Sep 21, 2020
Mike Pompeo Press Conference Transcript September 21: Snapback Sanctions on Iran
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and defense officials held a press conference on September 21 to provide updates on the snapback sanctions on Iran. Pompeo said: “We’re also sanctioning the previous president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro…Our actions today are warning that should be heard worldwide. No matter who you are, if you violate the UN arms embargo on Iran, you risk sanctions.” Read the transcript of the news briefing here.
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Mike Pompeo: (00:00)
The White House last week for the Abraham Accords, a great step forward towards peace in the Middle East. And today I’m proud to announce how the Trump administration is taking even more action to further that same goal and protect the American people.
Mike Pompeo: (00:13)
Over the weekend, the US effort to restore virtually all previously terminated UN sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran, including the arms embargo pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 2231. The Trump administration has always been honest about what the Iranian regime really is. A radical revolutionary and the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and antisemitism. President Trump understood that the JCPOA was an abject failure. It didn’t bring Iran into the community of nations or block Tehran’s path to a nuclear weapon. Instead, it was an exercise in appeasement. It gifted the regime billions and paved the way for Iran to become the arms dealer of choice for terrorist groups and dictators all across the world in just five short years.
Mike Pompeo: (01:01)
Just imagine what Iran would do if it were able to freely purchase more advanced weapons. We have no intention of letting that happen. The president’s executive order announced today gives us a new and powerful tool to enforce the UN arms embargo and hold those who seek to evade UN sanctions accountable. Today, I will take the first action under this new executive order by sanctioning the Iranian Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics, and Iran’s Defense Industries Organization and its director.
Mike Pompeo: (01:33)
We’re also sanctioning the previous president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro. For nearly two years, corrupt officials in Tehran have worked with the illegitimate regime in Venezuela to flout the UN arms embargo. Our actions today are warning that should be heard worldwide. No matter who you are, if you violate the UN arms embargo on Iran, you risk sanctions.
Mike Pompeo: (01:55)
I’m also announcing sanctions on Hamid Reza Ghadirian and Ahmad Shiva’i under an existing US authority targeting proliferators of weapons of mass destruction. These individuals are central to Iran’s uranium enrichment operations. When we launched the maximum pressure campaign back in 2018, under President Trump’s leadership, the critics said it wouldn’t work. They were wrong. Our sanctions have saved countless Muslim, Jewish and Christian lives by denying Tehran access to more than $70 billion that could have otherwise gone to terror. We’ve done this all while keeping a channel open for humanitarian trade and assistance. As we are demonstrating today, we’ll keep it up until the uranium regime comes to the table and accepts a real deal for changing its behavior. The American people should know that we will always put their safety first. I’ll now turn the podium over to Secretary Mnuchin. Steven.
Steven Mnuchin: (02:58)
Thank you, Secretary Pompeo. It’s a pleasure to be here with you at the State Department. The administration will not allow Iran to endanger the rest of the world with a fresh supply of ballistic missiles and conventional arms. Today, the Treasury Department is designating entities that support Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs and senior officials overseeing Iran’s nuclear power, ballistic missile development. A number of our targets today are affiliated with the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, which has operational and regulatory control over the nuclear program and bears responsibility for nuclear research and development. Three of the deputy directors have been sanctioned today, as well as three entities subordinate to AEOI that are active components of Iran’s civil nuclear program. Treasury also designated several key producers and suppliers of military grade dual use goods for Iran’s ballistic missile programs. Mammut Industries and Mammut Diesel, along with several shareholders and senior officials of these companies are among those designated today.
Steven Mnuchin: (04:09)
I also want to highlight designations a particular component of Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group, Iran’s primary developer of liquid propelled missiles. In particular, Shahid Haj Ali Movahed Research Center is responsible for the integration, final assembly, testing of liquid propellant ballistic missiles and space launch vehicles. Furthermore, any financial institutions that knowingly facilitate a significant transaction for these individuals or entities could be subject to US sanctions. This administration will use every tool at our disposal to stop Iran’s nuclear, ballistic missile and conventional weapons pursuits, which it uses directly to threaten and terrorize the rest of the world. And secretary Pompeo, I’m going to apologize for having to leave but thank you for including me.
