QUESTION: The President, the State Department is also calling out Iran. A lot of news on that this week, possibly more troops headed to the Middle East. Are we headed to conflict there as well? The President said he doesn’t want war, but is it going to be avoidable?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, the President doesn’t want war. I don’t want war. I don’t know anyone in the administration – I spoke to Secretary Shanahan this morning. None of us want that. But I think the Iranians need to understand, as President Trump said in a tweet, we will protect American interests. We understand that Iran has been the force for instability in the Middle East, whether you look to Lebanon or Syria or Yemen or Iraq. The list is long of places that it turns out that Iran is the malign actor there. We won’t let them get a nuclear weapon; we’re not going to let them continue to build out their missile program. And we are taking – engaged in a campaign, a diplomatic, economic campaign to prevent them from having resources to do that, and we’ve been very successful.
QUESTION: It seems like there’s been such an escalation so quickly in tensions with Iran over the last couple months. Is there new intelligence that they’re close to a nuclear weapon than we’ve previously thought? Is that what this is about?
SECRETARY POMPEO: These threats that we’ve seen over the past weeks have not been about their nuclear program. They’ve been about conventional efforts, using both Iranian forces and proxy forces in the region. So it hasn’t been about the nuclear program. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t say – you talk about new threats and new – this is 40 years of terrorism. This is four decades of expeditionary Islamist revolutionary fervor with the consistent goal of the destruction of Israel and the United States of America.
We need to make sure that there aren’t another 40 years. And it’s right – it is true that when you push back, tensions rise. We came in when an administration had coddled Iran, had allowed them to have hundreds of millions of dollars, had allowed them to grow their terror networks and terror capacity. When you push back, it’s true, it’s not a straight line. We are confident that we have already disrupted some of the Iranian efforts, and Secretary Shanahan and I are going to continue to present the President with a full range of options so that we can keep Americans safe and hopefully deter any kind of conflict with Iran. That’s the mission set.