Secretary Michael R. Pompeo with Margaret Brennan of CBS Face the Nation (Excerpts)

September 22, 2019

Weapon Program: 

  • Military

Related Country: 

  • Saudi Arabia

QUESTION: We begin this morning with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who called the oil field attacks an act of war. Mr. Secretary, good morning.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Margaret, it’s good to be with you again.

QUESTION: You are the only U.S. official who has directly and definitively blamed every single part of these attacks on Iran. Is there any question that the attack was launched from Iran?

SECRETARY POMPEO: No reasonable person doubts precisely who conducted these strikes, and it is the Intelligence Community’s determination that it is likely the case that these were launched from Iran. You’ve seen the pictures —


SECRETARY POMPEO: — that came from the north – that came from the north. This was a sophisticated attack. These weapons systems had ranges that could not have come from the Houthis. It is crazy for anyone to assert that they did. I mean, it is literally nuts on its face to make an assertion that this was an attack by the Houthis. This was Iran true and true, and the United States will respond in a way that reflects that act of war by this Iranian revolutionary regime.

QUESTION: It was launched from Iran?

SECRETARY POMPEO: This was an attack by Iran on the world. This was an act of war. I’m here at the UN.


SECRETARY POMPEO: The UN’s primary —

QUESTION: Because the President hasn’t been that specific and other countries haven’t either.

SECRETARY POMPEO: The UN’s primary charter is to prevent state-on-state —

QUESTION: And Saudi Arabia hasn’t either.

SECRETARY POMPEO: The UN’s primary charter is to protect peace around the world. This was a state-on-state act of war.

QUESTION: Iran’s foreign minister, as you may have heard, has repeatedly denied any part played by Iran in this attack. Will the U.S. release evidence that proves he’s lying?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, we already have. There is already ample evidence that demonstrates that he’s lying. You saw the Saudis showing these were Iranian systems, built and manufactured inside of Iran. We know where they attacked.

QUESTION: But they haven’t given evidence that said that it was launched from Iran.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Look, I don’t know why anybody listens to the Iranian foreign minister. He has nothing to do with Iranian foreign policy and he has lied for decades, and then he resigned. It’s just – it’s not even worth – it’s not even worth responding to him. It’s beneath the dignity of anyone in the world to listen to someone who repeatedly makes the claim that the Houthis launched this attack.

QUESTION: Saudi Arabia has showed itself incapable of defending its most prized assets —

SECRETARY POMPEO: Oh, that’s not —

QUESTION: — and it is America’s best customer when it comes to buying American-made weapons. U.S. intelligence also didn’t warn of this attack happening. Are you concerned about the stability of the kingdom that they were this vulnerable?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, you don’t have all your facts quite right. But you saw the announcement that the Secretary of Defense made on Friday. We’re going to continue to reinforce. We’re looking for a diplomatic resolution to this, unlike the Iranians, who apparently are —

QUESTION: What part of the facts is wrong?

SECRETARY POMPEO: — who are apparently —

QUESTION: Saudi Arabia was not able to defend itself.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Apparently, the Iranians are bloodthirsty and looking for war. President Trump and I, we’re looking for a diplomatic resolution to this.

QUESTION: What does that mean?

SECRETARY POMPEO: We had a nation-state attack another nation-state, the largest attack on a global energy supply, I think in all of recorded history. The good news – when I walked in here this morning, Brent crude was trading at 64 bucks a barrel, and the world has responded in a way that has made sure that there’s ample supply in the system. But make no mistake about it: We’re prepared to do the things we need to do to try to deter Iran from this kind of behavior.

QUESTION: What does a diplomatic resolution mean? The attack happened.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah. So the resolution looks like this: Iran becomes a normal nation. We laid out now a year ago in May —

QUESTION: These are your 12 steps.

SECRETARY POMPEO: — no missile strikes, no capacity to build out their nuclear weapons program broadly speaking, stop the assassination campaign. They’re killing people in Europe. They have an assassination campaign in Europe. This is not a normal nation. And we hope, we hope the Iranian people, who we think are demanding that their country stop this kind of behavior, act in a way that causes the Iranian regime’s behavior to change. That’s our mission set. It’s what President Trump is determined to achieve, first and foremost through diplomatic means.

QUESTION: But the President hasn’t laid those things out publicly as you just did.

SECRETARY POMPEO: He and I fully understand the mission set. I know it because he’s told it to me.

QUESTION: If you look at just the things that have happened over the past few months, the U.S. has been very clear that it places blame for the shooting down of that American drone on Iran, the attack on the oil tanker in the UAE on Iran, this attack on Iran. It seems Iran’s behavior is getting worse, not better, based on the Trump administration’s campaign. You’ve been very aggressive with these sanctions. Why do you think sanctioning them leads to better behavior?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Margaret, you start the clock at the wrong point.

QUESTION: I’m talking about what happened this summer.

SECRETARY POMPEO: 1979 is the trajectory of the Iranian Revolution, 40 years of terror, 40 years of terror. The previous administration chose to arm them, to provide the wealth and resources that have underwritten these very attacks that we’re seeing today. They were able to build out these missile systems. They were able to improve it. They were —

QUESTION: So you think the Trump administration policy is working is what you’re saying, despite the fact that these attacks are continuing to happen?


QUESTION: Because Liz Cheney, Lindsey Graham, Republican allies of the President have said the failure to carry out some kind of obvious retaliation or military strike looks like weakness.

SECRETARY POMPEO: We’ve responded in a number of ways. This is not about weakness. The strategy is working. We sanctioned the central bank on Friday. Margaret, you have to remember that the sanctions that we put in place ultimately will cause the Iranian regime to shrink by between 10 and 15 percent in the year ahead only went in place in May of this year. They’re five months on. We’re at the beginning of that sanctions campaign. But I don’t think anyone should mistake President Trump for having the resolve to make sure we get this right. And when the moment calls for it, I am confident the President will take all appropriate actions.

QUESTION: But I guess fundamentally the question is why do you think sanctions will be preventative and not just punitive? Why do you think making Iran more desperate will get them to act more responsible?

SECRETARY POMPEO: It will deny them the resources to foment the exact kind of strikes that we have seen over this past summer. It will deny them the money, the wealth, the resources. They’re operating today in five countries. It’s expensive. They’ve already had to make difficult decisions about whether they’re going to feed their people, provide medicine to their people, or they’re going to launch missiles into Saudi Arabia.

I am convinced that the Iranian people see those choices being made, and as time goes on, they will continue to see that those conditions worsen, and they’ll demand – they’ll demand that their leadership not bring their brothers and sisters back home in body bags, but rather, use those resources. The Iranian people are great people. We stand with them. And I am confident they will demand that their leadership behave in a way that reflects the great history of this place.

QUESTION: Are you considering cyber attacks? Would that be a less obvious, less direct form of retaliation?

SECRETARY POMPEO: The President talked about our use of those previously, but I’m certainly not going to forecast what we’ll do as we move forward.

QUESTION: But suffice it to say, building up defensive presence and sanctions are not the limit of what the Trump administration will do?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Oh, goodness, no.