January 27, 2022

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Secretary Michael R. Pompeo at the IISS Manama Dialogue

36 min read

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

Washington, D.C.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you so much. Thanks, John, and thanks for that introduction and the thoughtful words at the beginning of your remarks. And I do remember our dinner back when my life was a little less busy, and sadly, the set of issues that we were discussing that night – the challenge of Iran’s nuclear program – still remains in front of us.

I want to say greetings to His Majesty King Hamad, the Government of Bahrain, the IISS Manama Dialogue participants, esteemed ministers, and everybody joining all around the world both online and in person. Thanks for giving me this opportunity.

It is truly an honor to open the 16th Manama Dialogue – my first time speaking to this distinguished audience.

This forum’s ongoing success speaks enormous volumes about your institute’s reach and the powerful role that Bahrain plays in advancing peace and prosperity around the world. And I’ll come back to that topic.

Look, just this week, our two countries launched an important and comprehensive Strategic Dialogue. I was happy to chair that.

Today, John asked me to talk about a number of things, including the Trump administration’s approach to foreign policy more broadly, our achievements with our partners in the Middle East, which I believe are truly historic, and a few lessons learned perhaps as well.

And after that, we’ll have a good conversation, a robust Q&A.

I want to spend my opening moments by briefly laying out some bedrock principles that have guided the work of our administration.

I delivered a speech last year titled “A Foreign Policy From the Founding.” And that has a particular meaning in the United States, but it ought to have meaning to all of us today. I explained how this administration has anchored our efforts in the tradition of America, our first principles.

It was James Madison who wrote in Federalist 41 that “ is an avowed and essential object of Union,” of the American Union. Our founders understood that our government’s primary duty is to put America’s security first. We believe that’s true for every sovereign nation.

They also favored – our founders – a prudent and restrained foreign policy. They knew that in spite of the fact that our country was powerful, our resources weren’t infinite. But even when our nation was young, they also knew the true value of American leadership abroad and what we could accomplish for our people and for the world. And the Trump administration has tried to get that balance just right.

Look, our signature successes in the Middle East demonstrate what happens when we get it right.

Four years ago almost exactly, this administration saw that the true cause of conflict in the Middle East wasn’t the Israel-Palestinian conflict, but ISIS and the leadership in the Islamic Republic of Iran, the world’s largest state sponsor of terror.

We started our approach to the Middle East by leading the fight against ISIS. We had 82 partners, eliminating the caliphate in relatively short order.

This was a remarkable multilateral victory. It deserves more attention, in my judgment. We did this well, we did this right, and the world remains safer today as a result of that enormously good collective effort.

On Iran, we simply saw the regime for what it is: an anti-Western, anti-Semitic government that terrorizes its neighbors and its own people – period, full stop.

We learned the lessons from the prior administration’s appeasement. Sending pallets of cash didn’t change Iran’s behavior; rather, it funded and supercharged their terror campaigns.

We understood that a democratic Israel should be a partner, not a problem, for countries in the region.

And so we flipped the switch. We took a different approach. We rejected appeasement and put security and deterrence, not dialogue for dialogue’s sake, at the very front – a very realistic approach.

So what have we achieved at this point?

We got out of the JCPOA, which traded cash and immunity for Tehran’s malign behavior in exchange for unverifiable nuclear pledges that put us all at risk.

And with the help of our Gulf allies, our maximum pressure campaign isolated Iran diplomatically, militarily, and economically.

We’ve now leveled 77 rounds of sanctions targeting close to 1,500 individuals and entities. We have deprived the regime, according to their own words, of some $70 billion for terror.

Proxies like Hizballah and Hamas are now in deep austerity mode.

We’re standing with Iraqi prime minister, my friend Khadimi, in his push against the Iranian-backed militias, and with the people of Lebanon as they reject Hizballah’s corrupt rule.

In fact, we have seen multiple countries designate Hizballah as a terrorist organization and refuse landing rights to Mahan Air – Iran’s terror airline.

Look, we also took the regime’s chief terrorist, Qasem Soleimani, off the battlefield. It showed what a real red line looks like.

And we know too, we know our campaign is working because now the Iranians are desperately signaling their willingness to return to the negotiating table to get sanctions relief.

This effort in the Middle East isn’t just about countering Iran – as vital as that is.

American strength and resolve have given the leaders in the region the space and, importantly, the confidence to pursue peace and prosperity.

The signing of the Abraham Accords at the White House in September wouldn’t have been possible without the maximum pressure campaign and our active diplomacy with strong partners in the region.

We’re not done. We continue to build on that progress. Goods and people are now crisscrossing the region along entirely new routes.

