Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State
United Against Nuclear Iran’s 2019 Iran Summit
The Palace Hotel, New York City
September 25, 2019
SECRETARY POMPEO: Good morning. Good morning, everyone. Thank you. Good morning. Thank you, Senator Lieberman, for inviting me back to address now for the second year in a row. Mark, it’s great to be with you as well. You guys got the comfy seats here this morning.
I also want to welcome a few special guests. As Senator Lieberman said, Minister al-Sabhan of Saudi Arabia; the ambassadors of Bahrain and Ambassador Dermer; Susan Azizadeh of the Iranian American Jewish Federation. (Applause.) Yeah, thanks. (Laughter.) And Maziar Bahari, a great champion for human rights in Iran. And I want to say Salaam to all the Iranians listening today. I have much that I want to say to the Iranian people this morning.
I want you all to imagine the scene in Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia earlier this month. It was a bit before sunrise, missiles and drones rained down on Saudi Arabia’s largest oil processing site. There were many internationals – foreigners, Americans – not too terribly far away. Workers heard the blasts, and so did their children. By the way, my son didn’t think it was as funny as you did that I was going to be at the International Criminal Court. (Laughter.) Although he did say he would like to attend at least the opening. (Laughter.)
Back to the serious. Their children were the – thank God there was no loss of life, but there could easily have been. In that sense, everyone in the region, indeed in the world, got lucky.
I immediately called this an “act of war”, one sovereign state against another, because it was. It was an attack on Saudi Arabia, a sovereign state. It was indeed also an attack on the global economy.
Some said that that was a rush to judgment, that announcement. History – like, six days’ worth of history – has proven we were right, that the United States had it right. We didn’t rush to act. We were patient. We called our partners. We established the facts. We wanted to make sure everybody had the opportunity to see what we knew.
And as Senator Lieberman said this week, Britain, France, and Germany released a statement with their conclusions.
They said, quote, “It is clear to us” – these three nations, “It is clear to us that Iran bears responsibility for this attack. There is no other plausible explanation.”
They went on, “These attacks may have been against Saudi Arabia, but they concern all countries and increase the risk of a major conflict.”
And they declared that, “The time has come for Iran to accept negotiation on a long-term framework for its nuclear program as well as on issues related to regional security.”
Some have said that they’ve joined the United States. I think they have joined reality. I think they’ve joined with the facts as we all see them. And this is progress. Nations are standing for that reality. They’re calling it what it is, something that we all in this room have known for a long time.
This is the beginning of an awakening – to the truth that Iran is the aggressor and not the aggrieved, as they claim as they run around Washington – or, excuse me, run around New York this week.
And that is what American democracy and diplomacy has achieved.
When President Trump exited the JCPOA, the nuclear deal, he didn’t just take a stand for American national securities. He said at the time the deal only made “Iran’s [bloody] ambitions…more brazen.”
Indeed, Iran has a long history of unprovoked aggression, 40 years now, against its own people, against its neighbors, and indeed against civilization itself.
The list is long. From murdering and torturing their own people, to killing Americans from Lebanon to Iraq, to harboring al-Qaida even today, Iran has rampaged for four decades, and sadly with too few consequences.
During this nuclear deal – during the nuclear deal negotiations, Iran’s malign activity didn’t abate one bit, although that was the theory of the case. Thanks to Israel, we now know they were also protecting, hiding, and preserving their nuclear knowhow at that very same time.
Indeed, after the deal was signed and the pallets of cash were delivered, they continued backing Hizballah, Hamas, the Houthis, and Shia militias throughout the region. The world too much appeased them, and then underwrote their terrorism.
When President Trump took office, Iran had not joined the community of nations, as was predicted by the previous administration.
What we found: We found a refugee crisis in Syria, thanks to Iran’s support for Assad; a humanitarian quagmire in Yemen, thanks to Iran’s arms transfer to the Houthis; a fragile Iraq, thanks to Iran’s support of Shia militias; an Iranian client state, also known as Lebanon. We saw Iranians jailed and tortured; American citizens, and citizens of many other countries as well, wrongfully detained.
Just yesterday, President Trump drew a distinction between those who think “they are destined to rule over others,” or “those people and nations who want only to rule themselves.” It is abundantly clear into which camp the Islamic Republic of Iran falls.
That’s why last year, after we exited the nuclear deal, we began to execute President Trump’s strategy – shorthand it has been deemed the maximum pressure campaign. But it’s much more than that.
We began to cut off the revenues the regime uses to fund death and destruction, and we’ve seen the benefits of that. We began to pressure the regime to make a real deal, one that ensures the world’s most reckless regime never possesses history’s most destruction weapons systems.
And as the President said yesterday, “It is time for Iran’s leaders to step forward and stop threatening other countries, and focus on building up their own country,” for their own people. “It is time for Iran’s leaders to finally put those people, the Iranian people first.” And I’m confident – I’m confident that the Iranian people will demand that as well. (Applause.) And when they do, you should know this administration will support them. (Applause.)
Look, we’ve implemented unprecedented measures to achieve our goal of peace:
We’ve sanctioned the top-level perpetrators for their blood – for the blood they have on their hands. The supreme leader, Foreign Minister Zarif, and the IRGC are just a few of them.
