomats have used this occasion to turn on their charm offensive with foreign governments, obscure what they’re really up to at home and abroad. Iranian President Rouhani – who has been tweeting the last hour – Foreign Minister Zarif, and other Iranian figures take this opportunity to present themselves as moderates – as moderate statesmen, indeed. But the world knows the truth, that their polished diplomatic waltz is a transparent trick to take responsible nations and try and make them think that maybe they aren’t so bad.
In actuality, these are two of the highest-ranking officials of a regime which brazenly defies the vision of the United Nations, the requirements of international and the principles of national sovereignty. The Iranian regime’s track record over the past 40 years has revealed it as among the worst violators of the UN Charter and UN Security Council resolutions – perhaps, indeed, the worst violator. It is truly an outlaw regime.
Let’s look at the UN Charter. It calls for our nations to “live together in peace with one another as good neighbors.” And where there is a threat to peace, it requires UN member-states to carry out decisions made by the Security Council as to what must be done to address that threat.
Has Iran lived together with other nations in peace? Has it been a good neighbor? Has it contributed to the maintenance of international peace and security by fully abiding by the decisions of the Security Council? Let’s take a little walk around the world, and you’ll see the answer is a deafening “no.”
Let’s start with Europe.
Just a few months ago, authorities across Europe arrested several Iranian operatives – including an Iranian official based in Austria – as part of a plot to plant a bomb at a political rally in France. They grabbed this guy. It happened just as the regime has been putting a full-court press on European countries to stay in the nuclear deal.
As a just response to this support for terrorism, a few weeks ago our ally France indefinitely postponed all non-essential diplomatic travel to Iran. It’s a good first step, and I thank France for that, and we hope to see more actions like this from other European nations. We must put pressure on the regime to rein in its destruction and demand that Iran act like a normal country.
Unfortunately, just last night I was disturbed and, indeed, deeply disappointed to hear the remaining parties in the deal announce they’re setting up a special payment system to bypass U.S. sanctions. This is one of the most counterproductive measures imaginable for regional and global peace and security. By sustaining revenues to the regime, you are solidifying Iran’s ranking as the number one state sponsor of terror, enabling Iran’s violent export of revolution, and making the regime even richer while the Iranian people scrape by. I imagine the corrupt ayatollahs and the IRGC were laughing this morning.
This decision is all more – all the more unacceptable, given the litany of Iranian-backed terrorist activity inside of Europe.
In 2012, four Qods Force operatives entered Turkey to attack Israeli targets, but the attack was thankfully disrupted by Turkish authorities. That same year, Lebanese Hizballah – one of the regime’s most loyal proxies – bombed a bus in Bulgaria carrying six Israeli tourists. Six were killed, including a driver, and at least 32 were wounded. In 1992, Iran provided logistical support to Lebanese Hizballah operatives who assassinated four Iranian Kurdish dissidents at a cafe in Berlin.
But Iran’s state-supported, lawless terror is not confined to Europe. It’s all over. Our journey continues to Africa. In 2013, three Iranian operatives were arrested in Nigeria for planning attacks against USAID offices, an Israeli business, a Jewish cultural center, and hotels frequented by Israelis and Americans. In 2012, two Qods Force operatives were arrested in Nairobi, Kenya for planning bomb attacks against Western interests; 33 pounds of explosive materials were found.
How about South America? In Uruguay in 2015, a senior Iranian diplomat was expelled for planning an attack near the Israeli embassy. In Buenos Aires, Argentina, Iran provided logistical support for two suicide vehicle attacks – one in 1992 and then again in 1994. These attacks killed a total of 114 people and wounded nearly 500, with the 1994 bombing being the deadliest terror attack in the history of Argentina.
The next stop on the tour is Asia. In Kathmandu in 2013, an Iranian traveling on a fake Israeli passport was arrested for conducting surveillance of the Israeli embassy. In New Delhi in 2012, the Qods Force directed a bomb attack targeted at an Israeli diplomat. In Karachi in 2011, Iranian operatives assassinated a Saudi diplomat. Since 2006, Iran has provided the Taliban with a broad range of arms, including rocket-propelled grenades, mortar rounds, rockets, and plastic explosives.
Iran has tried to pull the same stunts right here on our continent. In 2011, the Qods Force supported a plan to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in the United States. This past August, the United States arrested two alleged agents of Iran for conducting covert surveillance and intelligence collection activities against Israeli and American targets here in the United States.
In cyberspace, Iran has exploited the internet to inflame the fault lines of public opinion and to turn Americans against one another. Last month, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube collectively removed thousands of accounts originating from Iran for coordinating disinformation.
In Australia, hackers linked to the IRGC have tried to steal sensitive research from universities.
And of course, the Iranian regime has directed an array of violent and destructive activities to its neighbors in the Middle East.
It provides Lebanese Hizballah, a terrorist organization, with $700 million each year. Hizballah is responsible for some of the most lethal terrorist attacks against Americans abroad in the Middle East. We all remember 1983. With the approval and financing of the Iranian regime, Lebanese Hizballah bombed the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, killing 63, including 17 Americans.
And then again, in 1996, Hizballah bombed the Khobar Towers complex in Saudi Arabia, killing 19 U.S. Air Force personnel.
This regime – this regime led by Rouhani and Zarif – provides over $100 million each year to terrorist groups like Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The most hypocritical part about this is that the ayatollah claims he cares about Palestinians. But from 2008 to 2017, Iran gave a total of $20,000 to the UN’s relief agency for Palestinian refugees. Meanwhile, the United States nearly – gave nearly $3 billion over the same period, 150,000 [times] more money to support the Palestinians than the terror regime in Iran.
The regime also recruits impoverished youth in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. It peddles a seductive vision of martyrdom to them and then ships them off to Syria to fight at the direction of Qasem Soleimani and his Qods Force. The regime has enticed Afghan children as young as 14 to take on the fight in Syria.
Today, Iranian vessels harass ships in international waterways based on maritime claims made in defiance of international law. No, if the Iranian regime thinks the Strait of Hormuz belongs solely to them, you can bet your last rial that the United States will never stand for that. (Applause.) And at about 170,000 rials to the dollar, you can be sure we are focused on making sure that international waterways continue to remain open for trade.
Just a few weeks ago, Iranian-supported militias in Iraq launched life-threatening rocket attacks against the U.S. embassy compound in Baghdad and at the U.S. consulate in Basra. Iran did not stop these attacks, which were carried out by proxies it has supported and funded and trained, and with which – and militias with which it has provided weapons.
The United States will hold the regime in Tehran accountable for any attack that results in injury to our personnel or damage to our facilities. America will respond swiftly and decisively in [defense of] American lives, and we will respond against the source of the attack on American interests.
You know we are here for big meetings at the UN. Each one of these defies the spirt of the UN Charter. But what about the letter of the UN Security Council Resolutions? A tally confirms that Iran is truly an outlaw regime. The list is long.
Resolution 1373 requires all member-states to refrain from providing any form of support to entities involved in terrorist acts.
Resolution 1701 requires all UN member-states to prevent the direct or indirect supply by its nationals from its territory of weapons to Lebanon, with just a handful of exceptions. But neither of these exceptions has stopped Iran from arming Lebanese Hizballah.
Exports of arms from Iran are prohibited by UN Security Council Resolution 2231, and yet arms for the Houthis move in violation of that command from the United Nations.
From 2006 to 2010, the UN Security Council passed six different resolutions governing Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. But from 20 to 2015, the IAEA Board of Governors issued less than – no less than 33 reports outlining Iran’s noncompliance with each of those resolutions.
UN Security Council Resolution 1929 stated that, “Iran shall not undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.” But Iran conducted multiple ballistic missile launches between 2010 and 2015, every one of them in flagrant violation of UN Security Council resolutions.
And even when, in connection with the JCPOA sanctions relief, the Security Council superseded this provision in UN Security Council Resolution 2231 with a call upon Iran not to undertake any activity related to such missiles, Iran’s pace of missile activity, missile launches, and tests did not diminish. Iran has conducted multiple ballistic missile launches since January 2016, when the deal was first implemented. Today Iran has the largest ballistic missile force in the Middle East, each of those ballistic missiles costing more than a million dollars.
And that leads me to wonder how the struggling people of Iran feel about a missile program that drains their public treasury and causes economic sanctions that constrict their prosperity.
Recently, the UN Working Group on the Arbitrary Detention – on Arbitrary Detention has concluded that the Government of Iran has no legal basis for the arrest and detention of the American graduate student Wang Xiyue.
Last year, the UN working group called for the immediate release of another American, Siamak Namazi, who was arbitrarily arrested in 2015 while visiting his parents in Iran. In 2016, the working group also concluded that Bob Levinson, who has been missing in Iran for more than 11 years now, was arrested without legal grounds and should be immediately released.
