Aug 20, 2020
Mike Pompeo Press Conference Transcript August 20: Iran Sanctions
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held a press conference on August 20. He declared that “the United States is initiating the restoration of virtually all UN sanctions on Iran lifted under UN Security Council Resolution 2231”. Read the transcript of the news briefing speech here.
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Mike Pompeo: (00:02)
Good afternoon, everyone. Just a few minutes ago, I delivered letters to both the UN Secretary General Gutierrez and to the President of the Security Council, notified them that the United States is initiating the restoration of virtually all UN sanctions on Iran lifted under UN Security Council Resolution 2231. This process will lead to those sanctions coming back into effect 30 days from today. Our message is very, very simple. The United States will never allow the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism to freely buy and sell planes, tanks, missiles, and other kinds of conventional weapons. These UN sanctions will continue the arms embargo.
Mike Pompeo: (00:46)
I’m pleased to say, too, that these restored sanctions will also reimpose accountability for other forms of Iranian malign activity that the authors of the nuclear deal foolishly downplayed. Iran will again be prohibited from ballistic missile testing. Iran will be back under sanctions for ongoing nuclear activities, such as the enrichment of nuclear material that could be applied to a nuclear weapons program. This is happening, of course, at a moment when Iran is refusing to allow the IAEA to inspect sites suspected of undeclared nuclear activity that were formerly part of Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
Mike Pompeo: (01:23)
President Trump and this administration have discarded the fiction that the regime merely seeks a peaceful nuclear program. We will never allow the Islamic Republic of Iran to have a nuclear weapon. Our actions today too, should come as no surprise to anyone. Our team has made every diplomatic effort over now almost two years to renew this arms embargo.
Mike Pompeo: (01:44)
I want to thank the Dominican Republic for standing with us in this effort, our friends in Germany, France, and the United Kingdom, the E3, all told me privately that they don’t want the arms embargo lifted either. And yet today in the end, they provided no alternatives, no options. No country but the United States has had the courage and conviction to put forward a resolution. Instead, they chose to side with the Ayatollahs. Their actions endanger the people of Iraq, of Yemen, of Lebanon, Syria, and indeed their own citizens as well.
Mike Pompeo: (02:20)
In stark contrast, the Gulf Cooperation Council nations deserve praise for showing courage and unity, and warning about the danger from Iran. Two weeks ago Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates sent a letter to the Security Council, urging a renewal of the arms embargo before it expired in October. As Iran’s neighbors, they know better than anyone else the havoc that Iran could create with these weapons.
Mike Pompeo: (02:50)
Look, the world, and especially our European friends on the Security Council should have heeded their words. America won’t join in this failure of leadership. America will not appease. America will lead. The leadership begins with recognizing the Islamic Republic of Iran for what it truly is, a theocratic, revolutionary, brutish regime that will not voluntarily seek peace or make life better for the Iranian people.
Mike Pompeo: (03:18)
The one sided, foolish nuclear deal didn’t bring security for America. It didn’t bring stability to the Middle East, nor did it moderate the regime’s behavior. And it never can. It never will. Today’s actions puts additional pressure on Iran to behave like a normal country, and to come back to the bargaining table.
Mike Pompeo: (03:37)
We call on the international community to join us in crafting a stronger deal that addresses the full range of Iran’s malign behavior, and protects people of all nations that simply want to live free from Iranian predation. Thank you. Happy to take a few questions.
Speaker 1: (03:53)
[inaudible 00:03:53] reporters.
Michelle Nichols: (03:55)
Thank you, Mr. Secretary, Michelle Nichols from Reuters. As you’ve just mentioned, this process can take up to 30 days unless someone puts a resolution forward beforehand to extend the sanctions relief on Iran. Has the United States asked the Dominican Republic to do this so you can veto that, or are you considering putting forward that resolution yourself to veto? And on Europe, the European colleagues have just put out a statement saying they can’t support this move. Russia has said this is nonexistent. What’s your message to Russia, China and other countries who may not reimpose UN sanctions on Iran after 30 days?
