Michael R. Pompeo
Secretary of State
David Citadel Hotel, Jerusalem
QUESTION: Are you worried at all about a tipping point or loss of momentum there in Venezuela as the people are in horrific conditions as we know, and the accounts, the pictures have gotten out to the rest of the world, but there are those who look and remember the Green Revolution in Iran and have worries about where this is going. What are your concerns?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, the Trump administration has behaved precisely the opposite of the way that the Obama administration behaved during the green effort in Iran. Instead of shunning the people, we have supported them. Instead of denying the rights of the people of Iran, we’re supporting the rights of the people of Venezuela. We’re committed to this; we’re going to stay the course. There are multiple elements to this effort. There’s the political element, there’s the economic element. We are desperately trying to get humanitarian assistance to the people of Venezuela. We are committed to helping Venezuela, the region, deny Maduro the opportunity to engage in this thuggish behavior that has been so harmful to ordinary Venezuelans. We’re determined to achieve this outcome, and we’re optimistic that we can get there.
QUESTION: Well, speaking of the Obama administration, former Vice President Joe Biden obviously toying heavily with a 2020 run. He has also been meeting with world leaders and talking about that. Politico has this. They're headline is, "World leaders tell Biden: We need you," citing Biden's long foreign policy track record and long-time commitment to the transatlantic alliance. Some of the leaders echoing views from across the continent told Biden that his return to the White House would be a sure way to restore Western alliances that President Donald Trump has dramatically fractured. Your response.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, that’s ridiculous on its face. I suppose it’s just some campaign rhetoric that we’ll continue to hear about. In fact, the truth is just the opposite. Look at the coalitions that this administration’s built out. We have engaged in North Korea with the toughest sanctions, global sanctions that come from every member of the UN Security Council, while also having the most successful diplomatic effort in North Korea. We’ve done them both. We’ve built out a coalition against ISIS of over 80 countries that is now hours or days away from the destruction of the caliphate. We’ve built out a coalition of 60 countries that showed up in Warsaw to push back against the threat from the Islamic Republic of Iran, a threat that the previous administration simply ignored. Indeed, the vice president’s administration put Iran on a path which almost guaranteed them a clear path to a nuclear weapon system.
No, indeed, the work that I’m doing – in fact tomorrow, on my travels to Lebanon, pushing back against Hizballah – is cleaning up for what the previous administration failed to do.
QUESTION: Well, and I know that you've said there that you want to talk to leaders in the government and assure them that there are ways that you say that they can be extricated from the threats of Iran and Hizballah, but of course, Hizballah is a key, major player there. I mean, they are, obviously, heavily intertwined with all the inner workings of Lebanon. So how do you propose to change that equation?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Shannon, they most certainly are. Your statement of the facts is accurate. But this effort is important. It’s important to the place that I’m sitting today here in Jerusalem, in Israel; it’s important to the United States; it’s part of our effort against Iran. We’re going to talk to the Lebanese Government about how it is that they can extricate themselves from this problem and the risks, the risk of permitting Hizballah’s missiles in southern Lebanon, the risks of having Hizballah intertwined in the government, the risks that it presents to the Lebanese people.
Shannon, you know Beirut is a wonderful city and Lebanon is a once-rich nation. We’re hoping to restore that. The Lebanese people deserve that, and we want them to know that America is prepared to support that effort and help them disentangle and disengage from the terrorist organization Hizballah.
QUESTION: And it seems like the goal there, the key aim that you have throughout the region – Kuwait, Israel, Lebanon, all of your visits – is to talk about and push back the influence and the threats of Iran in that area, and part of that conversation we’re hearing is potentially designating some militias, the Iran Revolutionary Guard, and others as terrorist organizations. There’s been some pushback on that. The New York Times reporting this, saying: Under plans recommended by Mr. Pompeo and some White House officials, the State Department would designate Iran’s military, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, as a foreign terrorist organization. It would be a first instance of the U.S. designating a unit of another government’s military as a terrorist group. American officials said it could put U.S. troops and intelligence officers at risk of similar actions by foreign governments. The New York Times also says there are those within the Pentagon and the CIA, which you used to lead, who don’t think it’s a great idea. What do you say?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So I’m not going to get ahead of a U.S. Government decision on any particular designation, and I also, Shannon, don’t intend to respond to every New York Times article. But know this: As we think about the effort to push back against Iran, you’ve seen us now designate militias inside of Iraq. You’ve seen us designate senior leaders inside the IRGC. You’ve seen us designate financial institutions, financial agents engaged in moving illicit money in support of the Houthis, in support of Hamas, in support of Hizballah. This administration has taken serious efforts across a broad range of threats, a broad range of efforts to Iran to extend its reach. We’ll continue to do that in evaluating whether or not to sanction a particular Iranian entity. It’s something that we work on each and every day.
Read the full interview at the U.S. Department of State.