It was an honor to be in Israel and greet my friend, Bahraini foreign minister, a few weeks ago. He and I together convened the first trilateral meeting of our governments, and I am confident that more countries will make the right decisions. They’ll do so because it’s the right decision for their people.

They (inaudible) follow the UAE and Bahrain and Sudan’s courageous examples in turning the “Three Nos” of the Khartoum Declaration in 1973 into the “Three Yeses” of the Abraham Accords. They will do so because it’s right for their people.

Four years ago, John, a lot of influential people in the world would have said that even hoping for these achievements was pure fantasy. But we’ve shown that the real fantasy was the bankrupt conventional wisdom that said there couldn’t be progress until the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians was solved. We could see it was nonsense, and we acted on the fact that we knew that reality would bring peace and prosperity. Our new approach continues to bring the possibility of a better future for all of the peoples in the Middle East, including the Palestinians.

And indeed, that’s the bar against which all future actions should be measured, not the failures of outdated policies – you talked about this, not the failures of outdated policies based on flawed assumptions, but based on the reality of our times.

This is the same fact, the same truth, of our policy towards the Chinese Communist Party. And while I won’t go into detail here, I hope to in – we have time together to talk. But for decades, the world had hoped that economic integration would lead to political liberalization – the China fantasy.

It didn’t happen. The Chinese Communist Party never wanted to behave like a normal regime, because at its core it’s not one. Like Iran, the party is a revolutionary relic. That’s why they work together so much.

So, again, we stepped back. We looked at reality. We remembered first principles and reorganized our policy around a security framework and simple common sense. The good news is we’re rallying other nations to our side, because this isn’t about America vs. China. It’s about freedom vs. tyranny. We all have a stake – including where you sit, in the Middle East. This is important to get right.

I want to close with one final thought on the Middle East that shows the good that happens when we get this balanced perfectly. As you said, I returned home from a trip to Israel and the Gulf just a couple weeks ago now. I was optimistic because of what we have managed to accomplish together. I was encouraged by the level of renewed hope I witnessed – especially among the younger generation. That’s as it should be, given the success of the Abraham Accords.

But there was another noteworthy agreement: an MOU that we signed with Bahrain in October. We agreed to combat “all forms of anti-Semitism, including anti-Zionism and the delegitimization of the State of Israel.”

This was the first time, the first time our Arab partners formally joined in this effort. It’s one way that the Abraham Accords are more than just a peace on paper or between palaces, but among people, people of the Book who share warmth and respect. The descendants of Ishmael are standing with the descendants of Isaac.

As an American, I am proud of that accomplishment. My country was founded on religious freedom and respect for unalienable rights, and those are ideals that we all should uphold. And we know this: When America stands confidently for our founding values – certain that they are exceptional, good, and true – our friends benefit enormously as well.

So let’s keep at it. Let’s not return to the fantasies, the fictions that emboldened our enemies, weakened our friends, and undermined our collective security. Let’s keep pressing Iran, standing with our allies, and building on our gains.

The last 48 months have proven that a foreign policy grounded on reality and our proudest traditions actually works for the benefit of all of us.

Thanks for having me.

May God bless you. And I look forward to our conversation. (Applause.)

MR CHIPMAN: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much, indeed. And I hope you can hear a round of applause in the room. We look forward to the conversation just now.

One little housekeeping point for the many people we have here gathered in Bahrain in this room and the neighboring room. If you want to seek the floor, and I hope a number will, just press your microphone. Your microphone will turn green. That doesn’t mean it’s on. It just means that you’re on my list. And I’ll call on you, and then your microphone will turn red, and then you’ll be able to speak and pose your question. And I’ve got three or four people already, but let me please perhaps take the clichéd privilege of the chair and ask Secretary Pompeo the first question.

You spoke a great deal about the challenges posed by the Islamic Republic of Iran. And last year, as I mentioned in my opening remarks, we produced a major 180-page dossier that analyzed all of the various groups with which Iran engages in the Middle East – dozens and dozens of different groups that are part of Iran’s influence networks.

And our judgment at the time, and the conclusion of the report, is that the Islamic Republic of Iran considers their influence networks in the Middle East as their most important strategic asset, possibly even more important than their nuclear program or their ballistic missile program. And the reason they consider their influence networks as their most important strategic asset is that it is those networks day in, week out, month by month, that actually change the effective balance of power in the Middle East.

And the implicit conclusion of that is that if it is their most prized strategic asset, it won’t be a strategic asset that will be easily negotiated away or easily sanctioned away. Might have to be fought. So if you agree with that analysis, what is the strategy to deal with Iran’s influence networks in the Middle East?

