QUESTION: Joining me now live from the State Department, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Mr. Secretary, welcome back to Fox News Sunday.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Good morning, Chris. Great to be with you today.
QUESTION: You’re reimposing, as we said, all U.S. sanctions on Iran, but you’re giving exemptions to eight countries to allow them to keep buying oil from Tehran. Question: Why?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, Chris, the sanctions that will be reimposed tomorrow are the toughest sanctions ever put in place on the Islamic Republic of Iran. They’re aimed at a singular purpose: denying the world’s largest state sponsor of terror the capacity to do things like they did this past couple weeks, attempt an assassination campaign in the heart of Europe. These sanctions have already had an enormous impact. We’ve already reduced Iranian crude oil exports by over a million barrels per day. That number will fall farther. There’s a handful of places where countries have – that have already made significant reductions in their crude oil exports need a little bit more time to get to zero, and we’re going to provide that to them.
QUESTION: Is it true that you’re giving exemptions to two of Iran’s biggest customers, namely India and China? And do you have a firm commitment that within six months they will stop all oil purchases? Because there are a lot of experts who believe that India and China are never going to stop buying oil from Iran.
QUESTION: There are a lot of experts, Chris, that said President Trump’s policy wouldn’t have any impact because it was just the United States and other countries weren’t participating. And in fact, we have built an enormous coalition to keep this world safe and to deny Iran money. I am very confident that the sanctions that will be reimposed this Monday – not only the crude oil sanctions but the financial sanctions that are being put in place by the Treasury Department and over 600 designations of individuals and companies in Iran – will have the intended effect to alter the Iranian regime’s behavior. That’s our expectation. It’s the reason for President Trump’s policy.
QUESTION: But specifically, sir, do you have a firm commitment from India and China that they will stop all oil purchases from Iran in six months?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Chris, watch what we do. Watch as we’ve already taken more crude oil off the market than any time in previous history. Watch the efforts that President Trump’s policies have achieved. And we’ve done all of this too, Chris, while making sure that American consumers don’t suffer. We’ve got Brent crude at about the same price it was back in May when the President announced the withdrawal from the JCPOA. That’s important for American consumers, and the march to zero continues.
QUESTION: You’re talking about how effective these reimposition of sanctions are. But as you well know, there are some people who are criticizing the sanctions you’re reimposing and saying they’re not tough enough. And let me put this up on the screen. Republican senators – Republican Senators Cruz, Cotton, and Rubio – plan to introduce legislation to cut off Iranian banks from the global financial network known as SWIFT. And a group called United Against Nuclear Iran tweeted this about your sanctions: “Whatever happened to maximum pressure? They caved. Big time.”
Mr. Secretary, your response?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Chris, the President’s policy of maximum pressure will be fully in place come tomorrow. Watch the Iranians. That’s who really understands the importance and the impact of the efforts that we’re undertaking. The rial has fallen to 140,000 rial to the dollar, has had an enormous impact already, and we are working diligently to make sure we support the Iranian people and that we direct our activity towards ensuring that the Islamic Republic of Iran’s malign behavior is changed. That’s the goal, that’s the mission, and that’s what we will achieve on behalf of the President.
QUESTION: But how do you respond, for instance, to the senators who are saying look, we should have cut them off from SWIFT, which is this big --
SECRETARY POMPEO: Chris --
QUESTION: -- financial --
SECRETARY POMPEO: Chris, Chris --
QUESTION: -- clearinghouse?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Chris, the Iranian banks that engage in sanctionable behavior will be sanctioned by the Department of Treasury, period, full stop.
QUESTION: And I understand what you’re saying. On the other hand --
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, good. That’s great, Chris.
QUESTION: If I may, sir, you’ve got Senators Cotton, Senator Cruz, Senator Rubio – they’re pretty knowledgeable on the subject. They’re not persuaded.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Chris, I worked with Senator Cotton. We were the two individuals that discovered the side deals now almost three years ago to the JCPOA, these secret side deals. I’ve been at this a long time. No one’s going to argue that Secretary Pompeo isn’t tough on Iran, and no one is going to argue that President Trump isn’t doing the same.
QUESTION: Meanwhile, you and Defense Secretary Mattis this week called for negotiations and a ceasefire within 30 days between the U.S.-backed Saudi forces and the rebels that are fighting in a war inside Yemen. There are reports that up to 16,000 Yemeni civilians have been killed in this conflict and that around 14 million Yemenis are now on the brink if not already in famine conditions.
Two questions. First of all, are you comfortable with the role that the U.S. has played in backing Saudi Arabia in this effort in Yemen? And secondly, if the humanitarian crisis is so urgent, why allow this to continue for another month, sir?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Chris, we did make a statement this week, Secretary Mattis and I. Frankly, it’s nothing new. We have been urging all the parties to come to the table and recognize that there’s no military victory that can be achieved in Yemen. We’ve asked the Iranians to do that too, Chris. Much of the harm that is taking place there comes from the fact the Iranians continue to supply weapons and missiles to the Houthi rebels that are fighting there in Saudi Arabia. They are responsible for the starvation in Yemen as well.
We want all the parties, under Martin Griffiths of the UN, to come to the table, negotiate a solution that ends the very difficult, tragic situation that’s taking place in Yemen today.
QUESTION: Secretary Pompeo, thank you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, Chris.
QUESTION: Thanks for your time. It’s always good to talk with you, sir.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, sir. Have a good day.