We continue to press Iran to uphold its commitment to assist the United States in locating Bob so he can return to his family. All these Americans and the others wrongly detained must come home.
I talked about Mr. Rouhani’s tweets. They’re wasting a lot of time these days trying to discredit the United States over our lawful and justified decision to leave the JCPOA. But Iran’s own track record of violating international law is among the worst in the world. It has no regard for international law, borders, or lives.
I don’t think I need to offer much more evidence than I have laid out here today. These are destructive activities undertaken by Iran in a global scope. It is therefore incumbent on every country to join our efforts to change the regime’s lawless behavior. The ongoing, multi-national, multi-continental nature of Iranian malign activity leaves no room for indecision.
The United States will continue to coalesce international efforts to change Iranian behavior through pressure, deterrence, and support for the Iranian people. We want every single country on board. This is among the President’s top diplomatic priorities.
The consensus – the consensus that already exists – on Iran nonnuclear activities is reflected in Security Council resolutions, the ones I just mentioned.
But enforcement of those resolutions should be the bare minimum we ask of every nation.
In the wake of President Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the nuclear deal, countries are now facing a choice on whether to keep doing business in Iran. Reimposing sanctions and discouraging international business with Iran is not something we’re doing out of spite. This is a necessary security measure. The regime must no longer be allowed to get its hands on billions of dollars that it’s already proven it will spread around the world to its client states, rebel groups, and terrorists. Doing business in Iran only pours money into a regime that hoards it for itself and misuses it for violent ends. This all happened, of course, during the JCPOA.
For decades, the world has sought to achieve the elusive goal of a stable Middle East. What better way – what better way to proceed toward it than denying the resources toward the regime most responsible for instability in the region? We must do whatever we can to stop the funding of the IRGC and the ministry of intelligence so that their agents cannot sustain terrorism and subversion on every continent. Make no mistake: These sanctions and our economic pressure are directed at the regime and its malign proxies, not at the Iranian people.
That is why we have humanitarian exemptions to all of our statutory sanctions that are being reimposed and have a range of authorizations in place to allow for certain activities that actually benefit the Iranian people.
If the world wants to see for itself the full extent of the Iranian regime’s malign activity, the United States has just released a booklet chronicling the destructive activities that the outlaw regime has perpetrated over the years.
Please go online, take a look. It has a great and detailed list. It is a great resource too for anyone who wants to see what revolutionary priorities are like, what the regime really is all about.
I’ve talked a lot today about the regime’s broken promises to UN member-states. It’s important, as we meet here, to talk about the relationship between Iran and its commitments to the United Nations. But the other constituency can put no – that can put no faith in the words of Iran’s leader are of course the Iranian people themselves.
In 1978, before he returned from exile, the Ayatollah Khomeini gave an interview touting the glorious things to come for the Iranian people under the tenets of the Islamic Republic. Among other things, he promised the eradication of poverty, the improvement of condition of the life of the majority of the people who’d been oppressed in various manners, and all kinds of other good things that would come to the country.
How’s that working out? There are psychic hotlines with more accurate predictions.
The president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani himself, has said many people have lost their faith in the future of the Islamic Republic and are in doubt about its power. This attitude, of course, is understandable with one-third of Iranian youth unemployed, while government parking garages are filled with Range Rovers and BMWs.
Thanks to the regime’s failed policies, the Iranian people are battling drastic water shortages and environmental crises throughout their nation.
Last year, Iran’s own energy minister said that 295 cities are facing droughts and water shortages. Meanwhile, the regime has spent untold billions of dollars on a nuclear program that has extended now over years. The Iranian regime is more concerned with heavy water than drinking water.
In terms of improving the condition of those who have been oppressed, Iran still throws its citizens in prison. They bring up charges like “anti-revolutionary behavior,” “corruption on earth,” “siding with global arrogance,” and “crimes against Islam.” Regime vans cruise around the streets of major cities to round up women not obeying the restrictive hijab laws. As part of a larger persecution of the Sunni minority, last year one court sentenced four Sunnis to five years of imprisonment for the crime of jogging.
The law prohibits Muslim citizens from changing or renouncing their religious beliefs, even the teaching of music. Music is discouraged in the schools.
If nations are not moved by this evidence to change their policies towards Iran, that’s their choice. That is their prerogative. But how can any nation that claims to sympathize with the people of Iran keep sustaining trade relationships with lawless and oppressive Ayatollahs?
The United States says this to the people of Iran: Our pledges of support do not end with our words. The United States hears you; the United States supports you. The United States is with you. We support your rights to live as a free people under a government that exercises accountability and treats you with respect.
You deserve better than the fruitless revolution, a revolution that has been imposed on you by corrupt leaders.
And our message is consistent. It’s consistent with what the protesters on the streets of Iran themselves are crying out for and what millions of Iranians in the world of – the worldwide diaspora have said for nearly 40 years. The United States seeks a better way forward with the Middle East.
As President Trump and I have said many times, a new agreement is possible. Indeed, he said it even today. But change must come in the 12 areas I outlined in May, as well in – as with Iran’s human rights record.
This week, our new special representative for Iran, Brian Hook, will meet the members of the Iranian diaspora here in New York. They will share their personal stories about what they and their family and friends have experienced and endured. Be sure, all Iranians who long for a normal government in Iran should be heard. We will continue these conversations to let the Iranian regime know unambiguously whose side we are on.
I want to close with a quote from a great American who often crossed party lines to stand up for the truth, much like our good friend Senator Lieberman did. His name is Daniel Patrick Moynihan, also from this great state. Served 24 years as a senator from New York. He was also the United States ambassador to the United Nations under President Ford.
He once said that, “The United Nations Charter imposes two obligations on members. The first, which is well-known, is to be law-abiding in their relations with other nations: not to attack them, not to subvert them, and so on. But there is a second obligation, which” is – “very simply is to be law-abiding in the treatment of one’s own citizens” as well.
Iran has failed on both obligations.
Ambassador Moynihan also once said “everyone is entitled to his opinions but not to his own facts.”
The fact is that Iran’s charm offensive behind closed doors cannot cover up its string of broken promises in the Security Council chamber.
The fact is that the Iranian regime robs its own people to pay for death and destruction abroad.
The fact is that the outlaw Iranian regime has sabotaged the ability of the people on every continent to live in peace and dignity, including its own country.
The United States asks every nation to come to term with these facts and hold Iran accountable in ways that it has not been held accountable to date.
Only then – only then – can we take new and true steps towards greater security for our own peace-loving people and greater liberty for those inside of Iran.
—Sept. 25, 2018, in a speech at the United Against Nuclear Iran Summit
QUESTION: Let’s talk about Iran. I know there was some talk that perhaps a meeting would happen between President Trump and Iran President Rouhani. Rouhani yesterday, before the UN, said that President Trump has tendencies resembling a Nazi disposition and that America’s First strategy is a symptom of weakness of intellect. How do you sit down with someone like that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, there’s not going to be a meeting. President Trump has said when the Iranians are prepared to talk about fundamentally changing their behavior, then he is of course prepared to talk to them. Those statements yesterday indicate that they’re not in that place, and it is outrageous for him to say such a thing. For a Holocaust-denying country that is threatening Israel to compare the United States or its leader to Nazis is among the most outrageous things I have heard – and I will tell you, in diplomacy you hear a lot of them – the most outrageous things I have ever heard.
QUESTION: And yet you are ramping up sanctions on Iran and then the news that Europe, China and Russia are all going to create this backchannel so that they can keep economic relationships with Iran despite these U.S. sanctions. I mean, what does that say about our relationship with those countries and the fact that they’ve created this backchannel?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Look, I hosted a dinner with them last night. There are lots of places we’re working with our transatlantic partners in fundamentally important ways, on chemical weapons – lots of places where we have great overlap. They’ve taken a different path with respect to the JCPOA. That’s been clear for some time.
Here’s what I’d say about their decision yesterday: To continue to create mechanisms to fund the world’s largest state sponsor of terror is disastrous policy and I hope they will reconsider it. But most importantly, European businesses are voting with their checkbooks. They are leaving Iran in droves. These sanctions will be effective, they are effective, and come November 4th, they’ll be even more effective.
QUESTION: Isn’t it a lot more effective, though, when the world enforces the sanctions than just U.S. sanctions?
