Secretary Pompeo Addresses Terrorist Attacks in Sri Lanka and Iranian Oil Imports (April 22)
Michael R. Pompeo
Secretary of State
Press Briefing Room
April 22, 2019
SECRETARY POMPEO: Good morning, everyone.Before I make my announcement regarding our pressure campaign against the Islamic Republic of Iran, I want to address yesterday’s terrorist attack in Sri Lanka.
What was supposed to be a joyful Easter Sunday was marred by a horrific wave of Islamic radical terror bloodshed.
It’s heartbreaking that a country which has strived so hard for peace in recent years has been targeted by these terrorists. We mourn the loved ones of the victims, some of whom, we can confirm, were indeed U.S. citizens. This is America’s fight too. I spoke with the prime minister of Sri Lanka this morning. And our embassy and other parts of the U.S. Government are offering all possible assistance to Americans and the Sri Lankan Government alike. We urge that any evildoers be brought to justice expeditiously, and America is prepared to support that.
We also stand with the millions of Sri Lankans who support the freedom of their fellow citizens to worship as they please. We take confidence in knowing that not even atrocities like this one will deter them from respecting religious freedom. Today our nation grieves with the people of Sri Lanka, and we stand committed, resolved to confront terrorism together.
Now, turning to Iran:
Almost one year ago, after withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, President Trump implemented the strongest pressure campaign in history against the Islamic Republic of Iran. The goal remains simple: to deprive the outlaw regime of the funds it has used to destabilize the Middle East for four decades, and incentivize Iran to behave like a normal country.
Up to 40 percent of the regime’s revenue comes from oil sales. It’s the regime’s number one source of cash. Before our sanctions went into effect, Iran would generate as much as $50 billion annually in oil revenue. Overall, to date, we estimate that our sanctions have denied the regime well north of $10 billion. The regime would have used that money to support terror groups like Hamas and Hizballah and continue its missile development in defiance of UN Security Council Resolution 2231, and it would have perpetuated the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
Our goal has been to get countries to cease importing Iranian oil entirely. Last November, we granted exemptions from our sanctions to seven countries and to Taiwan. We did this to give our allies and partners to wean themselves off of Iranian oil, and to assure a well-supplied oil market.
Today I am announcing that we will no longer grant any exemptions. We’re going to zero – going to zero across the board. We will continue to enforce sanctions and monitor compliance. Any nation or entity interacting with Iran should do its diligence and err on the side of caution. The risks are simply not going to be worth the benefits.
I want to emphasize that we have used the highest possible care in our decision to ensure market stability.
The United States has been in constant discussion with allies and partners to help them transition away from Iranian crude to other alternatives. And we have been working with major oil-producing countries to ensure the market has sufficient volume to minimize the impact on pricing. Both the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have assured us they will ensure an appropriate supply for the markets. And of course, the United States is now a significant producer as well.
I can confirm that each of those suppliers are working directly with Iran’s former customers to make the transition away from Iranian crude less disruptive.
And as I said, we’re doing our part here in the United States too. In 2018, crude production increased by 1.6 million barrels per day over the 2017 levels. And the U.S. Energy Information Agency projects an increase of an additional 1.5 million barrels per day in calendar year 2019.
Look, with the announcement today, we have made clear our seriousness of purpose. We are going to zero. We – how long we remain there at zero depends solely on the Islamic Republic of Iran’s senior leaders.
We have made our demands very clear to the ayatollah and his cronies. End your pursuit of nuclear weapons. Stop testing and proliferating ballistic missiles. Stop sponsoring and committing terrorism. Halt the arbitrary detention of U.S. citizens.
Our pressure is aimed at fulfilling these demands and others, and it will continue to accelerate until Iran is willing to address them at the negotiating table.
Finally, as I have said before, these demands are not just coming from the United States Government and many of our allies and partners. They are similar to what we hear from the Iranian people themselves. I want the Iranian people to know that we are listening to them and standing with them.
