Michael R. Pompeo
Secretary of State
Press Briefing Room
October 3, 2018
SECRETARY POMPEO: Good morning, everyone. I want to update you on three issues, four if you want to count the – my upcoming trip to Asia, including North Korea.
First, the situation in Iraq; the second, a statement about the ruling this morning from the International Court of Justice; and finally, I want to talk about my effort to put America’s diplomatic corps back on the field.
To the situation in Iraq, Iran is the origin of the current threat to Americans in Iraq. It is to blame for the attacks against our mission in Basra and our embassy in Baghdad. Our intelligence in this regard is solid. We can see the hand of the ayatollah and his henchmen supporting these attacks on the United States.
On Friday, I ordered the temporary relocation of U.S. Government personnel from our consulate general in Basra. I also warned the Iranian Government that we will hold it directly responsible for any harm to Americans or our diplomatic facilities, whether perpetrated by Iranian forces or by associated proxies or elements of those militias.
These latest destabilizing acts in Iraq are attempts by the Iranian regime to push back on our efforts to constrain its malign behavior. Clearly, they see our comprehensive pressure campaign as serious and succeeding, and we must be prepared for them to continue their attempts to hit back, especially after our full sanctions are re-imposed on the 4th of November.
The United States will continue to stand with the people of Iraq as they chart a future based on Iraqi interest, not those dictated by Iran. Even with the temporary relocation of our staff, we are supporting the delivery of clean water to the 750,000 residents in Basra.
Now let me turn to the ICJ ruling from today. I’m announcing that the United States is terminating the 1955 Treaty of Amity with Iran. This is a decision, frankly, that is 39 years overdue. In July, Iran brought a meritless case in the International Court of Justice alleging violations of the Treaty of Amity. Iran seeks to challenge the United States decision to cease participation in the Iran nuclear deal and to re-impose the sanctions that were lifted as a part of that deal. Iran is attempting to interfere with the sovereign rights of the United States to take lawful actions necessary to protect our national security. And Iran is abusing the ICJ for political and propaganda purposes and their case, as you can see from the decision, lacked merit.
Given Iran’s history of terrorism, ballistic missile activity, and other malign behaviors, Iran’s claims under the treaty are absurd. The court’s ruling today was a defeat for Iran. It rightly rejected all of Iran’s baseless requests. The court denied Iran’s attempt to secure broad measures to interfere with U.S. sanctions and rightly noted Iran’s history of noncompliance with its international obligations under the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
With regard to the aspects of the court’s order focusing on potential humanitarian issues, we have been clear: Existing exceptions, authorizations, and licensing policies for humanitarian-related transactions and safety of flight will remain in effect. The United States has been actively engaged on these issues without regard to any proceeding before the ICJ. We’re working closely with the Department of the Treasury to ensure that certain humanitarian-related transactions involving Iran can and will continue.
That said, we’re disappointed that the court failed to recognize it has no jurisdiction to issue any order relating to these sanctions measures with the United States, which is doing its work on Iran to protect its own essential security interests.
In light of how Iran has hypocritically and groundlessly abused the ICJ as a forum for attacking the United States, I am therefore announcing today that the United States is terminating the Treaty of Amity with Iran. I hope that Iran’s leaders will come to recognize that the only way to secure a bright future for its country is by ceasing their campaign of terror and destruction around the world.
The third item, putting the diplomatic team from the United States Department of State back on the field: I want to talk about the fact that there are 65 nominees now sitting with the United States Senate. That’s over a quarter of all the senior-level confirmable positions that the United States Department of State is tasked with using to achieve its diplomatic outcomes. And I want every single American to know that what Senator Menendez and members of the Senate are doing to hold back American diplomacy rests squarely on their shoulders.
Both Republicans and Democrats agree that a fully staffed State Department is critical to American national security. Indeed, when I was before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Menendez told me, quote, “The problem is we have an emaciated State Department under this administration,” end of quote. Well, we’ve now done our part to fix that. He now needs to do his, and the Senate needs to do its part.
These candidates are quality candidates. They are not sitting on the Senate floor because of objections with respect to their quality, their professionalism, or their excellence and their ability to deliver American foreign policy. Wave after wave of these extremely qualified nominees have been sent to the United States Senate.
Let me give a few examples: John Richmond. He’s been stuck for 85 days while we try to make necessary progress on combating human trafficking, a priority for this administration and a shared priority of Senator Menendez. We have Kim Breier, the President’s nominee to head up Western Hemisphere Affairs, stuck for 204 days while the crisis in Venezuela and Central America continues to rage. David Schenker, the President’s nominee to lead the Bureau of Near East Affairs, is held up while the humanitarian crisis continues and while Iran continues to undermine peace and stability throughout the Middle East.
Russia is seeking to prey on our elections, but Ellen McCarthy, a 30-year veteran of the Intelligence Community and the President’s choice to head the Bureau of Intelligence and Research sits on the Senate floor.
As American forces are engaged against terrorists around the world, Clarke Cooper, an experienced military professional designated to lead the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs waits for the Foreign Relations Committee to act on his nomination.
You should know that as a former member, I completely appreciate the Senate’s advice and consent role and their duty to conduct oversight. And I understand their need to be fair and honest brokers. But that’s not what is being engaged in. We need these people. What’s happening is unprecedented. We have members of the United States Senate who – for whom partisanship has now driven delay and obstruction of getting America’s diplomatic corps into every corner of the world.