SECRETARY POMPEO: We’re going to be incredibly effective. You can see it. Today, the rial trades at over 150,000 rial to the dollar. The economy is collapsing. There are two reasons for that. One is certainly the pressure that’s put in place, but most importantly, it’s the total chaos created by the Islamic Republic, Iran’s government. They treat their people horribly, they spend billions of dollars committing terror acts around the world, and they don’t take care of their people. And you see the protests, you see the anger on the streets of Tehran and in the rural areas. That’s a result of terrible government and the Iranian people aren’t going to stand for it, and the American people are going to stand with the Iranian people.
—Sept. 26, 2018, to Norah O’Donnell of CBS News
SECRETARY POMPEO: We have real risk to outside agents trying to do harm to America. There is no mistake about that. There are many countries seeking to meddle in our elections: the Chinese, the Iranians, the North Koreans. And certainly, what the Russians did in 2016 are all clear indications that there are those who want to undermine American democracy. And we have an obligation, both the intelligence community, our military, our diplomats, all of the U.S. Government, to prevent that from ever happening.
QUESTION: Finally, there was an attack on a military parade in Iran this weekend in which at least 24 people were killed, and your Iranian counterpart, Foreign Minister Zarif, blames it on the U.S. Did the U.S. play any role in that attack? And do you have any plans, or does the President have any plans, to meet with Iranian officials this next week at the UN General Assembly?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Let me take your second question first. I don’t know that there are any plans to date. The President has been pretty clear: If there are constructive conversations to be had with the Iranians, the President is happy to have them. He’d be willing to do so.
QUESTION: Even with President Rouhani this week?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, the leader of the country is Ayatollah Khamenei. That’s who is running the show in Iran. I think that would be an important and interesting conversation. With respect to --
QUESTION: Wait, I mean, are you just – is that talk, or are you just saying you would like, the President would like, to meet with the Ayatollah?
SECRETARY POMPEO: The President has said he’ll talk with anyone if we can a constructive conversation. We want Iran to stop being the largest – the world’s largest state sponsor of terror. But make no mistake about it; there is no indication that they have any intent of doing this. Just this past couple weeks, they’ve come after American interests inside of Iraq, in Basra and in Baghdad.
And with respect to the attacks overnight, I saw the comments of Zarif. When you have a security incident at home, blaming others is an enormous mistake. And the loss of innocent life is tragic, and I wish Zarif would focus on keeping his own people secure rather than causing insecurity all around the world.
—Sept. 23, 2018, in an interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News
QUESTION: The President is going to be hosting a Security Council meeting on nonproliferation, but he’s tweeting today it’s really about Iran. Are you signaling in a lot of your policies that you really want a soft regime change, or a real regime change? Do you see Rouhani from Iran – President Rouhani – meeting with the President of the United States?
SECRETARY POMPEO: We’ve made very clear that regime change is not President Trump’s policy. We’ve laid out what it is we want from the Islamic Republic of Iran. It’s pretty straightforward, Andrea. How about this: For starters, stop launching missiles into Riyadh, arming Hizballah, and threatening Israel. How about ceasing to be the world’s largest state sponsor of terror. These are simple demands that we make of every country in the world, and that’s what we’re looking for from Iran as well. When the Islamic regime makes that change, we’ll be happy to have a conversation with them. President Trump’s made that very clear. But there’s no signs that they’re backing off continuing their terror threats around the world.
—Sept. 21, 2018, in an interview with Andrea Mitchell of MSNBC
QUESTION: Okay, let’s move to Iran, and particularly Iraq and Syria. You’ve had two attacks by Iranian-backed militias in U.S. diplomatic facilities in Iraq. The U.S. has said that it’s going to make sure all Iranian troops are going to leave Syria and is willing to stay the course. Are we headed towards a confrontation with Iran?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, Iran has been confronting the world as the world’s largest state sponsor of terror for quite some time.
QUESTION: It seems there was an escalation, though.
SECRETARY POMPEO: They have armed militias – the Lebanese Hizballah, Kata'ib Hizballah, and militias in Iraq. They’re arming the Houthis in Yemen, launching missiles into the Gulf states. The United States has begun to apply economic and diplomatic pressure on Iran to prevent them from doing this. That’s our mission. And it is true, Elise, we have told the Islamic Republic of Iran that using a proxy force to attack an American interest will not prevent us from responding against the prime actor. That is, we will not let Iran get away with using a proxy force to attack an American interest. Iran will be held accountable for those incidents.
QUESTION: Even militarily?
SECRETARY POMPEO: They’re going to be held accountable. If they’re responsible for the arming and training of these militias, we’re going to go to the source.
QUESTION: And you criticized Secretary of State John Kerry, former Secretary Kerry, for his meetings with Iran, saying he needs to get off the stage. But can you tell me, how is this jeopardizing your efforts right now?
SECRETARY POMPEO: No American – and in particular no former Secretary of State – should be actively seeking to undermine the foreign policy of the United States of America. You know, frankly, this was Secretary Kerry’s problem. He always refused to treat our enemies like enemies. And here he is today as the former Secretary of State telling our adversaries – the world’s largest state sponsor of terror, people who are conducting assassination attempts in Europe – just wait out this administration, giving foreign policy advice directly contrary to what President Trump is trying to achieve on behalf of America.
—Sept. 21, 2018, in an interview with Elise Labott of CNN
QUESTION: On Iran, Germany’s foreign minister has suggested that Europe should work around the U.S. dollar. Russian companies are trying to do the same. Is there a risk to the dominance of the U.S. dollar as these countries try to evade U.S. sanctions?
SECRETARY POMPEO: The Islamic Republic of Iran continues to be the world’s largest state sponsor of terror. We are determined to stop that behavior and to change the way the Iranian regime inflicts horrors all around the world. A good piece of that was the President’s decision to withdraw from the JCPOA, which to him and to me made no sense whatsoever, to begin to reimpose costs on Iran so that they don’t have the wealth, the contacts around the world, and the capacity to inflict harm on the American people and others around the world. We’re looking for our European partners to join us, but we have a big coalition that understands that these sanctions make sense and will continue to assist us in enforcing them.
QUESTION: Are the European countermeasures effective, though? Are they blunting U.S. policy?
SECRETARY POMPEO: If you just watch the traffic, it’s one-way. Folks are leaving Iran, including European businesses. And so I am very confident that we will ultimately be effective in enforcing the sanctions that President Trump has asked us to reimpose.
—Sept. 21, 2018, in an interview with Rich Edson of Fox News
QUESTION: You may have been told, Mr. Secretary, that I want to mostly focus on North Korea, but just a quick question about the latest news: We understand that the Security Council meeting next week is about nonproliferation. The President had just tweeted that he’s going to chair a meeting on Iran. So what’s the meeting about?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So Iran will certainly be a topic. The meeting is on a broader set of nonproliferation issues, but the world should know Iran leads the charge when it comes to the risk of proliferation. They continue to be the world’s largest state sponsor of terror and they continue the programs that have threatened the world for so long. The President’s determined to push back against them, and the meeting that he will chair next week will be centered on ensuring that nonproliferation is at the top of the world’s agenda.
—Sept. 21, 2018, in an interview with Barbara Plett Usher of BBC
Religious freedom is also an essential building block for all free societies, and our founders knew this. It’s a freedom that I care personally about, and I know you do as well. It’s the one that drew me to serve my country in the United States Armed Forces. But sadly, today more than 80 percent of the global population lives in countries that place significant limitations on religious freedom. And I know it brings many of us heavy hearts to watch the ongoing persecution of Christians and other minorities in countries like the Islamic Republic of Iran. We are fighting for human dignity of the Iranian people by speaking the truth about the oppressive and corrupt regime that controls those people. Religious minorities in Iran are routinely imprisoned, stripped of their rights, kicked out of their jobs, and subject to many other abuses.
Earlier this year there was a moving news segment on 20 Iranian Christians who made a dangerous journey outside of Iran to an undisclosed location. After years of gathering in secret, all they wanted was to spend a few days in a place, in a place where they could conduct a baptism ceremony without fear of reprisal. And so 20 of them secretly flew to a foreign country and rented a hotel swimming pool for some baptisms. One man said he had waited 10 years since his conversion for this very moment. This is the level of secrecy needed to be a Christian inside of Iran.
I could give you many more examples, examples of how Iranian people have been mistreated by a repressive, corrupt, and hypocritical regime for 40 years. As part of a larger persecution of the Sunni minority last year, one court sentenced four Sunnis to five years imprisonment for the crime of jogging, of all things. A Sufi Muslim man was hanged in June after a sham judicial process.
After President Trump withdrew from the flawed deal, he implemented a new strategy to force a change in the Iranian regime’s behavior. And part of this strategy is to make sure that the voices inside Iran crying out for accountability, justice, and religious freedom know that the United States stands with them. We stand with the Christians, the Jews, the Sufis, the Muslims, the Zoroastrians, the Baha’i, and all other faith groups in Iran who have had their human dignity violated by this regime. We know the importance of God-given right of all people to worship according to their conscience.