Mike Pompeo: (05:02)
Thank you, Steven.
Mark Esper: (05:15)
Good morning everyone, and thank you. Last week, the President took an historic step toward a peaceful and prosperous Middle East with the signing of Abraham Accords. Today, the United States is taking another important step to both protect the American people and deter Iranian aggression against our troops, our interests, and our allies and partners. Over the past two years, Tehran has carried out attacks on international shipping, regional infrastructure and on US and partner nation forces. This included missile strikes by Iranian-backed proxy militias against US bases and personnel in Iraq. Moreover, Iran has violated UN Security Council Resolutions for years, by proliferating advanced conventional weapons to non-state actors such as Hezbollah and the Houthis, who use them to threaten civilian population centers.
Mark Esper: (06:05)
This is why the Department of Defense has taken decisive action to safeguard our brave men and women in uniform, restore deterrants and safeguard international rules and norms when it comes to issues such as freedom of commerce and navigation. We stand ready to respond to future Iranian aggression, and we remain committed to doing our part in the administration’s maximum pressure campaign. Today’s executive order will further disrupt Iranian efforts to import and proliferate conventional weapons, helping protect US forces, our allies and partners and civilian populations, until Iran complies with international norms. We encourage Tehran to cease its malign activities throughout the region and to act like a normal country. But we are also prepared to respond to Iranian aggression. Our commanders have the authorities and resources they need to protect their troops and to prepare for any contingencies. And we continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with our allies and partners to counter Iran’s destabilizing behavior. In doing so, we will protect our people and our interests and maintain the security of likeminded nations across the region. Thank you.
Wilbur Ross: (07:23)
Good morning. I’m grateful for the President’s commitment to ending Iran’s nuclear, ballistic missile and conventional weapons undertakings, that threat and terrorize the rest of the world. Today, US Department of Commerce is adding five Iranian scientists to the entity list for enabling or assisting Iran’s nuclear development program. The individuals added to the list are Ahmad Nozad Gholik, Behnam Pouremadi, Hamid Sepehrian, Mojtaba Farhadi Ganjeh, and Sayyed Javad Ahmadi. Pouremadi, [inaudible 00:08:15] and Ganjeh are associated with Iran’s JHL Laboratory, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, involved in nuclear activities and designated by the UN Security Council in Resolution 1803 on Iran’s nuclear program.
Wilbur Ross: (08:39)
Pouremadi has pursued sensitive equipment and materials for AEOI using deceptive practices and obfuscation. Ganjeh has worked with overseas Iranian procurement agents to acquire sensitive nuclear related items, including Western goods. He also traveled overseas for training and sought information in support of AEOI technical questions. Gholik is associated with an AEOI subsidiary that implements various projects in the nuclear field. He has worked with overseas Iranian agents to procure sensitive items, including those that can be used in spent nuclear fuel reprocessing. Ahmadi is an AEOI employee who has traveled overseas for nuclear related meetings.
Wilbur Ross: (09:39)
As listed entities, these persons are subject to additional licensing requirements for exports, for re-exports and in country transfers per our export administration regulations. These five individuals played a critical role in Iran’s nuclear weapons development program and continue to work for the Iranian regime. Iran must comply with its nuclear safeguard obligations and immediately cooperate with the international community. The Department of Commerce stands beside President Trump in his commitment to preventing Iran from ever acquiring a nuclear weapon. Under President Trump’s leadership, I’m proud to join Secretaries Pompeo and Mnuchin, National Security Advisor O’Brien and Ambassador Craft in holding Iran accountable and deterring its progress toward obtaining a nuclear weapon. Thank you.
Kelly Craft: (10:57)
Good morning. The actions we’re announcing today and our work in the Security Council over the last three months have been driven by a single purpose. The pursuit of peace. What makes America unique is that we stand up for what is right. As we have in the past, we will stand alone to protect peace and security at all times. We don’t need a cheering section to validate our moral compass. We do not find comfort based solely on numbers, particularly when the majority has found themselves in an uncomfortable position of underwriting terrorism, chaos, and conflict. We refuse to be members of that club. The United States is a force for good in the world. We led the creation of the multilateral system we know today and we remain its largest funder. But as I have said repeatedly, when it fails, we will not.
