U.S Department of State
Office of the Spokesperson
For Immediate Release
March 17, 2020
Press Briefing Room
SECRETARY POMPEO: Good afternoon, everyone. As you all know, the Trump administration continues to put an enormous amount of energy into combating the Wuhan virus and protecting the American people. We’re highly engaged here at the State Department on that critical mission. I’ll talk about that a bit and happy to take some questions as well about what we’re doing here at the State Department.
That being said, I wanted to come out here today to note the State Department remains fully engaged across a broad range of matters even as we tackle this global pandemic. No nation gives so much to defend life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness more than we do here in the United States, and we’re doing that work all over the world. That work continues. That’s what I wanted to share with you today.
Let’s start with one of our most important topics, terrorism. Today the Department of State is announcing our intent to designate Amir Muhammad Sa’id Abdal-Rahman al-Mawla a specially designated global terrorist. He was previously active in al-Qaida in Iraq and is known for torturing innocent Yezidi religious minorities. He was named the leader of ISIS after we killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi last year. We’ve destroyed the caliphate and we remain committed to ISIS’s enduring defeat no matter who they designate as their leader.
Continuing on designations and our leadership in trying to staunch the flow of terror groups, the Department of State is today also sanctioning nine entities based in South Africa, in Hong Kong, and in China, as well as three Iranian individuals, all for knowingly engaging in significant transactions for the purchase, acquisition, sale, transport, or marketing of petrochemical products from Iran, the world’s largest leading state sponsor of terror.
This action includes the designation of Iran’s armed forces social security investment company and its director for using their resources to invest in sanctioned entities.
I’d also like to mention today that in response to Iran regime’s unacceptable nuclear escalations, the Department of Commerce is adding five Iranian nuclear scientists to the entities list.
These five individuals were involved in Iran’s pre-2004 nuclear weapons program, known as the Amad program, and continue to be employed by the regime to this day. After work on the Amad plan was stopped, Iran continued to preserve its Amad-era records and its cadre of nuclear weapons scientists, including these individuals.
Many unanswered questions remain about Iran’s undisclosed past nuclear-related activities. These new listings today by the Department of Commerce reaffirm the importance of demanding a full and honest accountability and accounting from Iran of its past nuclear weapons-related activities.
I also want to call attention to the Iranian regime’s misinformation campaign surrounding the origination of the Wuhan virus. Instead of focusing on the needs of the Iranian people and accepting genuine offers of support, senior Iranians lied about the Wuhan virus outbreak for weeks.
The Iranian leadership is trying to avoid responsibility for their grossly incompetent and deadly governance. Sadly, the Iranian people have been suffering these kinds of lies for 41 years. They know the truth: The Wuhan virus is a killer and the Iranian regime is an accomplice.
We’re trying to help. We continue to offer assistance to Iran in numerous ways and we will continue to do so.
We have an open humanitarian channel to facilitate legitimate transactions even while ensuring our maximum pressure campaign denies terrorists money.
We are assisting the IAEA, the nuclear watchdog, their inspectors, who are trying to ensure that Iran continues to comply with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
We’ve allocated a million dollars through the IAEA to provide member-states that requested support with coronavirus test kits and training.
And in the spirit of humanitarian gestures, the United States also continues to call on Iran to immediately release all wrongfully detained Americans being held inside of that country. We will continue to hold the regime responsible for its terror and we will continue to assist the Iranian people.
On to Syria, our efforts to help the Syrian people:
Earlier today the United States designated the Assad regime’s minister of defense, Lieutenant General Ali Abdullah Ayoub, for perpetuating the violence and the disastrous humanitarian crisis inside of Syria. His deliberate actions since December of 2019 have prevented a ceasefire from taking hold inside of Syria. The obstruction resulted in the displacement of almost a million people in dire need of humanitarian aid in the midst of a cold winter in Idlib.
The Assad regime’s forces, backed by Russia and Iranian-supported forces, have been responsible for the continued bombardments that destroyed schools and hospitals and killed civilians, including medical professionals and first responders who were risking their lives to save others inside of Syria.
We continue to call for an immediate end to the slaughter and a political solution to the Syria conflict.
Additionally, we believe Russia has killed dozens of Turkish military personnel in the course of their military operations, and we stand with our NATO ally Turkey and will continue to consider additional measures to support Turkey and to end the violence in Idlib and in Syria more broadly.
Turning to the ICC, a so-called court which is revealing itself to be a nakedly political body:
As I said the last time I stood before you, we oppose any effort by the ICC to exercise jurisdiction over U.S. personnel. We will not tolerate its inappropriate and unjust attempts to investigate or prosecute Americans. When our personnel are accused of a crime, they face justice in our country.
It has recently come to my attention that the chef de cabinet to the prosecutor, Sam Shoamanesh, and the head of jurisdiction, complementarity, and cooperation division, Phakiso Mochochoko, are helping drive ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s effort to use this court to investigate Americans. I’m examining this information now and considering what the United States’ next steps ought to be with respect to these individuals and all those who are putting Americans at risk.
We want to identify those responsible for this partisan investigation and their family members who may want to travel to the United States or engage in activity that’s inconsistent with making sure we protect Americans.
This court, the ICC, is an embarrassment. It’s exposing and – we are exposing and confronting its abuses, and this is a true example of American leadership to ensure that multilateral institutions actually perform the missions for which they were designed.
A quick note from South America and then I’ll take some questions:
The United States is closely monitoring the tabulation of votes in Guyana, which took – the election took place back on March 2nd. We join the OAS, the Commonwealth, EU, CARICOM, and other democratic partners in calling for an accurate count. We commend CARICOM’s role in seeking a swift, democratic resolution, and it’s important to note that the individuals who seek to benefit from electoral fraud and form illegitimate governments, regimes will be subject to a variety of serious consequences from the United States