It will impact our operations, our ability. We don’t have a COO, the under secretary for management now coming on two years with no one filling that position, and enormous, complex operations keeping our diplomats safe around the world don’t have a senior leader to manage those operations. There are real, direct impacts of not having these people confirmed and I implore the United States Senate to take these quality, talented people and allow them to do what it is they have agreed to do on behalf of the United States.
And with that, I’m happy to take a couple questions.
MS NAUERT: (Inaudible). We’ll start with Lesley from Reuters.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. Mr. Secretary, does the ruling of the World Court, does that have any practical impact on what the U.S. is – on U.S. sanctions, number one? And number two, what other – what assurances can you give that this will not impact any humanitarian aid? Because the Court actually said that it was not enough, that the U.S. – that the U.S.’s assurances were not adequate.
SECRETARY POMPEO: The United States has been very clear: We will continue to make sure that we are providing humanitarian assistance in a way that delivers for the people we have spoken very clearly about, the Iranian people. We care deeply about them. We will make sure that we continue to afford the flexibility so that that assistance can be needed.
Having said that, the choices that are being made inside of Iran today – to use money to foment terror around the world, to launch ballistic missiles into airports throughout the Middle East, to arm proxy militias in Iraq and in Syria and in Lebanon – those are dollars that the Iranian leadership is squandering. They could be providing humanitarian assistance to their own people but have chosen instead a different path, a path of revolutionary effort around the world showing utter disregard for the humanitarian needs of their own people.
MS NAUERT: Nick Kalman from Fox.
QUESTION: I wanted to ask about North Korea, Mr. Secretary. The North Koreans have a new commentary saying the end-of-war declaration issue should’ve been resolved half a century ago in light of your trip coming up. Will it be resolved this weekend? And if not, what would be the reasoning against offering this?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So I’m not going to comment on the progress of the negotiations on the end-of-war declaration or any other items, only to say this: I’m very happy to be going back to get another chance to continue to advance the commitment that Chairman Kim and President Trump made back in Singapore in the second week of June. I’m optimistic that we’ll come away from that with better understandings, deeper progress, and a plan forward not only for the summit between the two leaders, but for us to continue the efforts to build out a pathway for denuclearization.
MS NAUERT: Next question, Michel from Al Hurra.
QUESTION: Yeah, thank you. Mr. Secretary, Russia has delivered today S-300 systems to Syria. You said in the past that it’s a serious escalation. Are you planning to take any measures in this regard? And my second question on Iraq. Any comment on the election of Barham Salih as the president and the designation of Adel Abdul Mahdi as the prime minister?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So I’ve had a chance to speak with the new speaker of the house and the new president. I’ve not had a chance to speak with the new – the president designee as of yet. I hope to do so. And I am equally hopeful that they will follow through on the commitments that they made when we spoke. These are people that we know pretty well. They’ve been around the Iraqi Government scene for some time, and what we talked about was building out an Iraqi Government that was an Iraqi Government of national unity that was interested in the welfare and future good fortunes for the Iraqi people, not controlled by the Islamic Republic of Iran. It’s something that was a shared set of objectives, and I’m very, very hopeful that we can continue to work with the Iraqi people and the soon-to-be-completed, formed new Iraqi Government to deliver against that.
Your first question was about the S-300. I’m certainly not going to comment on our intention on how we will address that, but my comments before were true. Having the Russians deliver the S-300 into Syria presents greater risk to all of those in the affected areas and to stability in the Middle East. We consider this a very serious escalation.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS NAUERT: Last question. Kylie from CBS News.
QUESTION: Hi, Secretary. Question. Can you explain to us a little bit the practical reality of the U.S. terminating the amity with Iran, and just how we’ll see that play out? And then secondly, just because we’re going to North Korea, is there any timeframe for what the U.S. wants to achieve given that last week we heard President Trump say that they’re not – the U.S. is not playing a time game, but you said that you want rapid denuclearization of North Korea completed by January 2021?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Those are entirely consistent with each other. We want it fast, but we’re not going to play the time game. My comment about 2021 was not mine. I repeated it, but it was a comment that had been made by the leaders who’d had their inter-Korean summit in Pyongyang. They’d talked about 2021 when they were gathered there, and so I was simply reiterating this as a timeline that they were potentially prepared to agree to.
President Trump’s comments are exactly right. This is a long-term problem. This has been outstanding for decades. We’ve made more progress than has been made in an awfully long time. And importantly, we’ve done so in a condition which continues to give us the opportunity to achieve the final goal, that is the economic sanctions continue to remain in place, the core proposition; the thing which will give us the capacity to deliver denuclearization isn’t changing. If you heard the comments at the UN Security Council, complete unanimity about the need for those to stay in place.
The Russians and the Chinese had some ideas about how we might begin to think about a time when it would be appropriate to reduce them, but to a country, they were supportive of maintaining the UN Security Council resolutions and the sanctions that underlay them. That is a – that is a global commitment that I’m not sure there’s many issues in the world you can find such unanimity. And so my efforts this week will be one more step along the way towards achieving what the UN Security Council has directed the North Koreans to do.
QUESTION: And the practical fallout from pulling out of the treaty?
SECRETARY POMPEO: We’ll see what the practical fallout is. The Iranians have been ignoring it for an awfully long time. We ought to have pulled out of it decades ago. Today marked a useful point with the decision that was made this morning from the ICJ. This marked a useful point for us to demonstrate the absolute absurdity of the Treaty of Amity between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran.
MS NAUERT: Thank you, everybody. We have to go now.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thanks, everyone.