THE PRESIDENT: I’d like to ask Mike [Pompeo] to say a few words about Iran and what that situation is. Please.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, Mr. President. If I may just to — I’ll try and do it briefly, but I might just take a minute. In the same way that — when this administration came in, broadly in the Middle East, you had ISIS with an enormous caliphate, Iran as the world’s largest state sponsor of terror, with lots of wealth and the capacity to grow their terror campaign.
What we’ve done in these two and a half years is we’ve built out a coalition of Gulf States, the Israelis. Each of them has been focused on taking these activities on. And we’ve taken down the caliphate nearly in its entirety.
And, second, with respect to Iran, we’ve done three things. We’ve supported the Iranian people. The Iranian leadership is not doing what the Iranian people want it to do. We’ve made clear that we support the Iranian people.
Second, we’ve continued to work with this coalition that all understands that the largest threat to Middle East security is, in fact, the Islamic Republic of Iran.
And, third, we’ve imposed a series of sanctions on the Iranian regime. I remember, Mr. President, when we began, a lot of folks said that it wouldn’t work; if it was just America alone, it wouldn’t have any impact. We — as of June, we’d taken down 90 percent, maybe 95 percent, of all the crude oil that was being exported from Iran around the world is no longer shipping. You can see it. The Iranian regime is struggling to figure out what they’re going to do with their economy because we have been terribly effective.
And the result is that — is that, frankly, I think it was yesterday or maybe the day before — for the first time, the Iranians have said that they’re prepared to negotiate about their missile program. So we will have this opportunity, I hope. If we continue to execute our strategy appropriately, we’ll have this opportunity to negotiate a deal that will actually prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon in the same way that the previous agreement had no chance of actually doing.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much. You know, a lot of progress has been made. And if they’d like to talk, then we’ll see what happens. But a lot of progress has been made.
Remember one thing: An agreement was made with Secretary Kerry, at the time, and with President Obama. That agreement was a disaster. They spent $150 billion; $1.8 billion was given in cash — cash like cash from your pocket. $1.8 billion given in cash. And we had an agreement that, number one, didn’t give us good inspection rights. We were — the places we most would want to inspect we weren’t allowed to inspect. We were allowed to inspect places that didn’t mean anything. Number one.
And I think, very importantly, and maybe most importantly, the agreement was short term. You know, for a country, 10 years and 15 years is short term. If you sign a lease, you can a sign a 10-year lease. But for a country, that’s a speck of time. And there’s only a few years left now. Very short number of years left. And you’re not going to go up and make a deal. This was a path for Iran to have a nuclear weapon. They can’t have a nuclear weapon.
We want to help them. We’ll be good to them. We’ll work with them. We’ll help them in any way we can, but they can’t have a nuclear weapon. We’re not looking, by the way, for regime change, because some people say we’re looking for regime change. We’re not looking for regime change.