We will not appease their oppressors, as the last administration did. Our hopes are for a better life for them, and all people afflicted by the regime’s violence and destruction.
I will now take a few questions.
MS ORTAGUS: Matt.
QUESTION: Thank you. Good morning, Mr. Secretary.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Good morning, sir.
QUESTION: Thank you. I just – broadly on Iran, aside from this, your goal – you just said bring them back to the negotiating table. But are you really interested in renegotiating the JCPOA or negotiating something like that, or are you just looking for – are all these steps that you’re taking aimed at just getting them to change their behavior without getting anything in return?
And then secondly, if you could just address a report about comments you allegedly made to Iranian diaspora leaders last week in Texas.
SECRETARY POMPEO: What comments? What in particular?
QUESTION: That the – you’re not interested in any kind of military intervention, that it’s basically economic, diplomatic pressure, and that – and some – I don’t know, some kind of comment about the MEK, and you’re not —
SECRETARY POMPEO: Let me – Matt, thank you. Let me try and take those; I’ll take them in reverse sequence. We’ve not supported any outside group. We’re supporting the Iranian people. And so I get questions all the time about outside Iranian groups, including the MEK, and I – every time I engage with anyone – and this was a meeting with folks who have family, often had family inside of Iran – wanted to make clear to them we’re supporting the Iranian people, not any particular group. That’s the U.S. administration’s policy.
Second, with respect to our objectives, we’re happy to receive the – we’re happy to get the outcome however we can achieve it. The President’s always made very clear, we’ve made clear to Iran’s leaders, that if Americans are attacked, we will respond in a serious way. And so I don’t think there should be any doubt about the fact that if it is required for us to take an action in response to something that Qasem Soleimani does or the Iranian leadership, or a Shia militia somewhere in the world, that we will respond to that in a way that is appropriate to protect American interests wherever we find them.
With respect to our goal, we laid them out. We laid them out. There are 12 things we’re looking for. When we get to those things, we are happy to re-engage with Iran as a normal nation. If they’re prepared to come to the table and negotiate those things to get to that outcome, fantastic. If not, the campaign with which we’ve been engaged since, frankly, the administration took office, but more clearly since the President’s decision to withdraw from the JCPOA, the campaign will continue. And we built that enormous coalition to work on this, right. Gulf state partners, Israel, lots of countries that are working alongside us to achieve these objectives.
You see the Europeans with increasing risk from the assassination campaign that’s taking place inside of their country. We watch as Iran continues to try and have a role in protecting Maduro in Venezuela. This is causing countries in South America to understand that the expeditionary nature of the Islamic Republic is something that threatens citizens all across the world. And so this is not the United States alone; it’s a true coalition working to achieve the ends which we have laid out.
QUESTION: Thank you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, Matt.
MS ORTAGUS: (Off-mike.)
QUESTION: Good morning, Mr. Secretary.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes, ma’am. Good morning.
QUESTION: With the maximum pressure campaign, have you detected any change in the Iranian behavior, with the few exception that you mention I think before, which is short of cash of the Hizballah and maybe to not giving all to the Syrian regime? And also talking about senior leadership, do you have any comment about the appointment of the new leader of the IRGC – I think his name is Mr. Hossein Salami.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, yes.
QUESTION: Because he’s been praised as a hardliner, anti-U.S.
SECRETARY POMPEO: So we have watched Iran have diminished power as a result of our campaign. Their capacity to wreak harm around the world is absolutely clearly diminished. I talked about it with respect to Hizballah not being able to make payroll in a timely fashion. I’ve talked about it in other places as well. What we’re announcing this morning, the designation of the IRGC a couple of weeks back, actions that we’ll take in a handful of weeks – each of these things will continue to support the Iranian people so that they can get what they ultimately are so desperately seeking.
I don’t have any comment on the new appointment of the IRGC other than – IRGC leader other than this: You described him as a hardliner.