—Sept. 21, 2018, at the 13th Annual Values Voter Summit
QUESTION: Iran in the news. Brian Hook, your special envoy, saying: We want to deal with Iran, but a treaty with Iran. Iranian leaders: No go. They’re like: We don’t want any dealings with the United States at this point. What’s going on?
SECRETARY POMPEO: President Trump’s been very clear since the time he was running for office that the arrangement that the previous administration put in place was bad for America, frankly, bad for the world. And so I and Brian are working to get Iran to behave like a normal nation, right, stop being the world’s largest state sponsor of terror, stop launching missiles through proxies, stop attacking our embassies and consulates. When we get those basic things in place, President Trump’s made very clear we’d love Iran to rejoin the community of nations, but their revolutionary zeal causes them to be a bad actor and they need to shape up. And if they do, we’ll get it right.
QUESTION: You and John Kerry have gone back and forth on this – former Secretary of State, Barack Obama – has met four times with Iranian leadership, and you guys criticized, saying that’s not appropriate given you can’t have two-track foreign policy. But he responded by saying “There’s nothing unusual, let alone unseemly or inappropriate, about former diplomats meeting with foreign counterparts.” Secretary of State Kissinger’s done it for decades with Russia and China. “What is unseemly and unprecedented… for the podium of the State Department to be hijacked for political theatrics.”
SECRETARY POMPEO: Secretary Kerry can’t seem to get off the stage, and you have to. When I’m the former Secretary, I’ll get off. Every previous former secretary’s done that too. It’s one thing to meet with your counterpart; it’s another thing to do what Secretary Kerry, Wendy Sherman, Ernest Moniz, frankly the whole gang has done, which is to actively seek to undermine what President Trump is trying to achieve. It’s okay to talk with them, but you have to be working for America, working for American foreign policy, and they’re not. They’re working for the foreign policy that is theirs, not the one that belongs to the United States.
QUESTION: Our own Dana Perino last week had Kerry on, and he did not deny that he wanted to basically tell the Iranians to wait it out for the next administration. And he said everybody around the world is trying to wait this out. At what point does the administration pursue some type of legal action against former Secretary Kerry and others from the former administration?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’ll leave the legal action to others. I’m trying to execute America’s foreign policy, and they are not only unhelpful, but they are acting in ways that are harmful to achieving what’s best for the American people, and that’s my criticism. Stop it. Let it go. You had your day. We think you fundamentally got it wrong with Iran, and we’re trying to make it right for America.
—Sept. 19, 2018, in an interview with Laura Ingraham of Fox News
QUESTION: President Trump tweeted about one of your predecessors, Secretary Kerry, saying that he was having, quote/unquote, “illegal meetings” with Iran’s foreign minister in what others have said is an attempt to undermine or subvert or coach the Iranians on how to get around or avoid the new – your new harder, tougher policy on Iran. I’m wondering if you share the President’s view that these meetings are illegal. And whether you do or not, if you have noticed in your attempts to get the Europeans and others, to get them on board with the new U.S. policy, and that efforts by Secretary Kerry, or any other former official for that matter, is interfering in or undermining your efforts.
SECRETARY POMPEO: So I’ll leave the legal determinations to others. But what Secretary Kerry has done is unseemly and unprecedented. This is a former secretary of state engaged with the world’s largest state sponsor of terror, and according to him – right? You don’t have to take my word for it. He – these are his answers. He was talking to them. He was telling them to wait out this administration.
You can’t find precedent for this in U.S. history, and the secretary ought not – Secretary Kerry ought not to engage in that kind of behavior. It’s inconsistent with what foreign policy of the United States is, as directed by this President, and it is beyond inappropriate for him to be engaged in this. I remember, I saw him. I saw him in Munich at the Security Conference. He was there with – if I have my facts right, because I think I saw them all with my own eyes – Secretary Moniz and Wendy Sherman, the troika. And I am confident that they met with their troika counterparts, although one can perhaps ask Secretary Kerry if my recollection with respect to that is accurate.
I wasn’t in the meeting, but I am reasonably confident that he was not there in support of U.S. policy with respect to the Islamic Republic of Iran, who this week fired Katyusha rockets toward the United States embassy in Baghdad and took action against our consulate in Basra.
—Sept. 14, 2018, in remarks to the press
.@khamenei_ir fancies himself the leader of the Islamic world, but his regime has been totally silent as China—the top buyer of #Iran’s oil—has persecuted and detained hundreds of thousands of its Muslim citizens. رژیم_ریاکار#— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) September 14, 2018
Today, the regime in #Iran is at odds with world peace. We urge our allies and partners to join the U.S. and deny Iran’s leadership the funds to oppress the Iranian people and to foment terrorism around the world.— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) August 8, 2018
The rial is plummeting. A third of #Iran's youth are unemployed. A third of Iranians live below the poverty line. But if you’re a politically-connected member of the regime's elite, the Iranian economy is going great. pic.twitter.com/NCfyv3rCn1— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) July 23, 2018
SECRETARY POMPEO: Next year will mark the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. As I’ll spell out more in a moment, the 40 years of fruit from the revolution has been bitter. Forty years of kleptocracy. Forty years of the people’s wealth squandered on supporting terrorism. Forty years of ordinary Iranians thrown in jail for peaceful expression of their rights. Why has the regime conducted itself in such an abhorrent way over the past 40 years and subjected its people to these conditions? It’s an important question.
The answer is at root in the revolutionary nature of the regime itself.
The ideologues who forcibly came to power in 1979 and remain in power today are driven by a desire to conform all of Iranian society to the tenets of the Islamic Revolution. The regime is also committed to spreading the revolution to other countries, by force if necessary. The total fulfillment of the revolution at home and abroad is the regime’s ultimate goal. It drives their behavior. Thus, the regime has spent four decades mobilizing all elements of the Iranian economy, foreign policy, and political life in service of that objective. To the regime, prosperity, security, and freedom for the Iranian people are acceptable casualties in the march to fulfill the revolution.
Economically, we see how the regime’s decision to prioritize an ideological agenda over the welfare of the Iranian people has put Iran into a long-term economic tailspin. During the time of the nuclear deal, Iran’s increased oil revenues could have gone to improving the lives of the Iranian people. Instead they went to terrorists, dictators, and proxy militias. Today, thanks to regime subsidies, the average Hizballah combatant makes two to three times what an Iranian firefighter makes on the streets of Iran. Regime mismanagement has led to the rial plummeting in value. A third of Iranian youth are unemployed, and a third of Iranians now live below the poverty line.
The bitter irony of the economic situation in Iran is that the regime uses this same time to line its own pockets while its people cry out for jobs and reform and for opportunity. The Iranian economy is going great – but only if you’re a politically-connected member of the elite. Two years ago, Iranians rightfully erupted in anger when leaked paystubs showed massive amounts of money inexplicably flowing into the bank accounts of senior government officials. ...
This list goes on, but we’ve got places to go tonight. The level of corruption and wealth among Iranian leaders shows that Iran is run by something that resembles the mafia more than a government.
On foreign policy, the regime’s mission of exporting the revolution has produced a decades-long campaign of ideologically-motivated violence and destabilization abroad. Assad, Lebanese Hizballah, Hamas, Shia militant groups in Iraq, and the Houthis in Yemen feed on billions of regime cash while the Iranian people shout slogans like “Leave Syria, think about us.”
Our partners in the Middle East are plagued by Iranian cyberattacks and threatening behavior in the waters of the Persian Gulf. The regime and its allies in terror have left a trail of dissident blood across Europe and the Middle East.
Indeed, our European allies are not immune to the threat of regime-backed terrorism.
Just earlier this month, an Iranian “diplomat” based in Vienna was arrested and charged with supplying explosives for a terrorist bomb scheduled to bomb a political rally in France. This tells you everything you need to know about the regime: At the same time they’re trying to convince Europe to stay in the nuclear deal, they’re covertly plotting terrorist attacks in the heart of Europe.
And because fighting the United States and destroying Israel is at the core of the regime’s ideology, it has committed and supported many acts of violence and terrorism against both countries and our citizens. As just one example, well over a thousand American service members have been killed and wounded in Iraq from Iranian-made IEDs.
Today, multiple Americans are detained and missing inside of Iran. Baquer Namazi, Siamak Namazi, Xiyue Wang are unjustly held by the regime to this day, and Bob Levinson has been missing in Iran for over 11 years. There are others, too. And we in the Trump administration are working diligently to bring each of those Americans home from having been wrongfully detained for far too long. …
You know, despite the regime’s clear record of aggression, America and other countries have spent years straining to identify a political moderate. It’s like an Iranian unicorn. The regime’s revolutionary goals and willingness to commit violent acts haven’t produced anyone to lead Iran that can be remotely called a moderate or a statesman. ...
