Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo With Gayle King of CBS This Morning (Excerpts)

August 20, 2019

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear

QUESTION:  Secretary Pompeo is here in New York for a UN Security Council meeting on the Middle East.  You were supposed to get in last night, but even weather affects the Secretary of State.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yes, ma’am.  It’s good to be with you this morning, Gayle.


QUESTION:  Let’s go to the Strait of Hormuz because top Iranian officials, as you know, are getting tough with us, saying the United States to act with wisdom.  Another Iranian official said there would be grave consequences if the U.S. acts there.  What’s the situation in the Strait of Hormuz right now?  Because the people are concerned, Mr. Secretary, that we’re about to stumble into a war.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So the good news is we are acting with wisdom.  It’s wisdom to have withdrawn from the JCPOA, which was going to put Iran on the path to a nuclear weapon, and President Trump is determined not to let that happen.  And so we have conducted our Middle East strategy and our work with Iran to say, nope, you can’t conduct assassination campaigns in Europe, you can’t conduct terror efforts from all across the Middle East, you’re not going to build out a nuclear weapons program.  And we’ve put in place a set of sanctions that have denied the Iranian regime wealth, and we can see that that is working.  Hizballah has less money.  Some of the proxy forces have fewer resources.  The Iranian leadership is having to make difficult choices about how to spend its now limited money.  The previous administration wrote them a big check, sent across a pile of cash, and then opened up the Iranian economy so they could continue to grow their terror campaign all across the world.  We’ll never let that happen.

QUESTION:  We withdrew the deal, but we don’t have a new deal in place, and people are saying that the sanctions are actually hurting the Iranian people.  What do you say to that?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  The Iranian people know that the terror campaign, the revolutionary campaign that their leaders are undertaking, isn’t in their best interest, and I hope that the Iranian people work to change the behavior of the Iranian regime.  Ultimately, they’ll have to make that decision, and we’re very hopeful that they will see a pathway clear such that this behavior where Iran acts outside the normal course of what ordinary countries do, and that they’ll get their leadership to conform to what’s best for the Iranian people.

QUESTION:  I know you can’t give details, but can you say if there are back-channel talks going on right now to get the parties to the table?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yeah, I just don’t want to talk about it.  It shouldn’t take –

QUESTION:  I don’t want details.  I just said, “Are they going on?”

SECRETARY POMPEO:  You shouldn’t read anything into that.  I’d say that whether there were or weren’t.  We just simply don’t talk about those things in this administration.