Secretary Michael R. Pompeo at a Press Availability (Excerpts)

July 1, 2020


I want to note three brutal honor killings that have taken place in Iran: 14-year-old Romina Ashrafi, 19-year-old Fatemeh Barhi, and 22-year-old Rayhaneh Ameri.  Two were beheaded and one was beaten to death with an iron bar at the hands of relatives.

For 40 years, corrupt Iranian leaders have condoned murder, dehumanized women, and ignored cries for justice.  When will they stop this unspeakable wicked assault on human dignity?

Staying on Iran:  As many of you saw yesterday, I spoke to the UN Security Council, urging them to retain the 13-year-old arms embargo on Iran.  These restrictions, as a result of the failed JCPOA, are set to expire in October.

If Iran is allowed to buy weapons from the likes of China and Russia, more civilians in the Middle East will die at the hands of the regime and its proxies.  It’s that straightforward.  Tehran will become an arms dealer for the Maduros and Assads of the world.  Sworn enemies of Israel like Hamas and Hizballah will be better armed.  European nations will be put at risk.

Our team has put together a short video that explains why this is so important.  I’d like to show it to you now.

(A video was played.)

So when you all hear about legal niceties and complexities and intra – international fighting about what the right course of action is, remind yourself about what happens to the world if this arms embargo is lifted.  In the end, that’s what matters.  In the end, that’s what the UN Security Council has the capacity to ensure does not take place.  I remind you to go back and look at remarks from the previous administration about the fact that the United States has the unambiguous right, without the consent of any other nation, to ensure that this arms embargo stays in place.  This administration is going to do everything we can to make sure that that happens to keep not only American people safe but to reduce instability in the Middle East.


QUESTION:  I have two for you on Iran if I may.  One, on the arms embargo.  I was curious if the U.S. is willing to accept a temporary extension to potentially get Russia and China to go along with it.  I was hoping you could get into the specifics of what terms are acceptable.  And on the larger nuclear violations that the U.S. and now the IAEA have identified, are we looking at a menu of options for repercussions for this, and specifically, might snapback be one of those options on the menu?  I was hoping you could touch on that specifically, because it seems some are making the argument that snapback accounts for the arms embargo and of course all other restrictions.  So I was hoping you could talk about that a bit.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So, first of all, our objective is not to extend the arms embargo for another short period of time.  That’s how we got into this mess, right.  The arms embargo should be lifted when the Islamic Republic of Iran begins to behave in a way that is consistent with the ability to move arms around the world, to purchase – to act in a way that’s consistent with the way normal nations act.

So it’s not a time-limited matter, it’s a conditions-based matter, and our objective is to make sure that the lifting of that arms embargo is conditions-based.  And when the time is right, happy to let it happen tomorrow, but extending it for six months or a year or two years fundamentally falls into the same trap that the previous administration fell into.  I know this is a bit of a strawman argument:  What if you got 20 years, what if you got 50 years, what if you got 100 years?  I don’t want to talk about anything specific.  But our objective is very clearly to say that the lifting of that arms embargo is not appropriate until such time as the world can be assured that these folks won’t use those weapon systems or the money that flows from the sale of those weapon systems are for malign purposes.

As for the other provisions, what’s happening at the IAEA, make sure everybody’s up to speed.  The IAEA filed a report that made very clear that the Iranians have failed to allow access to two sites that are suspected of potentially having engaged in nuclear activity related to their previous programs, programs that predate the JCPOA.  The Iranians continue to deny access to the IAEA.  This is not about the JCPOA, this is about the NPT framework, the safeguards provisions that every nuclear power signs up for and that the Iranians have agreed to.  This is outside and separate from the JCPOA.  It’s never been the case before that a regime has denied access to the IAEA.  And so, yes, in terms of how we’re thinking about responding, we hope the world will see that this is a serious risk to the entire nonproliferation regime, and the United States is prepared to lead to come up with responses to this which would be appropriate and consistent with protecting and preserving that regime against Iranian intransigence that is entirely inappropriate.

I hope the Iranians will change their mind to allow full IAEA unfettered, repeated, consistent access.  To date, they’ve chosen not to do so.


QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, yesterday following your speech at the Security Council, the German representative said the U.S. has no standing in this meeting to invoke UN sanctions, and by doing so you would be violating the international law.  How do you comment on that?  And to what extent would the snapback be efficient if it is not supported by your allies, by your European allies?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So two things.  I don’t want to get into the legal analysis that you’re suggesting.  We have the full authority to go exercise that right.  As a participant in UN Security Council Resolution 2231, we are highly confident that we have the right to exercise that.  It is not our first objective.  We hope that the UN Security Council, the Chinese, the Russians, every partner there, will see that it is in their best interest to deny Iran this benefit that comes when they have not changed their behavior one lick.  And so we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to do this without having to go through a complex, difficult process at the UN.  So that’s our – certainly our objective.  And we think – we think we’ll prevail.

We think as we get closer, the world will see – if you are a citizen living in Brussels or you’re someone in Athens, do you really want the Iranian regime to have Chinese fighter planes?  I don’t think so.  I think – I think the Government of Greece will conclude the same thing.  If you’re – if you’re sitting in Finland and you’re trying to sort your way through about whether it’s a good idea for the Russians to be able to have another partner who they sell weapons to, I think these – I think each nation will conclude this is a bad idea, they will regret that the JCPOA allowed this to expire, and they’ll join us in this.

It is certainly a full-fledged diplomatic effort that we’re engaged in to convince the world that this is the right outcome not just for the United States, but go talk to our partners in Saudi Arabia or the Emirates and Kuwait.  They know, too, that if Iran is allowed to become an arms merchant again, instability in the Middle East will flow.