Mike Pompeo: (04:34)
Well, as for the process, we’re confident that a resolution will be introduced. It’s required under Security Council Resolution 2231. And we spoke with the president of the Council about that today. We’re confident that that will happen.
Mike Pompeo: (04:48)
As for decisions that other nations make, they’re sovereign countries. They get to make their own choices. But make no mistake about it. It is an enormous mistake not to extend this arms embargo. It’s nuts, right? And I haven’t heard privately from any country that thinks it’s wise, except for perhaps from Iran. Everyone understands that this country… Look, since 1985 alone, the Iranian regime has conducted terrorists operations across Europe. It’s hijacked commercial jets, bombings, murdered innocent Europeans. It’s conducted assassinations of dissidents in Europe, plots to blow up Jewish synagogues. This is all in Europe by the Iranians. It doesn’t make any sense for them to have more weapons. And we should not forget that just this year they took down a commercial airliner. This isn’t a nation that is capable of, or trustworthy, to be able to buy and sell weapons systems. And so I just urge the whole world to unite. We have every capacity under 2231 to do this, and we’ll continue this effort. We’re going to make sure that this arms embargo does [inaudible 00:05:49] back in place.
Michelle Nichols: (05:52)
You’re expecting Indonesia to put forward that resolution to extend?
Mike Pompeo: (05:55)
The resolution is going to come forward.
Speaker 1: (05:56)
David Wathe: (06:01)
Thank you. David [Wathe 00:06:02] from Bloomberg. Secretary of State, what can you-
Mike Pompeo: (06:06)
I can barely hear you. If you could speak up just a bit, sir. Thank you.
David Wathe: (06:08)
Can you, sorry, it’s the mask. Can you hear me now?
Mike Pompeo: (06:09)
David Wathe: (06:10)
If China and Russia begin to sell weapons to Iran when the arms embargo expires, what actions specifically can the United States take to stop them? Thank you.
Mike Pompeo: (06:19)
Well, we never get out in front of a decision the president may or may not make, but you just need look no further than the history of the last two and a half years. When the US sanctions were violated, we enforced them. When the UN sanctions are violated, we’re going to do everything we can to enforce them as well.
Speaker 1: (06:42)
Valera Rebecca: (06:43)
Hi, Valera [Rebecca 00:06:44] from [Answer 00:06:45] News Agency. Mr. Secretary of State, when diplomats and others from some countries say that the process of the snap back is difficult and is difficult to happen, what does they mean? They mean because like the US are not in the deal anymore. So do you think they, do we agree with that? Of course not, but why?
Mike Pompeo: (07:13)
Yeah. So you need to be a little more precise, and you should ask them to be a little more precise. When you say they’re not in the deal anymore, what do you mean?
Valera Rebecca: (07:23)
Well, that the US withdraw from the nuclear deal in 2018.
Mike Pompeo: (07:28)
Yes. Yes. Yes.
Valera Rebecca: (07:30)
That’s the position of the country saying, you know, but I know that you [crosstalk 00:07:35]
Mike Pompeo: (07:34)
Yes. So this much is accurate. President in May of 2018 made a decision that we would no longer comply with the political commitments attached to the JCPOA, but go read paragraphs 10 through 12 of the 2231. They were completely separate. We provided no notice to the UN when we withdrew, because it wouldn’t have made any sense to provide notice. 2231 is completely independent.
Mike Pompeo: (07:58)
Indeed, I thought it’d be worthy to take just a moment to read you what the State Department, the United States State Department told me when I was a member of Congress back in 2015. I asked this very question. I knew I’d be here five years from now. I’m kidding.
