White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer Responds to Questions on New Iran Sanctions (Excerpts)

February 3, 2017

Weapon Program: 

  • Missile

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Moving on, we announced earlier this week that we would be taking steps to address Iran’s recent actions.  Today, the U.S. sanctioned 25 individuals and entities that provide support to Iran’s ballistic missile program and the Islamic Revolutionary Quds Force.  These designations are in response to Iran’s ongoing ballistic missile program, including its ballistic missile test on January 29, 2017, as well as Iran’s continued support for terrorism.  We’ve taken these actions today, after careful consideration, and will continue to respond with appropriate action.

These designations mark yet another stop in our continued effort to aggressively target Iran’s ballistic missile program and terrorism-related activities.  Over at the Department of Defense, Secretary Mattis is on the final day of a two-day trip through Asia.  He visited Korea yesterday and Japan today, returning to Washington tomorrow.  Secretary Mattis’s visit emphasizes the priority President Trump places on the Asia-Pacific, and on strengthening the U.S.-Republic of Korea alliance in the face of a growing North Korea nuclear and ballistic missile threat.

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Q    Thank you, Sean.  Today, the United States put new sanctions on Iran.  Previously, this morning, the President had said that they were playing with fire.  You said that appropriate actions would continue to be taken.  Is this the full extent of the punishing actions that we’re seeing right now?  And are military options still on the table in response to the administration saying that all options are on the table?

MR. SPICER:  Thanks for the question.  I think one of the things that the President has said throughout the campaign, during the transition, and since becoming President is that he doesn’t like to telegraph his options.  That’s how he believes that you can have a much greater successful option.  

So I’m not going to go into the full extent, and I think today’s sanctions really represent a very, very strong stand against the actions that Iran has been taking and make it very clear that the deal that they struck previously was not in the best interest of this country, and that President Trump is going to do everything he can to make sure that Iran is stayed in check.

Q    So it is possible that there are more actions coming, though?

MR. SPICER:  I just -- I would never rule anything off the table.  I think the President has made it clear throughout his time that that’s what going to happen.

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Q    Sean, meeting with the Australian ambassador here yesterday with Chief of Staff Priebus and Steve Bannon -- can you describe what that meeting was about?  And did the administration make a commitment -- which we heard from the State Department yesterday -- that, in fact, all of those subject to the Obama administration agreement are still possible refugee re-settlers just with extreme vetting or some sort of process?  What was communicated?  

And on the Iran sanctions, Adam Szubin is the Acting Treasury Secretary.  He was, of course, in charge of sanctions at the Treasury Department before.  Oftentimes these are a long time in development.  Were these sanctions something that were kind of on his desk or have been identified, and that's what made them so, if not easy, available to enact so rapidly?

MR. SPICER:  Yeah, I think those are -- I think you correctly pointed out -- I mean, he served in the last administration.  These kind of sanctions don't happen quickly, but I think the timing of them was clearly in reaction to what we've seen over the last couple days.  We knew we had these options available to us because they had been worked through the process, but we acted swiftly and decisively today because the timing was right.  So they were in the pipeline, they had been staffed and approved, and the President made the decision that now was the time to do it based on recent action.

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Q    Sean, during the campaign, candidate Trump repeatedly said he was going to void the Iranian nuclear deal.  Bottom line -- is he going to do that, or is he going to let it stay?

MR. SPICER:  I think today's action speaks for itself in terms of the sanctions.  He's made it very, very clear, David, that the deal that was struck was a bad deal, that we gave Iran too much and we got too little for it.  And I think that he is going to continue to be tough on Iran in a way that wasn’t done in the last eight years.  I think today's actions and the way that we expedited those sanctions are another example of how he's going to stay tough on them.

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Q    Sean, thank you.  The President has been using some tough talk, tough language on Iran -- "playing with fire."  Should Americans be ready for the possibility of military action with Iran?  Is that on the table?

MR. SPICER:  Look, I've said this before, the President has been very clear:  He doesn’t take options off the table but he understands the impact of something like that.  The sanctions today I think are going to be very, very strong and impactful.  And I hope that Iran realizes that after the provocative measures that they've taken, that they understand that this President and this administration is not going to sit back and take it lightly. 

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