In response to myriad government failures, corruption, and disrespect of rights, since December Iranians have been taking to the streets in the most enduring and forceful protests since 1979. Some shout the slogan, “The people are paupers while the mullahs live like gods.” Others choose to shut down the Grand Bazaar in Tehran. The specific grievances do 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.
The regime – this is important. The regime’s brutal response to these peaceful protests reflects the intolerance that its revolutionary worldview has produced. Last January, the regime welcomed in the new year with the arrests of up to 5,000 of its own people. They were peacefully calling for a better life. Hundreds reportedly remain behind bars, and several are dead at the hands of their own government. The leaders cynically call it suicide. ...
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.
When the United States sees the shoots of liberty pushing up through rocky soil we pledge our solidarity, because we too took a hard first step towards becoming a free country a few years back.
Right now, the United States is undertaking a diplomatic and financial pressure campaign to cut off the funds that the regime uses to enrich itself and support death and destruction. We have an obligation to put maximum pressure on the regime’s ability to generate and move money, and we will do so. ...
While it is ultimately up to the Iranian people to determine the direction of their country, the United States, in the spirit of our own freedoms, will support the long-ignored voice of the Iranian people. Our hope is that ultimately the regime will make meaningful changes in its behavior both inside of Iran and globally. As President Trump has said, we’re willing to talk with the regime in Iran, but relief from American pressure will come only when we see tangible, demonstrated, and sustained shifts in Tehran’s policies.
—July 22, 2018, in a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library
"Two weeks ago, President Trump terminated the United States participation in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, more commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal.
President Trump withdrew from the deal for a simple reason: it failed to guarantee the safety of the American people from the risk created by the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
No more. No more wealth creation for Iranian kleptocrats. No more acceptance of missiles landing in Riyadh and in the Golan Heights. No more cost-free expansions of Iranian power. No more.
The JCPOA put the world at risk because of its fatal flaws.
And they’re worth recounting at some length today, if only for the purpose of ensuring that subsequent arrangements do not repeat them."
"Lebanon is an even more comfortable home for Hizballah today than it was when we embarked on the JCPOA. Hizballah is now armed to the teeth by Iran and has its sights set on Israel.
Thanks to Iran, Hizballah provides the ground forces for the military expedition in Syria. The IRGC, too, has continued to pump thousands of fighters into Syria to prop up the murderous Assad regime and help make that country 71,000 square miles of kill zone.
Iran perpetuates a conflict that has displaced more than 6 million Syrians inside the – 6 million Syrians and caused over 5 million to seek refuge outside of its borders.
These refugees include foreign fighters who have crossed into Europe and threatened terrorist attacks in those countries.
In Iraq, Iran sponsored Shia militia groups and terrorists to infiltrate and undermine the Iraqi Security Forces and jeopardize Iraq’s sovereignty – all of this during the JCPOA.
In Yemen, Iran’s support for the Houthi militia fuels a conflict that continues to starve the Yemeni people and hold them under the threat of terror.
The IRGC has also given Houthi missiles to attack civilian targets in Saudi Arabia and the Emirates and to threaten international shipping in the Red Sea.
And in Afghanistan, Iran’s support to the Taliban in the form of weapons and funding leads to further violence and hinders peace and stability for the Afghan people.
Today, the Iranian Qods Force conducts covert assassination operations in the heart of Europe."
"Next year marks the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Republic – Revolution in Iran. At this milestone, we have to ask: What has the Iranian Revolution given to the Iranian people? The regime reaps a harvest of suffering and death in the Middle East at the expense of its own citizens. Iran’s economy is stagnant and without direction and about to get worse. Its young people are withering under the weight of frustrated ambitions. They are longing to pursue the freedoms and opportunities of the 21st century.
Iran’s leaders can change all of this if they choose to do so. Ali Khamenei has been supreme leader since 1989. He will not live forever, nor will the Iranian people abide the rigid rules of tyrants forever. For two generations, the Iranian regime has exacted a heavy toll on its own people and the world. The hard grip of repression is all that millions of Iranians have ever known.
Now is the time for the supreme leader and the Iranian regime to summon the courage to do something historically beneficial for its own people, for this ancient and proud nation.
As for the United States, our eyes are clear as to the nature of this regime, but our ears are open to what may be possible. Unlike the previous administration, we are looking for outcomes that benefit the Iranian people, not just the regime."
—May 21, 2018, in a speech at The Heritage Foundation
“President Trump has said that 'Iran is not the same country it was five months ago.' That’s because our campaign of financial pressure, our withdrawal from the nuclear deal, and our full-throated support for the Iranian people, which I articulated in a speech this past Sunday, are having an impact.”
“There is enormous economic challenge inside of Iran today, it’s an economic structure that simply doesn’t work. When you’re a country of that scale that foments terror, through Lebanese Hezbollah, through Shia militias in Iraq, into Yemen, conducts assassination attempts in European countries, provides enormous support for Hafez Assad, outside of Lebanese Hezbollah in Syria. That’s expensive, and I think the Iranian people are beginning to see that that’s not the model that they want. That the Iranian expansionism that the supreme leader and Qassem Soleimani so favor is not what they’re looking for. And I think you’re beginning to see the economic impact combined with understandings inside of Iran of the kleptocracy that it is, leading to fundamental decisions that the Iranian people will ultimately have to make.”
“The question that President Trump faced was was the JCPOA good enough, and he concluded that it wasn’t remotely good enough. I think he said it was one of the worst deals in history – I don’t want to get the language wrong – so he concluded that we would find ourselves in a better place with an opportunity to revisit all of these issues, the broad spectrum of issues, not just the nuclear portfolio but the military program, their malign activity around the world, all of them in a package. It did accept the understanding that there would be those that wouldn’t come alongside of us, but you should know there is a coalition – it’s not America and America alone – we have others who believe that this was the right decision too: the Israelis, the Saudis, the Emirates, the Bahrainis, other smaller European governments – not the E3 themselves, but there are a number of folks who are beginning to coalesce around an understanding of how we can appropriately respond to Iran to take down the nuclear risk to the United States, as well as the risk from these other malign activities.”
—July 25, 2018, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Hmm… Can this be explained? pic.twitter.com/wXXC8urswV— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) June 20, 2018
Interview With Mina Al-Oraibi of The National
QUESTION: Thank you. I want to ask you about Iran, basically, because of course, here in the region, we have a lot of concerns about Iran’s expansionist policies, and you recently said that Ayatollah Khamenei has to be held to account for destabilizing the Gulf’s security. How can he be held to account?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So there are lots of ways. First, a united opposition is very important, and it’s one of the reasons I’m here. We have great partners here in the United Arab Emirates, we have great partners with the Saudis and the Bahrainis, many countries pushing back, demonstrating that what we’re asking is pretty simple: Iran to become a more normal country.
The tools we’ll use will be varied. They’ll often be diplomatic. You see the U.S.-led efforts on sanctions, so economic tools. And then it’s also the case that we will be prepared to make sure that when Iran does things like launch missiles that come here or go to Riyadh, that we’re prepared to defend the region as well militarily.
QUESTION: The recent threat of closing the Strait of Hormuz is one that, of course, the whole world cares about. Is that a realistic threat?
SECRETARY POMPEO: The United States has made very clear we’re going to make sure that the sea lanes remain open. It’s been a longstanding U.S. policy and we’re prepared to make sure that that happens.
QUESTION: Now, if we look at Yemen, we see an uptick of activity from Hizballah and from Iran’s support for the Houthis. What can the international community do to stop that and how can we see an end to the war in Yemen?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So I do hope that there ultimately is a political resolution there. The UN, through Mr. Griffiths, is working hard to achieve that political resolution. But at the end of the day, it’s going to require a global effort to convince the Iranians that this kind of meddling, this kind of interference, this kind of promotion of violence directed at Arab countries outside of Yemen doesn’t make sense for them. And so all the same tools that I described previously are the ones that will ultimately lead to the Houthis and others in Yemen realizing that the war is not worth continuing, that a political resolution is the one that’s best for the people of Yemen.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) sorts of actions that can be taken in addition to, of course, the sanctions to convince the Iranians to change their behavior? Because what we’ve seen in the last few years is whatever pressure has not wielded the results you’re hoping for so far.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, remember the last few years, the sanctions were lifted. And so much of this malign activity, this increase in resources provided to Hizballah, the increase in resources provided to the Shia militias fighting in Iraq and in Syria, the support for the Houthis in Yemen, the efforts in Bahrain, those all took place against the backdrop of a relief from sanctions as a result of agreements that were entered into in the JCPOA. America has now withdrawn from those. These sanctions are returning. And I am convinced that the combined effort of the Gulf states and the United States and the Europeans will ultimately achieve a good outcome and convince the Iranian people that this is not the kind of activity their government ought to be involved with.