Mike Pompeo: (08:15)
Here’s what they told me when I asked this very question, five years ago. They knew this day would come. Here’s what they said. This was written. This is signed by the Assistant Secretary of Legislative Affairs at the State Department, dated November 19th of 2015. This said everything. This is that, the Obama Kerry Biden State Department. They said the following. They said everything in the JCPOA and its annex is our commitments Iran made, and must keep to remain in compliance. If Iran breaks these commitments, the United States can snap back both unilateral and UN sanctions.
Mike Pompeo: (08:57)
It’s important to emphasize this. 2231 gave every one of the participant states the right to execute snap back unconditionally. There are other nations that are not in compliance with the JCPOA today as well. They would have the right to conduct snapback as well. It’s written, it’s plain. It’s very straightforward. I know the Russians and the Chinese will try and obfuscate, they’ll use their disinformation tactics, but just read the plain text of the document. It’s not the case that a political agreement arranged by a group of parties, including the United States, can undo the amazing work of the UN Security Council. No resolution can be altered unilaterally by any country, not by Iran, not by Russia, not China, nor by the United States. Security Council resolutions can only be changed by subsequent Security Council resolutions.
Mike Pompeo: (09:48)
And so we think this is really straightforward. We think this is very simple. These UN Security Council resolutions will come back into place 31 days from now, and the United States will vigorously enforce them.
Speaker 1: (09:58)
Speaker 2: (10:00)
Mr. Secretary, is there anything that would make you to change your mind to-
Speaker 2: (10:03)
Mr. Secretary, is there anything that would make you to change your mind to actually withdraw the request? And what do you think of the Russia’s proposal for a summit to convene and to actually avoid a confrontation? Thank you.
Mike Pompeo: (10:13)
So there’s no confrontation here so there’s no need to avoid any confrontation. This is straight forward. We stand here at the United Nations. The UN Security Council’s withstood lots of difficult times. This is easy. The Security Council resolution is very plain, very simple, very straightforward. We know precisely how it will proceed. And so it’s not a matter for anger or frustration. It’s just we’ll follow the rules of the UN Security Council and that will lead to the sanctions being reimposed 31 days from now. As for things that would cause us to change our mind, if we could get to a place where we got a full on agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran to behave like a normal nation and live up to the commitments we’ve asked for, we have been prepared to have that conversation for a long time. Were we able to achieve that? We would consider withdrawing this. I think it’s unlikely in the 31 days between here and there, but as a diplomat, I always live in hope.
Speaker 3: (11:06)
Let’s do the gentlemen next to her and they’ll we’ll go up top next.
Speaker 4: (11:07)
Thank you, Mr. Secretary, do you think you will have a different support from what you had last week when your a draft resolution was voted on in the council? Did any other members in the council promise to support your process? And you mentioned your European partners, maybe they say privately different-
Mike Pompeo: (11:36)
Thank you. Right, they say thank you [crosstalk 00:01:38]. Thanks for doing this America. We appreciate it. Yes, that’s what they say. Yeah. What’s your question?
Speaker 4: (11:44)
So do you expect different support from the council members from what you had last week?
Mike Pompeo: (11:49)
Yes, we do. We expect every UN member to comply with their obligations under the Security Council resolution. We have every confidence that when these sanctions snap back that every nation will execute them. That’s your obligation as a member of the United Nations to do that and we have every expectation that every Security Council member will do that.
Speaker 3: (12:08)
This gentlemen up here.
Speaker 5: (12:10)
Thank you very much. Mr. Secretary of State, can you walk us… It’s less than two months from the 18th of October. Can you walk us through the timeline where you think the sanctions will be restored on Iran before October 18th? And if on the 19th of October, you find that companies and banks from Russia and China are dealing with Iran regardless, are you willing to sanction them?
Mike Pompeo: (12:43)
So the answer to the second question is we’ve been consistent throughout this entire process. Once the President made the decision back in May of 2018, we put US sanctions in place and we’ve done our level best to enforce them. We’ve been pretty effective. I remember some of the commentary, maybe from some of you, that said US sanctions alone won’t be successful. I would argue that today has [inaudible 00:03:04]. As much worse place. That the militias inside of Iraq that are run and controlled by the Iranians have fewer dollars, that Iran has less capacity in Syria today all because of the US sanctions and our enforcement efforts. So I think we’ve been enormously successful.