Kelly Craft: (11:56)
False hopes on part of the Security Council members that the JCPOA might contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions do not excuse members from their obligations to reimpose sanctions pursuant to the process outlined in Resolution 2231. It is now our expectation that all UN Member States will fulfill their legal obligation and reimpose sanctions on Iran. As we have demonstrated today, the United States will do everything necessary to ensure that the Islamic Republic of Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, cannot inflict even greater harm on the world with more deadly weapons. We are doing this for peace. We are doing this for the safety of the American people, the people of the Middle East, the people of Europe and the people of the world. Thank you.
Speaker 6: (12:56)
Good morning. Thank you, Secretary Pompeo, Secretary Esper, Secretary Ross, Ambassador Craft. Today, the President is taking decisive action to restrict Iran’s access to nuclear technology, ballistic missile technology, and conventional weapons. The UN Security Council has sadly failed in its mission to promote international peace and security, by not extending the conventional arms embargo on Iran. Unlike the UN, the United States will not allow Iran to further endanger the Middle East or the world as an importer and exporter of ballistic missiles and other advanced conventional weapon systems. It will certainly seek to become a major arms dealer when the UN embargo lapses. Accordingly the President signed just moments ago in the Oval Office an executive order this morning, which will result in severe economic sanctions for those nations, corporations and individuals who contribute to the supply, the sale, or the transfer of conventional arms to the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Speaker 6: (13:59)
President Trump’s order will prevent the export of conventional arms to rogue regimes by Iran. The order will also ban the export of weapons by arms producing [inaudible 00:14:10] where Iran would in turn provide them to terrorist and to rogue regimes. Simply put, the United States cannot stand idly by while Iran destabilizes the region and beyond through the purchase and sale of advanced conventional weapons. The Trump administration is also imposing new sanctions and export control measures on 27 entities and individuals connected to Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Finally, the United States has restored previously suspended UN sanctions on Iran. When the United States entered into the failed Iran nuclear deal, the Obama administration told the American people that the United States would always have the right to restore UN sanctions on Iran, even without the approval of other nations. That provision was key to obtaining the United States’ approval for the JCPO way. President Trump is now exercising our rights to protect America and our allies.
Speaker 6: (15:10)
The Iranian regime has repeatedly lied about its nuclear weapons program, its archive and denied access to international inspectors. Today’s actions send a clear message to the Iranian regime that such conduct will not be tolerated. The United States is also sending an unmistakable message to the international community, those who appease and enable Iran, that they must at long last turn away from Iran’s malign activities. Rather than waste resources chasing after a nuclear bomb or regional hegemony, the Iranian regime should provide the Iranian people with what they want and with what they deserve, a thriving and prosperous Iran.
Speaker 6: (15:48)
After decades of division and conflicts, a new dawn has arisen in the Middle East. The Abraham Accord, signed at the White House last week, represent the most significant step toward peace in the Middle East in over 25 years. Iran should use this moment in history. They should forswear terror, hegemony, and the pursuit of nuclear weapons and put away old grievances. Iran should join its neighbors who are embracing a better future based on progress, shared interest and shared goals. The President has made it clear that if Iran is willing to choose the path of peace, America will walk beside it. Thank you very much.
Speaker 7: (16:26)
Okay. We have time for a few questions. Rich Hudson? Get the mic behind you, Rich.
Rich Hudson: (16:31)
Thank you very much. Mr Secretary, Secretary Pompeo, and this is also for anybody else who may want to answer. Reuters is reporting that a US official is warning that Iran could have enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon by the end of the year. Do you think that is possible? And would that be different had the United States remained in the JCPOA?
Mike Pompeo: (16:58)
So I don’t want to comment on intelligence matters, but one of the reasons that the JCPOA was such an enormous failure is it created a simple pathway for Iran very quickly to generate the fissile material that it needed for a nuclear weapon, right? In a matter of months, they could turn it on and get after it. This was one of the central failures of that agreement. Your question, where would we be had we not withdrawn, is Iran would have significantly more wealth. The regime would have even more money to build more centrifuges, to build more capabilities, to build more air defense systems, to prevent us from having the capacity to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon. All of the elements of the terrorist state would be enhanced had we not done what President Trump directed back in May of 2018. The efforts today are to continue to reduce that risk, that they will have the wealth and resources to foment terror throughout the region and indeed throughout the world. Anyone else? Anybody?