QUESTION: Are you working on an alternative deal when it comes to the nuclear activities of Iran? Do we expect another deal, a different type of deal?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, if there’s another deal, it’ll be completely different. It will be of permanent duration and not temporary. It will have a verification regime that is sufficient to ensure that nuclear weapons aren’t being hidden or developed in a clandestine way. And equally importantly, it won’t just be about the nuclear program. It’ll be about their space program, which is really a proxy for their missile efforts. It’ll be about their missile program, it’ll be about the malign activity, it will be a comprehensive effort to convince Iran to behave in a way that we ask every other country in the world to behave.
QUESTION: Iran’s presence in Syria is one that causes concern for Syrians and the region. Are you in talks with the Russians to work together to push out Iran and Hizballah’s influence in Syria?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So we have spoken with many parties in Syria, including the Russians, and made very clear, as have the Israelis, that the Iranian presence in Syria is not appropriate and won’t be tolerated. So we’re working diligently to develop a political solution that not only achieves America’s goal of defeating ISIS that’s still there, still a challenge for us in Syria, but leads Iran to the place where they conclude it’s not worth the candle for them to be in Syria. There’s no reason for them to reach out to that country. There’s no reason to have military forces on the ground there. And we’re going to undertake, along with our partners, a comprehensive program to diminish that activity.
QUESTION: We’ve seen some Iraqi militia forces in Syria under the leadership of Iranian military commanders or the IRCG commanders. What do you say to the Iraqi Government on that role that they’re playing?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So yes, Qasem Soleimani is causing trouble throughout Iraq and Syria, and we need to raise the cost for him, for he and his organization and for him personally. With respect to the Iraqi Government, we’re working closely with the Iraqis to make sure that as they move through their government formation process – as the election is now over, as they move through the government formation process, what America wants is an Iraqi – Iraq for Iraqis, not influenced by Iran but rather comprised of the various groups: the Kurds, the Sunnis, the Shias. We want everyone to have a voice in an Iraqi national government that leads to an Iraq that is strong and independent and robust and economically successful as well.
QUESTION: If we go back to Syria, is the U.S.’s position still that Assad must go?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Our first step is to take down the violence. The first thing that America’s working on politically is to reduce the level of violence. We have six million-plus displaced persons. We’ve got to restore the opportunity for the Syrian people to begin to engage politically and develop a stable, non-violent Syria. At that point, the political decisions, the constitution of Syria will be sorted out by the Syrian people.
QUESTION: And I want to ask you finally, on the issue of Qatar, as the Qatar crisis has developed, they’ve gotten closer and closer to Iran. So as this coalition is put together to face off on Iran’s activities in the region, what is your message to the Qataris on that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: My message and the President’s message to the entire Gulf (inaudible) is that we hope that they will begin to have discussions and resolve this dispute. We understand there are differences of views. This happens among countries with great frequency. But we do also recognize that these disputes lead to a strengthening of Iran, it allows Iran to create a wedge between Gulf states that have a shared threat from the Islamic Republic of Iran. And so we are hopeful and we are prepared to try and help facilitate to the extent we can a resolution of this set of disputes.
—July 10, 2018, in an interview with The National
Interview With Mohannad Al Khatib of Sky News Arabia
QUESTION: Thank you. The United States is reinforcing various sanctions on Iran. We’ve heard statements over the last few days coming from Tehran that basically amount to threats, (inaudible) in the region, that – some went as far as threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz. How would the United States respond (inaudible) such threat?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, it all starts with Iranian bad behavior, the kinds of things that threaten the people here in the Emirates – missiles being launched from Yemen that strike real risk to the people of all of the Gulf states. And so American policy is aimed to deter that.
I’ve seen these remarks about their threats. The world should know that America is committed to keeping sea lanes open, to keep transit of oil available for the entire world. That’s the commitment we’ve had for decades. We continue to honor that commitment.
QUESTION: Aside from the nuclear issue with Iran, Iran is involved (inaudible) in many destabilizing activities in several countries in the hemisphere: Yemen (inaudible), Syria. What will the United States do in order to limit these activities?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, one of the great things is we have wonderful partners like the Emirates, the Saudis, many countries, the Bahrainis are all working alongside of us to push back against Iranian malign behavior, whether it’s their activity underwriting the Houthis in Yemen, Hizballah in Syria and in Lebanon, in Iraq and Syria Shia militias that are inflicting real harm on ordinary citizens.
So we intend to do a number of things, though one that we are most focused on today is ensuring that we deny Iran the financial capacity to continue this bad behavior. So it’s a broad range, a series of sanctions aimed not at the Iranian people, but rather aimed at the singular mission of convincing the Iranian regime that its malign behavior is unacceptable and has a real high cost for them.
QUESTION: Iran has said several times that they intend to stay in Syria for the long term. How does the United States view this?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, Iran needs to get out of Syria. They have no business there. There’s no reason for them to be there. There’s been Iranian influence there for a long time. Iranian forces, Iranian militias must leave the country.
QUESTION: Also on the issue of the Syrian (inaudible), there is a big (inaudible) going on south of Syria today. The armed groups that were supported at one time by the United States are losing ground. How are you looking at this?
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s a very difficult situation. From the United States perspective, we need to achieve a political solution in Syria, one that reflects the diversity of the Syrian nation. We are aiming to set the conditions for a political resolution. We’re prepared to continue the conversations often led by the UN in a way that takes down the violence, de-escalates the threats to the people of Syria, allows the some six million displaced persons from Syria to begin to return and to rebuild, and that ultimately achieves a constitution and a political resolution that’s consistent with what the Syrian people truly want and deserve.
QUESTION: Are you in agreement with the Russians on what’s going on in the south of Syria today
SECRETARY POMPEO: No, we had an agreement with the Russians that they would not move in the south. There was a de-escalation zone that the Russians had agreed to. They now have clearly violated that and we are working with all parties concerned to get each party – the Russians, the Syrians, the Iranians, everyone to honor the commitments that they’ve made in the various political processes that have been undertaken with respect to Syria.
QUESTION: You had a tweet a few days ago saying that Iran’s activities in Yemen, the – (inaudible) the prolonged suffering of the Yemeni people will not be tolerated. What will Washington do in order to (inaudible)?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, we’ve done a lot of things. We’ve done work to push back against the threat of al-Qaida in Yemen. We’ve worked with the Saudis and with the Emiratis to reduce the risk from the Iranian threat there in Yemen through identifying transit of weapons that are moving in and around the region so that the Houthis don’t have the material to conduct these threats. We think it’s important that every place Iran attempts to use its force we raise the cost for them such that the Iranian people will ultimately reject that use of force.
QUESTION: The U.S. allies in Europe that were part of the 5+1 agreement with Iran are in talks with Iran right now in order to salvage what’s left of this agreement. How are you hoping talking to the Europeans about this and how are they responding?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, it’s a great question. I’ll actually leave here and headed for Brussels. I’ll meet with my European counterparts to talk about exactly this set of issues. Frankly, we agree in large part. The Europeans understand the threat that Iran poses. Indeed, just this past week, there were Iranians arrested in Europe who were preparing to conduct a terror plot in Paris, France. We’ve seen this malign behavior in Europe. The Europeans understand the threat. We are working through a difference. The American people concluded that the JCPOA made no sense, that it was truly a pathway for Iran to have a nuclear weapon. So we are attempting to stop that. We’re working now with the Europeans to develop a plan and a path forward to continue to stop Iran from its nuclear program, but also to push back against its missile system and its terrorist behavior.
QUESTION: Some countries in Europe and in other parts of the world intend to keep on getting oil from Iran even after the sanctions are imposed. How would you look at this?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, that will violate the sanctions that we put in place. Come November 4th, there will be a U.S. sanction that prevents crude oil from passing from Iran to other countries. It will be sanctionable activity. We will enforce those sanctions. There will be a handful of countries that come to the United States and ask for relief from that. We’ll consider it. But make no mistake about it, we are determined to convince the Iranian leadership that this malign behavior won’t be rewarded and that the economic situation in their country will not be permitted to be rectified until such time as they become a more normal nation.
