State Department Press Briefing (Excerpts)

May 22, 2018

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear
  • Missile

MS NAUERT: Oh, thank you. I’m a little shorter than the Secretary, so pardon me here for my – for my little box. I have a couple announcements to make, and then I’d be happy to take your questions, although it’s certainly a hard act to follow when you have the Secretary of State.


QUESTION: From the Secretary’s remarks yesterday and today, there’s – particularly yesterday, obviously, there was some speculation that essentially what he wants is – the U.S. wants is regime change in Iran. Do you --

MS NAUERT: That is not our policy.

QUESTION: But does the United States believe that it can work with this – the Government of Iran to achieve its objectives --

MS NAUERT: I think the Secretary was very clear in his speech yesterday about our government’s concerns – and other governments share these very rational concerns – about the activities of the Iranian regime. For far too long, administrations have simply looked at Iran through the lens of the JPCOA, through the nuclear agreement. This administration is choosing to focus on not only keeping Americans safe, keeping our allies and partners safe, and frankly, keeping the world safe.

QUESTION: But his answer today wasn’t, “We think these sanctions will work even if it takes a long time,” it was once again calling on the Iranian people themselves to do something about that. So if he’s not advocating regime change, why does he keep making it sound exactly like he’s advocating regime change?

MS NAUERT: I think what he’s saying is this is up to the Iranian people. The Iranian people for far too long have lived under a regime that has mistreated its people. We’ve seen the human rights abuses, we’ve seen the clampdown on the media, we’ve seen the clampdown on freedom of expression. That continues to happen each and every day. People are imprisoned; we don’t always know where they are, including Americans who are being held there as well. So I think the Secretary was very clear about concerns that the Iranian people have themselves – the Persian people, a very proud people. And we’ve seen a certain level of frustration and anger at their own government for promises that the government has not fulfilled. That government, back when the JCPOA was put into effect said, effectively, “We will share this money with you. You will see the fruits of this.” The people have not seen that. Those promises were not fulfilled, and so we see an increasing level of frustration by their own people. Our policy --

QUESTION: So what does he want them to do?

MS NAUERT: Our policy is not regime change; but if the Iranian people were to choose somewhere down the road to make their views known, they’re certainly welcome to do so. But that is not our policy.

QUESTION: Just to follow up on that --

MS NAUERT: Yeah, yeah.

QUESTION: I mean, on your previous comment about Iraq, you’ve said essentially that the U.S. is willing to work with whichever government the people of Iraq elect.

MS NAUERT: I think it’s up to the Government of Iran how they want to behave. We certainly haven’t seen them behave as a responsible international partner for very many years. There’s no one who knows that better than my colleagues here at the State Department when we look back at what happened to our colleagues and our embassy so many years ago. We’ve seen that as Iran has had such a destabilizing influence in the region.

The Secretary was recently in Saudi Arabia, where we had conversations with our Saudi Arabian partners about the missiles that had been launched on Riyadh. I’d go back to you and say this: Imagine that happening at any other country around the world, where the Iranian regime is launching missiles at an airport, a commercial airport. You could hit civilians, you could hit Americans, could cause a great deal of damage. The world should not tolerate that from Iran. The would certainly wouldn’t tolerate it from other countries.

QUESTION: A couple things.

MS NAUERT: And we’re going to have to wrap. We’re going to have to wrap in just a minute.

QUESTION: It’s not actually Iran that’s – are you saying that Iran is firing these missiles?

MS NAUERT: Iran is backing the Houthi rebels, and we’ve been very clear about that. This is not the first time we’ve had that conversation.