Rex W. Tillerson
Press Briefing Room
August 1, 2017
SECRETARY TILLERSON: I want to turn a little bit to Iran now, and consistent with our efforts to stop Islamic extremism in all its form is the proactive approach we’re taking to preventing Iran from developing, first, new weapons – as you know, nuclear weapons. We want to prevent them from fomenting terrorism and building influence outside of their borders. The conversation on Iran does not begin and end with the JCPOA, the nuclear agreement, and I think if there’s one thing I hope I can help people understand it’s that agreement dealt with a very small slice of Iran’s threats, and that was their nuclear program. And one of the unfortunate outcomes of the intensive effort to put that agreement in place is that agreement was put in place almost to the detriment and ignoring all of other Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region, whether it be their ongoing ballistic missile programs, their export of terrorism, their export of instability in Yemen, their export of foreign fighters into Iraq and Syria. And so while this agreement was being developed, it was kind of like we put blinders on and just ignored all those other things. We come onto the scene and we said, “That agreement doesn’t speak to a lot of the problems we have with Iran,” so I don’t want people to think that’s what defines either the relationship or the policy with Iran is the JCPOA.
Iran continues these efforts. They are persistent in their efforts to exert their influence across the Middle East, and it is our intent working with our allies in the region to push back on Iran’s expansionist efforts to destabilize areas, particularly Yemen, Iraq, Syria, but we also see them in the theaters of Afghanistan.
The President, I think, has been pretty clear on his dissatisfaction with the JCPOA as a tool or instrument, but we continue to have conversations about the utility of that agreement, whether it has utility, whether it doesn’t have utility. But in particular, we’re working with the other parties to that agreement, our European allies in particular, to ensure that we are fully enforcing all aspects of that agreement, holding Iran accountable for its commitments, and challenging whether Iran is, in fact, living up to its commitments and the spirit of that agreement. We’re going to continue that – to take that approach as we evaluate and come up to the next milestone on the continuation of that agreement or continuation of waivers to the sanctions.