—July 10, 2018, in an interview with Sky News Arabia
HUGH HEWITT (MSNBC): Speaking about the use of force, let’s turn to Iran, probably the greatest exporter of violence in the world on a daily basis (inaudible). Do you foresee having to use force if they continue on a nuclear path?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Boy, I sure hope not. I hope the ayatollah and Soleimani, the prime drivers of Iranian threat posture, I hope they recognize that whatever decision other countries make about staying in the JCPOA or however they proceed, I hope he – they understand that if they begin to ramp up their nuclear program, the wrath of the entire world will fall upon them. And so it is not in their practical best interest to begin that.
Whatever happens to the JCPOA, I think the Iranians understand that. It would be – wholly separate from whether they spin a couple of extra centrifuges, if they began to move towards a weapons program, this would be something the entire world would find unacceptable, and we’d end up down a path that I don’t think this is the best interest of Iran, other actors in the Middle East, or indeed the world.
HEWITT: When you say “the wrath of the entire world,” I think of the new entente – and I am talking then for the benefit of the audience – not just of Israel, but of Bahrain, of Egypt, of Jordan and Iraq or Saudi Arabia. The United Arab Emirates are great friends in the Middle East. Would they support that wrath descending on Iran in the form of American military action if they move this way?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, when I say “wrath,” don’t confuse that for military action. Those are – when I say “wrath,” I mean the moral opprobrium and economic power that fell upon them. That’s what I’m speaking to. I’m not talking to military action here. Just I truly hope that’s never the case. It’s not in anyone’s best interest for that. But make no mistake, President Trump has been very clear: Iran will not get a nuclear weapon nor start its weapons program on this President’s watch.
And I’ve heard some say that we’ve separated from our allies on this issue of Iran. I don’t think that’s the case. When I talk to my Arab friends, the Israelis, all of those in the region, they are right alongside us. And even when I speak to the Europeans, with whom we have a difference about the JCPOA, they too understand the threat that Iran presents, whether it’s malign activity with Hizballah or in Yemen or in Syria or in Iraq, or its missile program that is launching missiles into airports that Westerners travel through. There is a unified understanding of Iran’s malevolent behavior, and it will be an incredibly united world should Iran choose to head down a nuclear weapons path.
HEWITT: You mentioned General Soleimani. They only understand force sometimes. They are trying to move into Syria where they have put the Revolutionary Guard and the Qods Force again, but you’re saying – I want to just understand – if necessary, the United States is prepared to do whatever it has to do to stop them from having a nuclear weapon.
SECRETARY POMPEO: President Trump’s been unambiguous about – in his statements that says that Iran will not be able to obtain a nuclear weapon. Remember too, Hugh, it’s important to remind your viewers the previous agreement permitted them to continue to enrich uranium, all right? We cut a tougher deal on our allies, the Emiratis, than we did on the Iranians with respect to nuclear power. I laid down a dozen items that we’re asking Iran to do. If your viewers go look at them, they’re all simple things.
They are simply saying become a member of the community of nations, right? Stop launching missiles into non-hostile nations, cease support of terrorism around the world, don’t go down the path of a nuclear weapons system. The asks from the United States in order for Iran to return to the community of nations are all we ask of other countries around the world to be part of the international system.
HEWITT: Anyone who follows your Twitter feed – and I do follow it, Secretary Pompeo – knows that in the last two weeks you’ve done more democracy support in Iran than happened during the Green Revolution under the previous administration. Is that going to be a mark of the Secretary Pompeo years at State, that you’re just going to support the democratic movement in Iran?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I think it’s a mark of President Trump and our administration. We are very hopeful that there will be an increase in the democratic values, and the capacity for Iranians to speak their mind inside the Islamic Republic of Iran.
—June 22, 2018, in an interview with MSNBC’s Hugh Hewitt
"We are going to put together a coalition that pushes back against not only Iran’s nuclear program – which, by the way, Margaret, they still deny. No Iranian leader has admitted they had a weapons program, and the facts are now public that they did. They ought to at least be honest about that. But it’s not going to just be the nuclear file. It will be their missile program. It will be their effort to build Hizballah. It’ll be their threats against Israel. It’ll be the work that they’re doing in Yemen to launch missiles into Saudi Arabia, for goodness sakes.
This is the activity that the Iranian regime has undertaken during the JCPOA. We’re going to make a shift. We’re going to deny them the benefit of the economic wealth that has been created and put real pressure, so that they’ll stop the full scale of the sponsorship of terrorism with which they’ve been engaged in these past years."
—May 13, 2018, on CBS Face the Nation
“With respect to the JCPOA, we talked about it some today. I’m confident that that’ll be a topic on my trip throughout the Middle East as well, not only talking about the concerns that President Trump has expressed consistently, but talking about ways to potentially address those shortcomings, finding a potential solution to the very flaws that President Trump has identified for a long time now.
“You asked if we talked about the decision. There’s been no decision made. So the team is working, and I’m sure we’ll have lots of conversations to deliver what the President has made clear. Absent a substantial fix, absent overcoming the shortcomings, the flaws of the deal, he is unlikely to stay in that deal past this May.”
—April 27, 2018, at a press availability in Brussels, Belgium
“Iran, meanwhile, has been on the march and has paid too low a price for its dangerous behavior. Our administration has developed a strategy to counter Iran that will raise that cost. The issues surrounding Iran’s proliferation threat are real and we, along with our allies, must deal with the long-term risk that its capability presents. But we cannot let the nuclear file prevent us from acting against Iran’s cyber efforts or its attempts to provide missiles to the Houthis to attack Saudi Arabia and Americans who travel there. Iran’s activities in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon threaten the very existence of Israel, and the global reach of Hezbollah threatens us right here in the homeland. Iran freed American hostages for the sake of a deal and then turned immediately to holding still more. I will work for their freedom every day.
“President Trump is prepared to work with our partners to revise the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to fix its most egregious flaws. If confirmed, it will be an immediate personal priority to work with those partners to see if such a fix is achievable. The stakes are high for everyone, but especially Tehran. If confirmed in time, I look forward to engaging key Allies on this crucial and time-sensitive topic at the G7 Ministerial Meeting on April 22nd and the NATO Ministerial Meeting later that week.”
“Iran wasn't racing to a weapon before the deal. There is no indication that I'm aware of that if that deal no longer existed that they would immediately turn to racing to create a nuclear weapon today.”
—April 12, 2018, in remarks during his confirmation hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
Today marks one year since Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif agreed to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). On this date, we ought to take the opportunity not to re-litigate that “political commitment,” but evaluate whether it has helped protect the United States, our people, and our interests. Unfortunately for our country’s future, the answer to that inquiry is a resounding no. As a result, Congress must act to change Iranian behavior, and, ultimately, the Iranian regime.
The JCPOA can perhaps delay Iran’s nuclear weapons program for a few years. Conversely, it has virtually guaranteed that Iran will have the freedom to build an arsenal of nuclear weapons at the end of the commitment. Further, in the past year, the Islamic Republic of Iran has launched multiple ballistic missiles – testing increasingly complex and longer range missiles. It has grown its support of terrorist groups, and it continues to take hostages. The deal has, in fact, made our country less safe.
—July 14, 2016, in an op-ed published by Fox News
“You'll have to leave that to the State Department. I think -- I think the last I saw Secretary Tillerson made very, very clear that Assad is not a stabilizing influence in Syria, that is difficult to imagine, and from an intelligence perspective not a policy perspective, I would add, it is difficult to imagine a stable Syria that still has Assad in power. He is a puppet of the Iranians and therefore it seems an unlikely situation where Assad will be sitting on the throne and America's interests will be well served.”
“So Hezbollah is but one example of the Iranians using proxy forces to achieve their outcomes, which is an expansionist capacity to control and be the kingpin in the Middle East, certainly Hezbollah; many of the Shia militias, although not all; their efforts in Yemen, their proxies in Iraq now firmly gaining power inside of Iraq, each of those present threats to the Gulf States, to Israel, and to America's interests. And this administration is going to have the task of unwinding what we found when we came in.”
“We are working diligently to get to the right place there. I will tell you that some of the actions that we have taken have let folks know that we are at least back working this problem in a way that wasn't the case six months ago.”
“So I'll leave that discussion to State Department, who recertified but I'll talk to you -- I want talk to you about the -- about Iran, because you can't talk about the JCPOA the reason that I opposed it when I was a member of Congress wasn't that there might not be some marginal benefit in delaying Iran's nuclear program, it is potentially the case that you could achieve that, you could get increased monitoring, you could stop a few centrifuges from spinning, there might well be marginal benefits on Iran's nuclear that could be achieved by the agreement. In fact, you could go back and look, I said that when I was a member of Congress as well.”