Mike Pompeo: (13:20)
We will continue to enforce the sanctions after these UN Security Council resolutions come back in place. We’ve done it already. We’ve already gone after entities that violated the Iranian Sanctions Regime. The country is immaterial. If they’re in violation of these sanctions, we’ll do our level best to enforce them. It will become our obligation as a member of the UN in the same way it’s been our obligation to enforce US sanctions alone. It will come back within the next 31 days. I’ll take one more.
Speaker 3: (13:54)
Okay. Lady in the green skirt.
Speaker 6: (13:59)
Thank you, Mr. Secretary. So my question to you, I just want first to clarify something you said about the fact that you only drove out of the JCPOA politically. Can you explain that please? And also isn’t your own sanctions that you imposed on Iran after 2018, May 2018, don’t they go against the Security Council resolution 2231, because… Thank you.
Mike Pompeo: (14:32)
So the agreement, the nuclear deal, the joint comprehensive plan of action, the JCPOA, wasn’t a treaty, wasn’t ratified by the United States Senator or the legislatures of other nations. It was just a political agreement made amongst the leaders. The commitments that each entered into were mutual. The Iranians are not in compliance with the political commitments that they made today. And President Rouhani says that the E3 is not in compliance either. It says that they haven’t lived up. Says that the Germans, the French, and the United Kingdom hasn’t lived up to their commitments under the JCPOA as well. They may well be in noncompliance I suppose. Those are a set of political agreements. Those are far and separate and apart from UN Security Council Resolution 2231. UN Security Council Resolution 2231 is very plain. It says this set of states has the right to execute snapback.
Mike Pompeo: (15:29)
It’s not conditioned on any other activity. It doesn’t require compliance. It just says these countries can execute snapback. It’s very plain. It’s very simple. By the way, the UN is really good at drafting documents when they want to condition them. If it wanted to say, “You may execute snapback if, and only if…” And place the condition, it knows full well how to do that. It didn’t choose to do all here. It didn’t do it for a reason. It didn’t do it for a reason. It wanted to make plain that any nation that found that Iran was not in compliance would have the capacity to do precisely what it is the United States did today. That’s what we did. We followed the rules of UN Security Council Resolution 2231 and we have every expectation that the Security Council will do its part as well. Thank you all very much for being with me. Have a good day.
Speaker 6: (16:24)
The snapback is a Russian establishment [inaudible 00:16:21].
Speaker 7: (16:24)
Speaker 8: (16:24)
Speaker 7: (17:13)
Okay. Iran’s coming.
Speaker 8: (17:13)
Speaker 9: (17:13)
Exactly, exactly. [inaudible 00:18:50].
Speaker 10: (22:27)
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I have a short statement to make, and then I will take some questions. Today, the US attempted to mislead the international community by resorting to lies and fabrications to supposedly initiate a mechanism under Resolution 2231. According to conclusive legal facts, the US is not a JCPOA participant, and has no right to trigger the so-called snap back mechanism. And its arbitrary interpretation of Resolution 2231 cannot change this reality. Thus, we are of the firm conviction that the letter sent by the US today to the security council’s president and all the references therein is null and void, and has no legal standing, and thus inadmissible. Failed in its recent attempt to convince the security council to impose [inaudible 00:23:34] embargo on Iran, this time the US intends to apply its so-called maximum pressure policy on the UN, the security council and its members.