SECRETARY POMPEO: So I think their security framework, the leadership’s security framework, actually depends on all three of the things you described – their capacity to continue the capabilities, their nuclear capabilities; their capacity to project those weapon systems and threaten the Middle East with short-range and medium-range ballistic missiles and to continue to refine that program; and then you described it, their capacity to have influence operations, including not only militarily – that is, their military proxy forces – but their capacity to have influence through other means as well, political means as well.

So yes, we have to attack all three of those. This was one of the central shortcomings of the JCPOA. It got some verification. It got them to stop turning some centrifuges for a little while, but it underwrote this network of activity that you described, the very influence and proxies that you described.

The regime’s behavior must change. In May of 2018, I laid out 12 simple points, and I’ve seen in the international world I’ve been ridiculed just a bit for that and just a touch here at home too. I challenge anyone in the audience today to go back and read those 12 points and tell me which one of those you would find satisfactory if Norway or Sweden engaged in that behavior. All we’re asking is for the regime in Iran to behave like a normal nation, and that includes, John, to your point – it includes ceasing this malign activity that takes place through their external influence operations as well.

I couldn’t tell you if they’ll cede that voluntarily. We’ve seen in life before that things that one thought couldn’t be negotiated can when the stakes are right and the costs are sufficient. But in the event that they choose not to do that, in the event that they come to the table and are only willing to talk about turning off a few centrifuges for a few months or a few years, the world should find that unsatisfactory. The Middle East countries I assure you will find that unsatisfactory, whether it’s Iraq, whether it’s Israel, or whether the Gulf states. I would tell you that the good people of Syria who are now living in Turkey or in Lebanon who were forced to flee because the previous administration’s policies appeased the Syrian regime could tell you that appeasement of Iran will fail the people of their country as well.

We have an obligation, a collective obligation to ensure that we get this right. We ought not cut short a negotiation. We ought not reduce the driver that creates the need for the Iranians to negotiate and be satisfied with the simple idea that we’ll get some verification and the capacity for us to stare at some centrifuges and verify every day that they’re turned off for just a little while. Look, we’ve seen what happens. The moment they want to turn them back on, they can do it. Doesn’t take very long to spin up a centrifuge, and we see that. Today they’re at 3.67. They passed a law in the last 48 hours saying they were going to go to 20 percent enrichment.

This tells you that the failure of that agreement was centrally understood by the fact that they can continue to enrich inside of the country, and as long as they have that capacity, they hold the world hostage. We can’t permit that to happen. Our administration was clear about this. I hope the entire world will remain clear about the need to truly push back against the broad threat that the regime in Iran poses today, not only from its nuclear program and missile program, but as you spoke about, the other tools that they use to influence and to undermine other nations.

MR CHIPMAN: Superb. So we now have, as you can imagine, lots of questions from the floor and also coming in internationally. What I propose, Mr. Secretary, is I take three questions here very crisply and then you can answer those as a group. Could I first ask Giselle Khoury? Your microphone is on.

QUESTION: Yes, thank you. Good evening, Mr. Pompeo. I want to ask you about your outgoing administration is – why your administration does keep achieving the reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Qatar?

MR CHIPMAN: Good, thank you very much for that. There’s a lot of questions actually coming in internationally on the Saudi-Qatar relationship, so that’s one to park and to come back to. And now I’d like to call on General Amos Yadlin from Israel, who’s with us here in Bahrain, partly as a consequence of the new diplomatic relations. Amos, your microphone is on.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary, for your speech, and even thank you more for the foreign policy you have led that brought finally a peace to the Middle East after 25 years that we didn’t pay attention to the fact that peace is not here. And this is a different peace, a warm peace.

I want to ask about the maximum pressure. How you assess your achievement in the maximum pressure? Since unfortunately we see the Iranians closer to the threshold with more enriched uranium and more centrifuges, and just today they announced that they will have another two centrifuges in the tunnel under the mountain in Fordow. What can you do in the 50 days that left to your administration and what is your recommendation for the next administration? Thank you.

MR CHIPMAN: Thank you, and also here in Bahrain, John Raine.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary, for your comments. I noted the connection that you made between your foreign security policy and the Founding. There’s another founding with which, of course, the U.S. is intimately connected, which is the founding of the post-World-War-II international order. You gave a very good example of successful collective action in the coalition which the U.S. led against Daesh. I just wanted to ask you, as you look to leaving office, what would you advise constitutes the elements of good collective security and multilateralism, with particular reference to this region?

