Secretary of State Pompeo's Interview with Najwa Kassem of Al Arabiya (Excerpts)

January 12, 2019

QUESTION: (In Arabic.) Good afternoon.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Good afternoon. It’s great to be with you.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, it’s our honor to be with us as you always were. Actually, it was a busy trip, very busy trip, and you still have more stops in it. But main thing we can understand from your speech in Cairo, from what you said about the Poland summit and meeting in Poland, that it’s Iran. And this is the main goal, a very hard speech against Iran, and sort of alliance, something like this, to face the role of Iran in the region. What’s the plan?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, so it’s been a fantastic trip, I – this swing through the Gulf states now following my initial visits. Really three things we’re working on, different for each of our partners around the world, but America’s here, and this is important to us. Middle East stability, destroying ISIS, completing the destruction of the caliphate are very important missions for the United States – and countering Iran. The threat from the world’s largest state sponsor of terror, the Islamic Republic of Iran, is something President Trump has identified as one of his top priorities. We’re determined to do that, and we’ll do it with our partners throughout the Middle East. This is a mission for the world. It’s incredibly important, and we are determined to do it. I wanted to make sure that I got the chance to swing through the region one more time – I’ve been here a lot in my life --


SECRETARY POMPEO: -- to come back one more time and reassure them that America is committed to this and talk about how we’re going to execute it.


SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, so that’s a great question. The ministerial in Warsaw will be much broader than that. We will have countries from Asia, Africa, Western Hemisphere, countries from South America – this will be a broad coalition aimed at Middle East stability. We’ll talk about how we counter terror. There’ll be a focus on Iran. There’ll be conversations about financial systems, how is it we ensure the financial systems don’t sponsor terror. There’ll be a broad conversation from a large group – dozens and dozens of countries we expect to attend over the course of the ministerial. It’s the first time we’ve put together a ministerial this way, and we think it will show the whole world that there’s a broad determination to make life better here and take the terror regimes down in the region.

QUESTION: But with America withdrawing from Syria – at least for the time being of course; you still have a presence in Iraq but not compared to presence in the last decade. You are determined for this but you are withdrawing from Syria. This is something you consider not contradicted, and you didn’t see it contradict also what the – Mr. Bolton’s statement regarding Turkey, same issue. But how can we understand this?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah. No, there’s no contradiction at all. America supports fights against terror all around the world. Sometimes we do it with U.S. soldiers, sometimes we do it with forces from partner countries. Sometimes we do it in other ways – diplomatic means, economic means, financial means, building out coalitions. There are many tools in the power projection arsenal. And so no terrorist, no Iranian should believe that the fact that a couple thousand U.S. soldiers are going to be redeployed out of Syria in any way diminishes our commitment.

QUESTION: It’s said in the U.S., especially at the time at the turn of the former president, that our enemies don’t hear us and our friends don’t trust us. This is something I heard in previous interviews. So in that context, do you think Iran fears what’s going on now?

SECRETARY POMPEO: I want the Iranian people to know that we want a better life for them. We want the Iranian people’s voices to be heard. We want a real democracy in the Islamic Republic of Iran. And a real democracy doesn’t support Hizballah. A real democracy doesn’t support Shia militias in Iraq that are reducing Iraqi independence. A real democracy wouldn’t be active in Yemen in the way that they are by underwriting the Houthis today. We want the Iranian people’s voices to be heard, and so we don’t want them to fear us. We want them to know that we’re here, we hear them, and we want a better life for the people in Iran as well.