“The challenge of the agreement is that it is short term. It doesn't avail of us -- avail us the capacity to really truly identify all the things that Iran might be up to, and then covers only such a narrow piece of the Iranian risk profile. And so that's what -- that's what the administration is focused on, we're working diligently to figure out how to push back against Iran not only in the nuclear arena but in all the other spaces as well.”
“And I can't get into the details of our intelligence as it relates to what those distinguished scholars have written but I kind of think of Iranian compliance with the nuclear deal like a bad tenant. How many of you have had a bad tenant? You know they don't pay the rent, you call them and then they send a check, and it doesn't clear and they send another one. And then the next day there's this old tired sofa in the front yard and you tell them to take it away, and you know they drag it to the back. This is Iranian compliance today. Grudging, minimalist, temporary with no intention of really what the agreement was designed to do, it was designed to foster stability and have Iran become a reentrant to the Western world, and the agreement simply hasn't achieved that.”
“You know it's a good answer – a good question rather. I would answer it this way, I'd answer it this way, I don't know. I don't know what will push them back, but I can tell you what won't. What won't is continuing -- continued appeasement, continued failure to acknowledge when they do things wrong, and forcing them into compliance, and sometimes yes that will require Americans taking risk. I'm confident this administration will ultimately be willing to do so. When we get our strategy in place I am confident you will see a fundamental shift. We've begun, right, that one of the first things the President did is to go build a coalition of the Gulf States and Israel to help find a platform which could uniformly push back against Iranian expansionism.”
“So here's how -- from an intelligence perspective, here's how I think about that. It is the case that our European partners, for example France just did a deal with China and the National Iranian oil company a $5 billion dollars deal with an entity that remains sanctioned by the United States of America, fascinating.
“So that's a diplomatic challenge. From an intelligence perspective, it is true that 70 percent of the people, in an interesting election, voted for this fellow, Rouhani. But the folks with all the power aren't being voted on. The folks who are causing the mischief, Qassem Suleimani and his gang weren't elected. Those are the folks that we're deadly focused on making sure don't continue to maintain capacity and power. Yes it does, it answers your question in full. Yes, ma'am. That's all I got.”
—July 31, 2017, speaking at the Aspen Security Forum
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
"Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps are the cudgels of a despotic theocracy, with the IRGC accountable only to a Supreme Leader."
"They're the vanguard of a pernicious empire that is expanding its power and influence across the Middle East."
"In recent years, the IRGC has become more reckless and provocative, seeking to exploit the vacuum left by instability in the Middle East to aggressively expand its influence."
"It openly vows to annihilate Israel. And when you look at the death and destruction inflicted in Syria, Yemen, and Iraq by Tehran and its proxies, the threat is clear: Iran is mounting a ruthless drive to be the hegemonic power in the region."
"For unlike ISIS and its mirage of a caliphate, Iran is a powerful nation-state that remains the world's largest state-sponsor of terrorism. The Islamic Republic is Iran's version of what the caliphate ought to look like under the control of an Ayatollah and his praetorian guard, the IRGC."
A soldier from Texas was killed “in an area controlled by a Shia militia aligned with Iran.”
"We do not have evidence of a direct link to Iran, but we are closely examining this tragic incident."
—Oct. 12, 2017, speaking at the University of Texas on the eve of President Trump’s announcement that he would not recertify Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal
MARGARET BRENNAN: In terms of the goal here, when you were in Congress you were harshly critical of the nuclear deal with Iran that the Obama administration negotiated and there are obviously flaws that even they recognized there. But the Iranians did give up the vast majority of their nuclear fuel and their production facilities aren't functioning. Have you set a higher benchmark for these talks since North Korea is farther along with its nuclear program.
CIA DIRECTOR MIKE POMPEO: Yes, Margaret, I think that's the case. Most importantly the conditions are very different. The previous administration was negotiating from a position of weakness. This administration will be negotiating from a position of enormous strength with sanctions that are unrivaled against the North Korean regime. That conversation will proceed very differently. My critique of the Obama administration's JCPOA commitment was that they left the Iranians with a breakout capacity. They had a short time frame that these would these restrictions would remain in place. And North Korea's human capital and enrichment capacity continues to remain in place. Those are...those are all things that present risk to the world and President Obama's, excuse me President Trump is determined to prevent that from happening in North Korea.
MARGARET BRENNAN: In Syria there are now reports of napalm being used in addition to chlorine gas attacks just outside Damascus and East Ghouta. Why doesn't the president's red line on chemical weapons apply in these cases?
CIA DIRECTOR MIKE POMPEO: Margaret, the president's made very clear that he won't tolerate chemical weapons usage and he has demonstrated his willingness to respond. In this case, the intelligence community is working diligently to verify what happened to there. I've seen the pictures. You've seen the pictures as well. We have a higher standard to make sure we understand precisely what took place, precisely who did it so that our response can meet the threat. And we're working to develop that. We've seen those reports and the president asked me nearly every day what it is the intelligence community knows about the Syrian regime's use of chemical weapons and who else, the Russians or the Iranians who might be responsible for them.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The Israelis including their prime minister was here this week warning that Iran is unchecked within Syria. Should the U.S. mission change to be able to counter Iran and its proxies like Hezbollah?
CIA DIRECTOR MIKE POMPEO: So I'll leave policy to others. What I can say about what's taking place inside of Syria that the Iranians had a free pass in the previous, previous administration. In fact the JCPOA and the negotiations prevented a United States response. That is they didn't want the previous administration, Ben Rhodes and Obama's team, didn't want to upset the apple cart. This administration has taken a much stronger approach, a much more aggressive posture with respect to countering Iran.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But that's not part of the mission now.
CIA DIRECTOR MIKE POMPEO: But we're working closely and we're working closely with the Israelis to develop a full intelligence picture of what's taking place there so that the president has options to counter that threat.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So what I hear you saying is that the mission is not solely to counter ISIS. You are also looking at Iran and its proxies.
CIA DIRECTOR MIKE POMPEO: President's made very clear we're working diligently to find the right approach to counter the incredible spread of Iranian hegemony throughout the Middle East.
—March 11, 2018, on CBS Face The Nation
“Sophisticated adversaries like China and Russia, as well as with less sophisticated adversaries like Iran and North Korea, terrorist groups, criminal organizations, and hackers are all taking advantage of this new borderless environment.”
“With respect to Iran, we must be rigorously objective in assessing the progress made under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. While I oppose the Iran Deal, as a member of Congress, if confirmed, my role will change. I’ll lead the agency to aggressively pursue collection operations and ensure analysts will have the time, political space, and resources to make objective and sound judgments.”
“First, you have my commitment that we, if I’m confirmed at the Agency, will continue to evaluate their compliance with the Agreement in the way that you just described the Agency has been doing to date. I concur with you that that work has been good and robust. And that intelligence I think important to policymakers as they make decisions. I think my comments were referring to the post-January 6 2016 rampage of Iranian increased activity. And that’s, I know you share my concern about that as well. And so when I was speaking to the risks that Iran presents, it was certainly from those activities. Whether it's the fact that they’ve now had --- we’ve now had missiles that we’ve had to fire back at in Yemen, the Iranian supported Houthis, the list is long. They’re still holding Americans in Iran. Those are the concerns that I was addressing that day. You have my commitment as the Director of the CIA when I’m confirmed that we will continue to provide you the intelligence to understand both what’s taking place in the nuclear arena with respect to the JCPOA and its compliance, as well as to the set of activities that are outside of that.”
“Senator, the Iranians are professionals at cheating. And so while I think that we have a very sound inspection regime, I have to tell you I worry about the fact of the thing that we do not know, we do not know. And so you have my commitment that I will continue to improve and enhance our capacity to understand that and do everything I can to diminish the risk that in fact we are missing something.”
—Jan. 12, 2017, speaking at his Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing
“In an unclassified setting, it is under 2,000 sorties to destroy the Iranian nuclear capacity. This is not an insurmountable task for the coalition forces.”
—Dec. 3, 2014, during a roundtable with reporters
"The deal reached today between the Obama administration and Iranian leaders is an unconscionable arrangement that increases the risk to Kansans and all Americans. The Iranian regime is intent on the destruction of our country. Why the President does not understand is unfathomable.
"Instead of taking advantage of crushing economic sanctions to end Iran's nuclear program, the administration negotiated a deal against the will of the American people that does nothing but give Iran leverage and enable this totalitarian regime to continue growing its terrorist practices.
"This deal allows Iran to continue its nuclear program -- that's not foreign policy; it's surrender.
"This deal will have dramatic and negative consequences on our national security for generations to come. It is wholly unacceptable that the President has chosen to place the safety of the American people at such high risk with today's agreement."
—July 14, 2015, in a statement