QUESTION: Welcoming back now the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Mr. Secretary, good morning to you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Good morning, Hugh. How are you today?
QUESTION: I am terrific. I’m over the Pittsburgh plague of laryngitis so I’m so glad that that got done in time.
QUESTION: Now, it is very good and proper that that’s happening. At the same time, some commentators have broadened this murder into the opportunity to attack Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in Yemen. Can you explain to the audience how Iranian missiles get fired – I think it’s happened 34 times; it might be higher now – from Yemen into Saudi Arabia? And we’re not talking about firecrackers here. We’re talking about ballistic missiles have been launched from Yemen. How do they get there? How do Iranian missiles get there?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Hugh, first the number of ballistic missiles that have left Yemen headed for Saudi Arabia and the Emirates is dozens of times higher than the 36 that you identified.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Second, those missiles are coming from and the hardware and software that supports them are coming from the Islamic Republic of Iran. We see it in the hardware, we can tell by the telemetry, and we know by the fact that we have had interdictions at sea which make very clear the source of this. So what you have is a proxy war being engaged in by Iran against Saudi Arabia and the Emirates. It’s something that we’ve made clear what we are going to do our level best to prevent, and we are supporting the Emirates and Saudi Arabia in their efforts to take down these missiles.
Think, Hugh, if one of these manages to hit – actually hit an aircraft at the Riyadh airport, this will be an enormous economic impact to the United States of America, and could, in fact, kill Americans flying through that international airport. These Iranian efforts are so troubling. We’ve urged our European partners to assist us in pushing back against this activity, and the whole world should understand that Iran is putting commercial, civil aviation at risk by the actions that they have taken.
QUESTION: Now, the export of extraterritorial violence, always condemned by us, and as it should be, as when the Russian GRU agents attacked with the nerve agent in Great Britain, Saudi agents in Turkey. But am I right that the world’s largest exporter of terrorist violence is, in fact, Iran by a magnitude of order above everyone else?
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s not even close nor is it disputable. Every agency, every UN entity that reports on terrorism identifies Iran as the world’s largest state sponsor of terror. And so a week from now or a little more than a week from now, the most stringent sanctions ever in place against Iran by the United States of America will come back into effect on the morning of the 5th of November.
QUESTION: Well, I see the ongoing wake for the JCPOA everywhere. Ben Rhodes – I like to call him the Metternich of the network I work for, MSNBC, the Metternich of MSNBC – is always quick to blast you and the President for alienating the world and walking away from the JCPOA and pointing to the fact China and Russia haven’t. It’s like an Alice in Wonderland foreign policy, Mr. Secretary. How much time do you have to defend – do you have to spend defending doing obviously necessary steps against the fantasy-land foreign policy, fantasy foreign policy league that they’ve got going over there?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I don’t spend much time thinking about Ben Rhodes. I spend a lot of time thinking about making sure that America is secure and our interests are protected. These very missile launches that you described, the terror that you spoke to, the export of malign influence around the world all took place during the JCPOA and, indeed, in nearly every instance that I just referred to, increased during the time of the JCPOA. It was bad for the United States. The right decision was made by the President to withdraw, and our ask of Iran is just to simply become a normal country. Stop exporting terror, stop using proxy forces to create chaos around the world, and then we will welcome them back into the league of nations. And we’re just – we’re waiting on them to do that.