QUESTION: Secretary Pompeo, thank you for having us.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Hugh, it’s great to be with you. Welcome to the State Department.
QUESTION: Let me start practical. Great to be here. Let me be practical: You’ve got some empty offices at the Department of State. Is the Senate working with you to fill them so you can have the leadership in place for the best diplomatic corps in the world?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So the answer is we need to move faster here. Everyone in the process needs to. We’ve got to get our diplomats out to every corner of the world and do that as expeditiously as possible. It is the case when I took over there were some big gaps in important places. We’ll soon have our ambassador in place in South Korea and some of the places that are absolutely most essential. But we need everyone helping, and I am confident that Senators Menendez and Corker will help me achieve that.
QUESTION: Speaking about the use of force, let’s turn to Iran, probably the greatest exporter of violence in the world on a daily basis (inaudible). Do you foresee having to use force if they continue on a nuclear path?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Boy, I sure hope not. I hope the ayatollah and Soleimani, the prime drivers of Iranian threat posture, I hope they recognize that whatever decision other countries make about staying in the JCPOA or however they proceed, I hope he – they understand that if they begin to ramp up their nuclear program, the wrath of the entire world will fall upon them. And so it is not in their practical best interest to begin that.
Whatever happens to the JCPOA, I think the Iranians understand that. It would be – wholly separate from whether they spin a couple of extra centrifuges, if they began to move towards a weapons program, this would be something the entire world would find unacceptable, and we’d end up down a path that I don’t think this is the best interest of Iran, other actors in the Middle East, or indeed the world.
QUESTION: When you say “the wrath of the entire world,” I think of the new entente – and I am talking then for the benefit of the audience – not just of Israel, but of Bahrain, of Egypt, of Jordan and Iraq or Saudi Arabia. The United Arab Emirates are great friends in the Middle East. Would they support that wrath descending on Iran in the form of American military action if they move this way?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, when I say “wrath,” don’t confuse that for military action. Those are – when I say “wrath,” I mean the moral opprobrium and economic power that fell upon them. That’s what I’m speaking to. I’m not talking to military action here. Just I truly hope that’s never the case. It’s not in anyone’s best interest for that. But make no mistake, President Trump has been very clear: Iran will not get a nuclear weapon nor start its weapons program on this President’s watch.
And I’ve heard some say that we’ve separated from our allies on this issue of Iran. I don’t think that’s the case. When I talk to my Arab friends, the Israelis, all of those in the region, they are right alongside us. And even when I speak to the Europeans, with whom we have a difference about the JCPOA, they too understand the threat that Iran presents, whether it’s malign activity with Hizballah or in Yemen or in Syria or in Iraq, or its missile program that is launching missiles into airports that Westerners travel through. There is a unified understanding of Iran’s malevolent behavior, and it will be an incredibly united world should Iran choose to head down a nuclear weapons path.
QUESTION: You mentioned General Soleimani. They only understand force sometimes. They are trying to move into Syria where they have put the Revolutionary Guard and the Qods Force again, but you’re saying – I want to just understand – if necessary, the United States is prepared to do whatever it has to do to stop them from having a nuclear weapon.
SECRETARY POMPEO: President Trump’s been unambiguous about – in his statements that says that Iran will not be able to obtain a nuclear weapon.
QUESTION: Now --
SECRETARY POMPEO: Remember too, Hugh, it’s important to remind your viewers the previous agreement permitted them to continue to enrich uranium, all right? We cut a tougher deal on our allies, the Emiratis, than we did on the Iranians with respect to nuclear power. I laid down a dozen items that we’re asking Iran to do. If your viewers go look at them, they’re all simple things.
They are simply saying become a member of the community of nations, right? Stop launching missiles into non-hostile nations, cease support of terrorism around the world, don’t go down the path of a nuclear weapons system. The asks from the United States in order for Iran to return to the community of nations are all we ask of other countries around the world to be part of the international system.
QUESTION: Anyone who follows your Twitter feed – and I do follow it, Secretary Pompeo – knows that in the last two weeks you’ve done more democracy support in Iran than happened during the Green Revolution under the previous administration. Is that going to be a mark of the Secretary Pompeo years at State, that you’re just going to support the democratic movement in Iran?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I think it’s a mark of President Trump and our administration. We are very hopeful that there will be an increase in the democratic values, and the capacity for Iranians to speak their mind inside the Islamic Republic of Iran.