U.S. Department of State
Office of the Spokesperson
For Immediate Release
September 18, 2019
Secretary Michael R. Pompeo
ERT Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
SECRETARY POMPEO: Good morning everyone. Thanks for joining me. Tell me where you’d like to start.
QUESTION: You can start with making the case about why this could not come from the Houthis.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah. So there’s – it didn’t come from the Houthis. I would begin by this, and I’ll certainly address that. It doesn’t matter. This was an Iranian attack. It’s not the case that you can subcontract out the devastation of five percent of the world’s global energy supply and think that you can absolve yourself of responsibilities. So, I’d say that from the beginning. Were it the case that the Houthis’ fraudulent claim was accurate, were that true – it’s not, but were that true, it doesn’t change the fingerprints of the Ayatollah as having put at risk the global energy supply. And Americans and Saudis who reside in Saudi Arabia too were at risk. There were – we’re blessed that there were no Americans killed in this attack, but any time you have an act of war of this nature, there’s always risk that that could happen.
As for how we know, the equipment used is unknown to be in the Houthi arsenal. So we watched clearly and have a deep understanding of what the Iranians have transferred to the Houthis over – goodness, it’s been since I think 2011, Brian, since the Iranians began shipping significant weapon systems to the Houthis, 2011 – maybe it’s ’13. But it’s been going on for six or eight years, since long before the JCPOA was filed. And that money and wealth and weapon systems have been sitting there, but we’ve never seen these particular systems, these light attack cruise missiles we have never seen there. And we think we’ve seen most everything.
So we’re – the Intelligence Community has high confidence that this was not – these were not weapons that would have been in the possession of the Houthis. That’s probably the most important piece of information. The second piece is if you stare at the flight patterns that had to have taken place given the impact and what you can see when you see the pictures, you should – if you all go hire the best analysts to go look at the damage to these facilities, they didn’t come from the south. And Yemen is – just for those who are – tracking nearly due south of most of all of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. I’ll concede it’s a broad country, you can argue some of it’s – anyway. It didn’t come from – these attacks didn’t come from there.
QUESTION: If it didn’t come from there, did it come from Iran, or did it come from southern Iraq? Where is the view that it would come from there?
SECRETARY POMPEO: We’ve seen no evidence that it – by the way, that makes the Houthis’ claims false, right. Just so we’re tracking back to your original question, that means these people lie. And so whatever you report about them, you say, “the Houthis said,” you should say, “the well-known, frequently lying Houthis have said the following.” This is important, because you ought not report them as if these are truth-tellers, as if these are people who aren’t completely under the boot of the Iranians, and who would not at the direction of the Iranians lay claim to attacks which they did not engage in, which clearly was the case here. So there you go. Whenever you say “Houthis,” you should begin with “the well-known, frequently-known-to-lie Houthis.” And then you can write whatever it is they say. And you would have — that would be good reporting. (Laughter.) And I know you care deeply about —
QUESTION: But how does that war end, though?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I know you care deeply about that, good reporting. Let me just try and close out. So we also know that these are systems that the Iranians have not deployed anyplace else, that they have not deployed outside of their country, to the best of our knowledge. We’ve not seen them deploy these types of UAV systems with the kinds of ranges and capabilities, nor have we seen them place these missiles where they could have done it. We’ve seen no evidence that it came from Iraq. It could well have traveled over Kuwait. We’ve not seen that either.
QUESTION: How do you restore deterrence, then? Because that seems to be the main message.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, that’s my mission here is to work with our partners in the region. We will be working with our European partners as well. I’ve spoken to I think all of them at least once or twice. I’ve spoken with the crown prince of the Emirates. I’ll see him. I’ve spoken to him, yes, a couple times I think. We are working to build out a coalition to develop a plan to deter them. And this is what needs to happen.
QUESTION: Aren’t you concerned that —
SECRETARY POMPEO: This is an attack of a scale we’ve just not seen before.
QUESTION: — after $80 million a year the Saudis can’t pick up on their radar systems a Tomahawk – not Tomahawk, cruise missiles that are crossing the Persian Gulf?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Look, anytime – we’ve seen air defense systems all around the world have mixed success. Some of the finest in the world don’t always pick things up. We want to work to make sure that infrastructure and resources are put in place such that attacks like this would be less successful than this one appears to have been. That’s certainly the case.
The last thing I’ll say is there is this theme that some suggest that the President’s strategy that we allowed isn’t working. I would argue just the converse of that. I would argue that what you are seeing here is a direct result of us reversing the enormous failure of the JCPOA.
Fifty-five weeks from now, the whole world can sell exactly these missile systems, conventional missile systems to the Iranian Government unencumbered by any sanctions under the – 55 weeks, 55 weeks from now. Does anybody think that that was a genius idea to allow them to have the whole world be able to actually sell them missile systems? They’d have more complex ones but for the sanctions we put in place that have prevented them from getting access to money, most importantly, but also parts, spare parts, information technology – all the things that go into building out production-level threats to the world.
The sanctions that the United States has put in place have slowed that down, and that’s important. And you see it. You see it in Hizballah, who hasn’t got as much money. You watch them having to make decisions about their defense budget. Those are the right pathways. And you talked about how do you restore deterrence. That’s it – you deny the aggressor the wealth and resources to commit acts of war and terrorism around the world.
QUESTION: Are the Iranians going to be at the UN next week?
SECRETARY POMPEO: The Iranians?
QUESTION: Yeah. I thought that they were saying they haven’t gotten visas. So is the U.S. going to issue visas?
SECRETARY POMPEO: We don’t talk about the granting or absence of granting of visas. I would say this: If you’re connected to a foreign terrorist organization, I don’t know, it seems to me it would be a reasonable thing to think about whether they ought to be prevented to attend a meeting which is about peace.
They – look, the actions that the Iranian regime took violated the UN charter. I spoke with Secretary Guterres about it yesterday. He reminded me not only did they violate – I was talking about the one – he said, yeah, it violated international human rights law as well. Secretary-General Guterres said that.
QUESTION: Will you be making your case to the UN Security Council next week?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’m confident that in New York we’ll talk a lot about this and that the Saudis will too. The Saudis were the nation that was attacked. It was on their soil. It was an act of war against them directly, and I’m confident they will do that.
MS ORTAGUS: We’re going to land standing up, you all. So anything else?
SECRETARY POMPEO: All right. That’s not healthy, yes.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
MS ORTAGUS: Thanks, guys.