MR CHIPMAN: And the fourth question, before we go back to the Secretary, I’ll read out because it’s from the editor of The National in the UAE, Mina al-Oraibi: “Mr. Secretary, does the drawdown of troops and diplomats in Baghdad not undercut the Iraqi Government and Mr. Khadhimi, who need U.S. support at this time? Won’t Iran be emboldened by this U.S. decision?”

So those are four questions for you, Mr. Secretary. Over to you.

SECRETARY POMPEO: I’ll try to do them, and at least two or three of them are actually connected, so great that they were presented in a group.

First, look, we are very hopeful that the dispute between the Saudis and the Qataris can be resolved. We hope so because we think that’s important for peace throughout the Middle East, but most importantly we think it’s the right thing for the people of each of those countries. We’re going to keep working to do our – what we can to facilitate conversations and dialogue where we can help. We’re anxious to be helpful.

I get asked all the time, “Well, when do you think this will end,” or “When do you think the next country will sign the Abraham Accords?” Goodness gracious, I am out of the prediction business in terms of timing. Yeah. It will – it’ll be resolved when the parties conclude that it’s in their best interest to do so, that it makes sense for their people. This is the central idea.

And you talked about going back to founding principles. Every country has its own founding traditions. John, you spoke to this as well. Each country has a history and a tradition and a culture which drives not only its domestic politics, but its place in the world as well, and how they interact with other nations. In this case, these two countries often have different histories, different reflections on the actual history, and the view from the United States is that this conflict is – it’s time to be resolved, that the region will be better off, more prosperous, and more peaceful when it is in fact resolved. And so my team, our team at the White House, Mr. Kushner, all of us have been engaged in trying to find a good, solid path forward for them which they can both be happy with, and which won’t be just a piece of paper or ephemeral or temporary, but in fact will be built on a foundation that is lasting.

Amos, you asked about the maximum pressure campaign and what we might do in the next 50 days. Look, I know everyone’s staring at January 20th. We’re just continuing to do the good work. We started as quickly as we could when we built it. I remember when I was the CIA director, when we first started our understanding of the Middle East, I remember reading from around the world that American sanctions alone wouldn’t deliver. And so we worked to try and build out coalitions that would join with us. In some cases, we were successful; in other cases, much less so. But the sanctions themselves have been incredibly effective. When I say effective, we can see that the regime in Iran is having to make difficult choices, difficult choices about whether to invest in their space program or underwrite militias that are in the southern part of Iraq. They’re having to make decisions about whether to work on a new technology, that it might have a dual use; in fact, it might have a valid civil use, but also might be connected to a nuclear weapons program, or potentially the technology used in a nuclear weapons program, or to underwrite the efforts to destabilize the government in Lebanon and prevent it from being reformed in a way that could deliver good outcomes for the Lebanese people.

So in that sense, it has worked tremendously. It has now put the Iranian leadership in a very difficult place where they’ve got to make these hard choices, and they are looking to see if they can’t convince the world that, “No, the Trump administration had this wrong, you should fund us, you should underwrite us, you should appease us, you should let us have money, you should let European companies come back into our country so that we can build out on all of these terror programs and these malign activities around the world.” I think it’s fundamentally the wrong direction.

You asked my wisdom for the next administration. They’re plenty smart enough; they’ll figure their way through this. What I would say is to the world, that can’t be the right direction. It cannot be that the right direction is to allow Iran to continue to buy and sell weapons again. It can’t be the case that the right direction is to allow Iran to have access to Western technology and Western capital again. Those are the things we have seen that destabilize the Middle East, that make it riskier for people, whether they’re in Egypt or Kuwait or in Bahrain – it makes them less able to live their lives in ways that aren’t under threat from this theocratic terrorist regime. That would – down that path lies what we have all seen: a real risk to the stability of the region.

The third question was an interesting one about – referenced our founding and the founding of the international order and the history of multilateralism. I recall giving a speech in Brussels early on in my time as Secretary of State. I believe I walked off stage without so much as two people clapping. It was because I went there that day to talk about our view of how multilateralism can work and when it ultimately fails the very mission that it is set out to do. And so we talked about how America was going to think about it.

There have been multilateral institutions which we have supported, expanded, made better. I would argue NATO is in a much better place today than it was four years ago. We had a NATO foreign ministers’ meeting this past week. I listened. I listened to a talk about the threats of the day, from space, from cyber, from China, the threats that continue from Russia. These were conversations that weren’t being had, and there are resources available for NATO today that wouldn’t have been had without the hard work that America did to convince every nation that it was in its own collective best interest to be part of that important, critical, transatlantic, multilateral institution.