SECRETARY POMPEO: It is the case that every Iranian leader – that includes President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif – has accepted the notion, has accepted this fundamental notion of the nature of the regime itself, right. So they accept that the Islamic Republic of Iran is the appropriate method for which Iran to engage – when – once they’ve conceded that, in our view, these distinctions are often – are often insignificant. That is, if you are pushing and you are supporting Qasem Soleimani’s efforts in Iraq, if you’re supporting the efforts of the IRGC’s Qods Force and Hizballah, and you’re supporting the underwriting of Hamas, by definition that is working against what America has laid out as our objective.
QUESTION: Thank you, sir.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Take one more, Morgan? Yeah.
MS ORTAGUS: Lesley.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Good morning, Lesley. Hi.
QUESTION: Hello. How are you, Mr. Secretary?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’m very good, thank you.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I want to ask you about the timing of your announcement. Oil supplies are pretty tight given that a lot of oil’s come off Venezuela as well. What are your discussions – China said today that the U.S. had reached beyond its jurisdiction. What have your – what assurances do you have from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, to supply the market in a timely fashion?
And second, do you believe that, I think it’s the five largest importers of Iranian oil, will abide by what you are asking of them?
SECRETARY POMPEO: With respect to your second question, we’ve made clear: If you don’t abide by this, there’ll be sanctions. Right? This is what we’re laying out this morning. We have a requirement and – to conduct these transactions, one almost always needs to participate in the financial markets, and we intend to enforce the sanctions. We don’t lay out sanctions that we don’t have any intention of encouraging countries to cooperate with.
With respect to – I’ll leave others to talk about the details of what the Saudis and the Emiratis have agreed to, but I’ve had conversations, the President has had conversations with these countries, and they have committed to making sure that there is sufficient supply in the markets. And I’m confident that we’ll achieve that. I’m confident that they’ll support this policy that is consistent with their objectives as well.
One more? Take one more. Yes. Go ahead, sir.
QUESTION: Thank you, sir.
QUESTION: You could stay all day.
QUESTION: Very quickly —
SECRETARY POMPEO: What’s that?
QUESTION: You could stay all day.
SECRETARY POMPEO: (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Very quickly, sir.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Got to get to the Easter egg roll. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Sir, you said that you are at zero level today. Is that effective today, or do they —
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s May 2nd.
QUESTION: May 2nd.
SECRETARY POMPEO: The current waivers expire on May – midnight May 1st, I think it is.
QUESTION: So they’re not getting, like, any grace period beyond May 2nd? That’s it? It all must stop?
SECRETARY POMPEO: There are – there are no – there are no SRE waivers that extend beyond that period, full stop.
QUESTION: And so in the interim, they need to look at other sources like —
SECRETARY POMPEO: That’s right.
QUESTION: To make up the (inaudible).
SECRETARY POMPEO: Look, we’ve always tried – and I think we’ve always been very fair about this – if there is a particular transaction that is incidental – all right, so I don’t want to foreclose the possibility, but there will be no waivers that extend beyond the 1st of May.
Great, thank you all.
QUESTION: Can I ask about Sri Lanka?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you all very much.
QUESTION: Can I ask about Sri Lanka, sir?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, sure.
QUESTION: Do you think the incident there says anything about the dangers ISIS continues to pose now that the – they’ve been defeated on the battleground?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes. Radical Islamist terror remains a threat. The President’s been very clear about that; I think I’ve been very clear about that. We are continuing to do real work against these evil human beings that went into places of worship on Easter Sunday. Yeah, the – we’ve taken that threat down substantially. The destruction of the caliphate was important, and it mattered, and the takedown of these threats from other geographies as well. But sadly, this evil exists in the world, and the United States and all of its partners that are cooperating in the D-ISIS campaign – some 80 countries, and other nations too that are assisting us in defeating this terrorism around the world – we have to remain active and vigilant and it’s going to require attention. There’s no doubt about that.
So thank you all very much.
QUESTION: May I ask about North Korea?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you. Have a great day.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you, sir.