Speaker 10: (23:47)
The US move is a clear example of abusing the process which is prohibited under international law. This is nothing but illegal and political bullying. Through political maneuvering, media campaign and creating legal confusion, the U S wants to create a self arrogated right which does not exist. The US has no such right because it has officially seized, as president Trump said, its participation in the JCPOA, and in practice since May 8th, 2018, it has not participated in any JCPOA related meetings, events, or activities. The US officials themselves have admitted repeatedly in the past two years that the US has no right to snap back since it is not a JCPOA participant anymore. No country can claim for a right that it has already abandoned. This is an established principle of international law. Even if the US were in the JCPOA, it could not have triggered snapback for three reasons.
Speaker 10: (25:09)
First, its continuously grossly violates its obligations under Resolution 2231, and under international law, “A party, which does not fulfill its own obligations cannot be recognized as returning the rights which it claims to drive from that relationship.” Second, the exhaustion of the JCPOA dispute Resolution process is an essential prerequisite of initiating a snapback, and the US has not even started that process. Third, Resolution 2231 stipulates that the party initiating a snapback must make good faith efforts to resolve the issue before notifying the council. The US not only lacks good faith in initiating a snapback, but its policies and practices clearly indicate that it continues to have bad faith towards the JCPOA, and Resolution 2231, and the security council. Therefore the international community must resist that US outlaw behavior, and protect the UN’s credibility, and ensure the rule of law. Thank you.
Speaker 11: (26:30)
Thank you so much for doing this. Michelle Nichols from Reuters. Given this move by the United States, does this kill the nuclear deal, or will Iran continue to stick with and try and preserve the nuclear deal?
Speaker 10: (26:48)
As we have already said on numerous occasions, there are different options available to Iran, all are under international law. But the fact of the matter is that you look at what’s going on in the security council. You just see that the members of the security council just last week, how they reacted to the US proposal, it was a disaster. It was really something that the US should have avoided, because that was a clear case of isolation at the international level. So the permanent member of the security council is acting like a child who is being ridiculed by the other members of the international community, particularly at the security council.
Speaker 10: (27:35)
So the US has no legal argument whatsoever to present itself as a participant of JCPOA. The U S has no for political support within the security council, and we are definitely confident that the security council will reject the latest US move because the latest us move has no place in international law, and has no place in the UN charter, does not enjoy the political support of the members of the security council, and is definitely doomed to failure.
Speaker 11: (28:15)
So the nuclear deal lives on?
Speaker 10: (28:17)
We are concentrating in the security council, and I’m sure that the members of the security council who have already expressed their positions in support of JCPOA, and in rejection to the American move will once again call for the full implementation of JCPOA and Resolution 2231.
Speaker 11: (28:35)
Speaker 4: (28:38)
Mr. Ambassador, Secretary Pompeo just told us that the language of the Resolution 2231 is very clear and simple. And I think it’s paragraph 10 that says that the US is a participant, and there is no other resolution in the secretary council that says the opposite. So they come here with the legal argument. What’s your response to this point, in particular? Thank you.
Speaker 10: (29:09)
This is not a real legal argument, it’s a fake legal argument. The US has no legal authority, the US has no legal argument whatsoever. They are referring to paragraph 10, but paragraph 10 talks about [inaudible 00:29:27] resolution mechanism, which is related to the discussions in paragraph 36 of JCPOA. So since they have left JCPOA, they do not dare to talk about JCPOA and paragraph 36 and 37 of JCPOA, just talking about paragraph 10 and 11 of Resolution 2231, which are in line with paragraphs 36 and 37. So by just looking at a half of the glass, that is not going to resolve the issues that the US has to explain to the whole world why they are taking such a ridiculous-
Speaker 10: (30:02)
… to the whole world. Why they are taking such a ridiculous proposition on such a ridiculous legal argument?
Edith Lederer: (30:12)
Thank you very much, Mr. Ambassador. Edith Lederer from The Associated Press.
Edith Lederer: (30:18)
This would be taking effect just a very few weeks before the US election. There’ve been some reports that Iran might wait until after the US election before taking any serious action in retaliation for what the United States has just invoked. Do you see this as a possible scenario?
