Remarks at a Press Availability (Excerpts)

May 22, 2018

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear
  • Missile

MS NAUERT: Hi, everybody. How are you today?

QUESTION: Well --

MS NAUERT: I brought in a special guest with me, our 70th Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is going to give you a quick briefing out of his meetings at the White House today. I know some of you may have questions following on the Secretary’s Iran speech yesterday. He has just a few minutes to take some of your questions, and then I’ll take over from there and handle the rest of the briefing.

Secretary Pompeo, welcome. This is our press briefing room. Great to have you here.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Thanks, thanks. Good afternoon, everyone. I actually want to start by talking – it’s almost exactly one month since I’ve been here, and I made a handful of commitments at the beginning, not the least of which was that I would put the team back on the field. And we’ve taken significant steps to date in working towards that direction. There still remains a great deal of work to do, but you should know I am committed to that, and we will get there.

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A final thought. I gave some remarks yesterday on the President’s strategy with respect to the Islamic Republic of Iran, and I think it’s important that I re-emphasize that the tasks that Iran needs to undertake aren’t that difficult. I’ve seen reports that these are a fantasy and they can’t happen, but we ask for things that are really fairly simple that, frankly, most nations in the world engage in. We ask them to stop firing missiles into Riyadh. This is not – it’s not a fantasy to imagine the Iranians making a decision not to fire missiles into another nation and threatening American lives that travel through that airport. It’s not a fantasy to ask them to cease engaging in terror. These were all a set of demands, the demands we put on the rest of the world.

If it was the case that some other country in the Middle East desired to build a nuclear weapons system, we would work to stop them too. These are a set of simple requirements that the Iranian regime could quite easily comply with, and it would benefit the Iranian people to an enormous extent. And so, frankly, what we laid out seemed like a pretty straightforward set of requirements that we would put on any country in the world – to stop malign behavior that threatens other of its neighbors and other parts of the world.

And with that, Heather, I’m happy to take a couple questions.

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QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. If I could turn to Iran, in your speech yesterday, you talked about this unprecedented financial pressure that you want to bear on Iran. I think your critics, when they bring up the idea of a fantasy, they say that it’s because the Europeans won’t go along with you on these sanctions, and that therefore you can’t recreate this tremendous financial pressure. How do you – what do you say to those critics? How do you get the Europeans to go along, and then others like China or Russia, who continue to abide by the agreement?

SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s really straightforward. This is a global challenge. This is a global challenge. I mentioned in my remarks yesterday, right, Qods Force assassinations in European countries. This is a shared threat across the world. And I am confident that we can collectively develop a diplomatic response that achieves the simple outcomes that we put forward. We wouldn’t tolerate Iceland doing what the Iranians are doing.

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QUESTION: Okay, thanks. I’m trying to make this worth our time. On Iran --

SECRETARY POMPEO: That’d be useful. That’d be good, yeah.

QUESTION: (Laughter.) Since it’s our last question. The demands, or whatever you want to call them, that you laid out for Iran yesterday – it seems like there – partially because you’ve laid them all out and partially because of what they are, there’s not going to be much room for negotiation, if any, on any of those. Would you agree with that? And because of the way that was put out there, what makes you think that Iran is going to be willing to work with the U.S. on this? If it’s sanctions, wouldn’t that take a very long time at this point?

SECRETARY POMPEO: I don’t know which of those demands – should we allow them to be terrorists? Is that one we should compromise on?

QUESTION: But that’s what I’m saying. There is no room for compromise --

SECRETARY POMPEO: Should we – how many missiles are they allowed to fire? I mean, I’m --

QUESTION: Right. So where is the room for negotiation?

SECRETARY POMPEO: The answer is we – the benchmark – the benchmark I set forward yesterday is a very low standard. It’s the standard behavior we expect from countries all around the world. There is – there aren’t a special set of rules that we set forward yesterday for Iran. We simply asked them to behave the way normal, non-belligerent nations behave. That’s it. It’s simple. We didn’t – there’s not a special category of people who are permitted to fire missiles into Riyadh. We just asked them to behave like a normal nation.

And so I have every reason to think that the Iranian people want that for their country as well. This is a rich country with a deep civilization and a wonderful history, and I’m convinced – I’m convinced that the people of Iran, when they can see a path forward which will lead their country to stop behaving in this way, will choose that path.

Thank you all. I look forward to seeing you down here.

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