We’ve hit the Iranian petrochemical sector, the metals sector, the banking sector with sanctions to deprive the regime of billions of dollars, and our enforcement of those sanctions has been and will continue to be relentless.
Thousands of companies around the world are complying with our sanctions because they know their success lies with America and not with the Ayatollah.
And by sanctioning the regime’s petroleum sector, we’ve cut off Iran’s number-one source of revenue. More than 30 nations have brought Iranian oil imports to zero. And going forward, our sanctions on the Iranian oil sector will deprive the regime of as much as $50 billion each and every year. It’s worth noting those sanctions, at their peak, have been in place only since the beginning of May, now some five months. There is much work yet to be done.
And we’re blessed. American power means that no other nation could have brought such staggering pressure to bear. This unprecedented pressure too is forcing the regime into panicked aggression, as we’ve seen public lies.
They’re calling every play in their playbook to goad us into conflict, to create division among nations, and extort them into action. And you should know their playbook won’t succeed.
This summer, Iran attacked oil tankers in international waterways, it shot down an American UAV, and defied and threatened to defy its nuclear commitments, and it continues to declare death to Israel. And just yesterday, the regime added your organization – as Senator Lieberman said, a peaceful nonprofit ‒ to its list of terror groups, just like it did to our friends at FDD a few weeks before this.
That’s outrageous. It’s outrageous even for this regime, which indeed does mean you are doing something right.
And Iran just flat out lies, and each of us needs to call them on it every time we see it.
I flipped on Fox News last night and saw President Rouhani speaking to Chris Wallace, an odd thing in its own right. (Laughter.)
He claimed that – Rouhani claimed that Iran defeats terrorism wherever it goes. (Laughter).
He claimed, “certainly, undoubtedly” that Israel supports ISIS.
And incredibly, he said – and I must quote this – he said, quote, “Iran is a country that has brought peace in the region,” end of quote. And yet too many people listen to Rouhani and Zarif, and take their words as relevant, or important, or material, or accurate.
Rouhani is desperate to deceive because the world is awakening to the truth. The truth is that Iran responds to strength and not to supplication. President Trump knows that.
More and more nations are beginning to stand up to Iran’s thuggish behavior, and disengaging economically. We will ensure that all of them do. They’re coming to realize, to quote the President, “No responsible government should subsidize Iran’s [bloodlust].”
We’ve made progress. France has now banned Mahan Air from flying in and out of its country.
Germany, too, has banned those planes from landing on their soil.
Argentina recently designated Hizballah as a terrorist group.
And the United Kingdom, said that it would no longer abide the false distinction between Hizballah’s political and military wings.
Greece has refused to let an Iranian supertanker carrying oil to Syria refuel in its ports.
The Netherlands, for the first time, announced that Iran was likely behind the murder of two Dutch citizens who were Iranian dissidents.
Australia, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and the UK have all joined our efforts to protect freedom of navigation in the Straits of Hormuz.
I was with the GCC nations yesterday. They know the threat Iran poses to peace and are united around stopping it. It was clear, too, when President Trump met with them yesterday, that they’re prepared to do what it takes to ensure stability in their region.
Now I know, too, that there will be more than a few talking heads explode when I say this, but this is effective multilateralism. It’s what the Trump administration has tried to do, multilateralism based in reality and facts, and with clarity of purpose.
Countries are showing themselves to be what President Trump lauded yesterday, “sovereign and independent nations who protect their citizens, [respect] their neighbors, and honor the differences that make each country special and unique” in its own right.
This is what American diplomacy has achieved; there’s more work to be done.
But countries are indeed awakening to the truth that the more Iran lashes out, the greater our pressure will and should be.
And you can count on America to lead; each nation can. As President Trump said yesterday, “As long as Iran’s menacing behavior continues, sanctions will not be lifted, they will be tightened.” That path forward begins now with two new actions:
First, we’re taking new action to disentangle the IRGC from the Iranian economy. The United States will intensify our efforts to educate countries and companies on the risks of doing business with IRGC entities, and we will punish them if they persist in defiance of our warnings.
Second, today we are imposing sanctions on certain Chinese entities for knowingly transporting oil from Iran contrary to United States sanctions. (Applause.) Importantly, we’re also imposing sanctions on the executive officers of those companies as well. And we’re telling China and all nations, know that we will sanction every violation of sanctionable activity.
So as I close this morning, I ask responsible nations: Will you publicly condemn Iran’s malign activity? We need you to; the world does.
Will you work with us to restore deterrents? We need you to; the world does.
Will you help us protect freedom of navigation in global trade? We need you to; the world does.
Most importantly, will you help us get Iran back to the negotiating table? We need your help; the world needs it.
And will you stand with us alongside of Israel? We need you to; the world needs you to join us. (Applause.)
Our goal is very straightforward, although not simple. But we know diplomacy is working, our resolve is strong, and our eyes our open. The awakening, I think, in the world, has begun.
To quote the President one last time – at least one last time this morning – “All nations, every nation has a duty to act.” What will you do?
God bless you.
And may God bless the people of Iran. (Applause.)