Speaker 6: (17:55)
I’ll just mention, when this deal was signed Iran was at the breaking point and instead of keeping sanctions on and getting a great deal, the United States and a number of other countries took the pressure off Iran. And they gave Iran $150 billion in sanctions relief. They also gave Iran another $1.8 billion in a settlement for cases, 400 million of Swiss francs, so that was in cash. The idea was that if this money was given to Iran, that Iran would use it for its middle class, would make Iran a prosperous state, a regular stakeholder in the world. Instead, what Iran did is they used that for terrorist proxy wars throughout the Middle East. What’s happened with the sanctions that have been reimposed by President Trump and his administration is that Iran again has been squeezed. And we’re seeing that reflected in Hezbollah’s restricted funds, we’ve seen it in the Houthis’ restricted funds. We’ve seen it in some breathing space in Iraq.
Speaker 6: (18:55)
So these sanctions will further enhance peace in the region by denying funds to the Iranians who use those funds, to build centrifuges, to spin centrifuges and to support their aims in the region and globally. What we want is a great deal with Iran. And what the President has said is if Iran is willing to forswear regional terrorism and proxy Wars, and is willing to end its pursuit of a nuclear bomb, Iran could be a tremendously prosperous state. It has tremendous oil reserves. It could be just a beacon in the Middle East. And the Iranian people, most importantly, could enjoy prosperity and peace. Unfortunately, the regime hasn’t chosen that route. We’re hoping that with these renewed sanctions, that’ll be some inducement for Iran to change its behavior. Thank you.
Speaker 7: (19:50)
Stars and Stripes, Caitlin Kenney. Just right up here. Caitlin, there’s a mic right behind you.
Caitlin Kenney: (19:57)
Thank you. In reference to Secretary Esper’s comments about protecting the forces, are military now in the region being put on a higher state of alert? What are some of the ways that you’re doing to protect the troops that are there?
Mark Esper: (20:14)
Well, our military forces in the Middle East of course maintain a high state of alert and we’re constantly looking at adjustments. I’ve had the chance in the last 24 hours to talk to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and he has spoken with our commanders as well. And we continue to maintain all of our operational readiness we need. We are in close contact with our partners in the intelligence agencies, and of course with our regional partners and allies. So again, we feel very confident with regard to our readiness and preparedness to deal with anything that might happen in the region. Again, the important thing is that Iran complies with international rules and norms and expectations we have set forth for them and become a normal country. Thank you.
Speaker 7: (20:55)
John Murray, DPA. Right here.
John Murray: (20:59)
Thank you. Thanks a lot. Secretary Pompeo, the E3 countries are not engaging with the US claim that it triggered the snapback, they even called it incapable of having any legal effect. What measures specifically is the Trump administration planning to bring Germany and the other countries in line?
Mike Pompeo: (21:22)
So two things. First, the country that’s isolated today is not the United States, but rather Iran. By these actions, we have made very clear that every member state in the United Nations has a responsibility to enforce the sanctions. That certainly includes the United Kingdom, France and Germany. We will have every expectation that those nations enforce these sanctions. Second, if you are serious about peace in the Middle East, if you’re serious about denying the main threat in the Middle East, I think Europeans understand the risk to their countries and where it emanates from. The place is the Islamic Republic of Iran. So I’m very confident that the people of those countries feel more secure today, and indeed privately their governments tell us they don’t want the arms embargo lifted either. Indeed in their letter to the United [inaudible 00:22:15] they suggested that they too wish that the arms embargo were extended.
Mike Pompeo: (22:19)
The good news is the United States is going to make sure it happens. We’re going to take the action that is necessary to actually deliver on what the E3 tells us they have as their objective. I wish that they would join us in this. We’ve had this dispute about the merits of the JCPOA that’s been going on since the Trump administration has come into place. The world should know that the United States will stand to make sure that the arms embargo is extended, that the Security Council Resolutions come back to place and that the European people will be safer as a result of the actions that the United States government has taken today.
Speaker 7: (22:50)
Thank you everyone. Have a great day.
Mike Pompeo: (22:52)