Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary Of State
November 23, 2019
QUESTION: Thank you so much for your time today. As we know, Iran is going through a series of protests. In Iran, people are protesting against the regime right now. What is your reaction to these protests?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thanks for having me on, and I really appreciate the opportunity to hopefully speak directly to the Iranian people. We want a good life for them. We want a successful economy. We want them to be able to spend time with their families. And we’ve watched a regime that has instead squandered money on careless wars all across the world; we’ve watched them foment assassination campaigns in Europe – truly not doing what it is the Iranian people want them to do.
And so our efforts, this administration’s efforts have been to convince the regime, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s leaders, to behave like a normal nation and focus their efforts on taking care of their own people rather than on fomenting terrorism all around the world.
QUESTION: So does – U.S. has been applying maximum pressure on the Islamic Republic of Iran. And now the government in Iran has been forced to increase the gas prices, which led to people taking out to the extreme. Were you expecting this to happen?
SECRETARY POMPEO: You have to remember that the reason for the challenges to the Islamic Republic of Iran’s economy aren’t the American sanctions. This long predates any of that. This is massive mismanagement of the Iranian economy. It’s the fact they’ve sent young Iranian kids off to fight in wars and die. It’s the fact that they don’t permit companies to engage in activities that would promote wealth for the Iranian people. Instead, the kleptocrats, the government-owned enterprises, the Qods Force operated companies steal money from the Iranian people. The reason that the economy is struggling, and the reason that you see these protests all across the country are because the Iranian leadership has failed the Iranian people. They haven’t allowed the economy to grow; they haven’t created opportunity. Instead, they’ve behaved like kleptocrats, stealing the wealth of the Iranian people for their own personal enrichment.
QUESTION: The Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei, he just accused the United States along with Israel of orchestrating these protests in Iran. What is your response to that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, the last refuge of those who fail is to blame someone else. This has nothing to do with anyone outside of Iran fomenting these protests. This is – this is the Iranian people struggling for freedom, demanding their rights, desiring the capacity to take care of their own people. We’re working to make sure that every Iranian has their human rights respected. We opened up the Rewards for Justice Program. I hope anyone watching this who sees the Iranian regime do something that’s wrong, to take away the human rights of any Iranian, will go on Twitter or go online and send us a note letting the American – we’ll do our best to help the Iranian people be successful.
QUESTION: As you mentioned, you tweeted recently asking the Iranian people to submit their videos and picture of any human rights violation. What is the U.S. going to do to the people who are perpetrating these crimes against the Iranian people?
SECRETARY POMPEO: First, we think sunlight’s the best disinfectant. We think identifying these – so to the extent people can send us this information, we think it would be enormously valuable to convince some of the people, frankly, who are inside of Iran who don’t want to be part – do not want to be part of these – pushing back against these protests, who don’t want to engage in these human rights violations, to know that the whole world will see them. Their families will see them. Their loved ones who may live somewhere else in the world will see that they’re behaving in ways that aren’t in the best interest of good, ordinary Iranian people.
And second, as we did today to the minister of communications and information, we’ll impose sanctions. We’ll deny them American benefits, visas, all the things that accrue to those who behave as leaders ought to behave. We’ll – we’ll put a set of sanctions in place that will make it more difficult and raise the costs for the ayatollah and his regime.
QUESTION: As you mentioned, the U.S. Treasury just – just announced that they’re sanctioning the Iranian communications ministry and also the minister Mohammad Azari Jahromi. What is your message to the Iranian leaders or officials who are helping to basically crush this uprising?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So this particular sanction was a direct result of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s decision by its leadership to shut down the internet. The basic right of every Iranian to speak, to exercise their freedom, to communicate, they shut down. It’s now come back a little bit. I don’t know if it’s operating at 5, 10, or 15 percent, but they tried to quell the protests by denying the Iranian people their voice. So that’s what – today we sanctioned the individual that was responsible for this. We’ll continue to do that. We’ve tried to keep the internet open, and we’ve done what we can to assist there. We’ve encouraged big companies who sponsor and permit the Iranian leadership to communicate when the Iranian people can’t, to take down those sites. We hope that they will. We simply want the Iranian people to have every opportunity to be protected, their individual human rights preserved, and for them to have opportunity going forward.
QUESTION: As you mentioned, the Iran internet is all but shut down. At the same time, the Iranian leaders seem to have no problem communicating on Twitter and Facebook. What do you think about that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, it’s just wrong. It reminds of me of when Zarif comes to America and speaks to the American people, and yet, the American Secretary of State isn’t permitted to travel to Tehran to speak to the Iranian people. It’s wrong. President Trump often talks about reciprocity and fairness and equality. Today what you have is the regime, those who are destroying human rights in the country, those who have destroyed the economy of Iran, they have the ability to speak to the world and between each other, and the good, hard-working Iranian people have been denied that.
QUESTION: So estimates say that around 168 people have been killed in recent – in protests in Iran. What is your assessment of the current situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran, and why do you think the regime is responding to protestors so forcefully?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So I’ve seen the reports of the deaths, and we mourn the loss of any Iranian who was harmed by their own regime for simply going to the street to speak peacefully about their human rights. We watch these protests. We hope that the Iranian regime will begin to behave in a way that respects the Iranian people, allows their economy to grow, doesn’t continue to build out a nuclear program, an expensive nuclear program which takes money from the Iranian people, to not underwrite Hizballah, which takes the very money that these people want. The reason they had to raise gas prices – this is where we started – was because they’re funding Hizballah, and they’re funding Shia militias in Iraq. If those monies were put towards better roads, better infrastructure to help the Iranian people, these protests, I think, would calm down immediately. That’s the kind of reform that I hope will – the Iranian regime will undertake. There’s no indication that they have any intention of doing so.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you very much, sir.
QUESTION: We appreciate that.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you. Thank you so much.