Secretary Michael R. Pompeo Remarks to the Press (Excerpts)

December 11, 2019


SECRETARY POMPEO: And finally, I’d like to turn to the Islamic Republic of Iran.  As long as its malign behavior continues, so will our campaign of maximum pressure.  Today, I’m announcing designation of three Iranian transportation companies that helped Iran import items for its weapons of mass destruction programs.  These programs involved the siphoning of funds away from the oppressed Iranian people, and they augment the regime’s campaign of terror and intimidation at home and throughout the world.

The companies designated today are as follows:

The Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines – it’s the shipping line of choice for Iranian proliferators and procurement agents.  IRISL’s WMD designation was lifted in January 2016 under the JCPOA, and that was an enormous mistake.  Since then, that entity has knowingly engaged in activities and transactions that materially contribute to Iran’s proliferation of WMDs.  To allow exporters of humanitarian goods sufficient time to find alternative shipping methods, the designation will become effective 180 days – on June 8th of next year.

Second, we’re designating ESAIL Shipping Company, a firm based in Shanghai.  ESAIL knowingly transports illicit materials from Iran’s Aerospace Industries Organization, which oversees all of Iran’s missile industry.  It has also worked with at least two other Iranian organizations subject to UN sanctions.  Similarly to the previous one, this will take place – take effect 180 days from today.

We’re also designated Mahan Air and three of its sales agents effective immediately.  You’ll note Mahan Air was previously designated under counterterrorism authorities back in October of 2011 for providing support to the IRGC forces.  But today’s designation recognizes the specific role Mahan Air plays in WMD proliferation through its shipments of UN-restricted missile and nuclear items to Iran, including controlled graphite and T700 carbon fiber.

In addition, the United States is sanctioning an Iranian shipping network that helps smuggle weapons into Iran – oh, excuse me, from Iran to Yemen – to support the IRGC Qods Force fighters.  Today’s designations put the world on notice:  Those who engage in illicit transactions with these companies will risk exposure to sanctions themselves.

I also want to remind Americans and people of all nationalities about the massive risks associated with travel to Iran.  The State Department has previously issued a Level 4 travel advisory for that country.  It’s our highest threat level.  Americans and particularly dual-national Iranian Americans traveling to Iran face a very high risk of kidnapping, arrest, and detention.


QUESTION:  One of the sanctions company that you just announced is a Chinese company based in Shanghai.  As you know, China is one of the signatories of JCPOA, and China has been opposing the U.S. withdrawal from JCPOA.  If I may, what is the U.S. message to China regarding Iran-related issues?  Does the U.S. still believe in a dialogue with China to handle such global security issues?  The reason I ask is for the first time in recent years, the annual high-level bilateral dialogue between U.S. and China to talk about diplomatic and security issues did not happen this year, or at least there’s no sign to take place this year.  Thank you.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So I actually spoke with my Chinese counterpart over this past weekend.  One of the issues we discussed was closely related to this.  Substantively, this is part of our Iranian maximum pressure campaign.  We are working to make sure that every nation complies with this, with this set of U.S. requirements, and China’s no exception, and so we’ve talked to them about this.  We’ve asked them not to take Iranian crude oil, and we will continue to impose our sanctions regime on those countries that are violating, especially when the violations relate to their WMD programs.

That’s important for the Middle East.  It’s important for our friend and ally, Israel.  It’s important for the United States and for the whole world.  And so these sanctions are aimed not at China, not at the Iranian people, but at the leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran that is engaged in activity that poses threats around the world.  And we’re – we will continue to build out this effort to seek to convince the Iranian leadership to conform their actions to be a normal nation.  That’s what this is about.  We will continue to work with all the nations that are impacted by this, including China.