Speaker 10: (31:00)
First of all, let me tell you for sure and we are confident that nothing is going to happen in 30 or 31 days because the US has to enjoy the support of the security council, which does not exist. The US position is being ridiculed in the security council. Nothing is going to happen in 31 days from now.
Speaker 10: (31:21)
Second, on the US election, we are not interested in involving ourselves in the US election. This is up to the American people who have to decide who the next president should be. We are talking about the US obligations, the obligations of the United States government. No matter who is in charge in Washington, the US has certain international obligations, which unfortunately have been ignored in the last couple of years. What you’re asking is to uphold international law, to respect the rules of international law and to respect Resolution 2231.
Speaker 10: (31:56)
Secretary Pompeo talks about two separate things. He believes that JCPOA is different. It’s distinct from Resolution 2231. Resolution 2231 has two parts. The first part is JCPOA, so you can not claim that one part of a certain thing is different from the whole thing. That is why they should read. They should go back and read the document that the US government approved, the US government endorsed in the security council, and then asked based on their obligations in accordance with international law.
Speaker 12: (32:35)
Thank you. Thank you, Ambassador. [inaudible 00:32:37] from [inaudible 00:32:38] newspaper.
Speaker 12: (32:39)
I have two questions. First, regarding the European countries, France, Germany, and Britain, what are your expectations from these countries and which role you think they should take? Also regarding the conversation today between Mr. Zarif and the secretary general, could you say more to that? Thank you.
Speaker 10: (33:03)
First, our expectation from every member of the United Nations, including from our European colleagues, is that they should respect the rules of the game. The rules of the game is in this case is Resolution 2231, and we expect every country to implement their obligations based on the resolution. We also have expectation that countries should resist the American bullying because for the last couple of years, we have been witnessing the bullying practice being done, not only against JCPOA but against most international agreements. The members of the United Nations are expected to stand against the violation of international law, to stand against bullying, and that includes the participants in the JCPOA.
Speaker 10: (33:59)
As for the meeting between the secretary general. I’m sorry, the telephone call with the secretary general and Javad Zarif, they talked about a host of issues including JCPO and Resolution 2231. I will stop at this.
David Wathe: (34:19)
Thank you. Ambassador, will Iran move ahead with weapons purchases when the arms embargo expires in October and what can Iran do, what would Iran do if the US attempts to block those sales? Thank you.
Speaker 10: (34:33)
First of all, as I said, we are confident that nothing is going to happen in the next 30 days. The US attempt is in futility. Therefore, the arms embargo will be lifted and it depends on the circumstances whether Iran wishes to buy arms or to sell arms. We will be acting in accordance with our sovereign rights. Whatever we need, we will do in accordance with our needs, in our national interests, and nobody can prevent the normal trade, legal trade between Iran and other countries.
Speaker 10: (35:12)
One last question, please.
Kristen Saloomey: (35:19)
Thank you. Kristen Saloomey from Al Jazeera English.
Kristen Saloomey: (35:22)
Can you respond to the US allegations that Iran is in violation, that you’ve been enriching uranium and supplying weapons to proxy groups in the Middle East? How do you respond?
Speaker 10: (35:31)
No, we are not. We are not in violation of our rights. We waited for a year after US withdrawal in May, 2018. We waited for a year to be compensated for the losses that the US withdrawal acted against Iran. After one year, we came to this conclusion that we have to act in accordance with Articles 26 and 36 of JCPOA. In fact, we initiated the dispute resolution mechanism back in May 18, two days after the US withdrawal. But we waited for a year, and then we had to resort to certain provisions in Resolution 2231 and JCPOA in order to preserve our rights, and this is not being considered as violation of international law.
Speaker 10: (36:27)
Thank you very much.
Speaker 13: (36:28)
Speaker 14: (38:09)
He told me to wait 60 seconds.
Speaker 15: (38:09)
You’ve got 29 seconds left. You guys stay safe.
Speaker 13: (38:09)
Speaker 13: (38:09)