There have been others that we just simply concluded wouldn’t work. I’ll give you a couple of examples. The World Health Organization – the World Health Organization miserably failed each and every one of the countries that you all represent and allowed the Chinese Communist Party to obfuscate what took place. It allowed it to cover up; it didn’t ring the bell. Its systems failed to prevent a virus from traveling from Wuhan around the world that has now undermined every economy and killed tens of thousands of people. This is tragic. This is a failure of a multilateral institution. There are three significant reforms that have taken place over the last dozens of years. They all failed. And so we concluded we were going to find another place, another way that the international community could come together to do pandemic prevention. This has to work. We want to be part of that. The United States wants to be part of that. But the World Health Organization became a political tool instead of a science-based effort to actually deliver security and safety from these pandemics across the world.

It’s how we think about it. Does it get real results? Does it deliver good outcomes? Is the organization fit for purpose? If it is, we’ll reinforce, we’ll invest our resources, and we will be a strong partner for every member of the multilateral institution. If it doesn’t, we should either fix it or forget it, and that’s how we have thought about this.

On final question, I’ll be brief about this. We’re trying to get our force posture right and our diplomatic posture right in Iraq and in Baghdad. We have been committed there for a long time. President Trump made two purposes very clear, two missions very clear. One is to continue the campaign to make sure that ISIS doesn’t raise its ugly head again, and second, to work to make sure that the leadership in Iraq was on the right mission, was focused on its independence and sovereignty and the freedom to be out from under the jackboot of the Iranian regime. I think the things that we have done there to date have made that more likely, more probable. We’ve welcomed all the efforts that the Gulf states have made to help Prime Minister Khadhimi be successful, and the United States is committed to trying to do that.

But Iraq’s leadership has a responsibility to my team, to our diplomatic team, and to those of you who have embassies in the Green Zone as well, to do the hard work to make sure that those diplomatic posts are safe and secure. And when they can do that, we’re happy to be present and to work. When they can’t, we’re going to do the right thing for our own security posture, all the while making sure that we are fully committed to the sovereignty and independence of Iraq.

MR CHIPMAN: That’s superb. With your permission, we’ll take three or four, a second round, and I’ll ask everybody to be crisper.

From Germany, Bastian Giegerich.

QUESTION: Thank you very much, Secretary, for your remarks. You spoke about China and the actions that countries in this region and in other regions should take to put up defenses against that expanding influence, which the director of national intelligence just – U.S. director of national intelligence just characterized as being ultimately about dominating the planet economically, militarily, and technologically. A lot of countries, when they take action, take up action to protect themselves – investment screening, supply chain diversification, those kinds of things. What would you advise countries in this region and elsewhere to do beyond those protective measures to put a counterpoint to that development that the U.S. has described? Thank you.

MR CHIPMAN: And from Korea, also here in Bahrain, Chung Min Lee.

QUESTION: Thank you, John. Mr. Secretary, thank you for your speech. My question is: President Trump emphasized that he wanted to end America’s long wars in Afghanistan, and I guess to a more limited degree in Syria. As you think about the most important military achievements of the Trump administration, how confident are you, Mr. Secretary, that the U.S. will continue to become the indispensable military power in the region and to project power – military power – effectively? Thank you.

MR CHIPMAN: And we have a young leadership program here, as I mentioned, and we’re delighted to have from Morocco Imru Al Qays Talha Jebril. Your microphone is on.

QUESTION: Hello. Thank you, Mr. Secretary of State. I would like to ask you a very brief and direct question: What is the current administration’s U.S. stance on Morocco’s recent skirmishes or clearing of the way of the Polisario protests in the Western Sahara region? And secondly, what is, in your personal capacity, your opinion in dealing with this issue? What diplomatic efforts would it take from the U.S. and other actors to actually deal with this issue and remove the security threat this issue has been creating for the long term? Thank you very much.

MR CHIPMAN: And finally, also on Afghanistan – and we take note that Afghanistan’s National Security Advisor Mohib will address the dialogue this weekend – your colleague Zalmay Khalilzad – this is a question asked by Antoine Leveque based in London – Zalmay welcomed two days ago a three-page agreement codifying rules and procedures for their negotiations on a political roadmap and a comprehensive ceasefire. How does this development newly help overcome structural challenges to the road to peace?

So that’s your gang of four questions to conclude, Mr. Secretary. Over to you.

SECRETARY POMPEO: All right. Let me – I’m going to take these in reverse order because my memory is short. Look, the agreement that was reached a couple days back setting the roadmap for the discussions was a preliminary agreement for sure, but an important one, a hurdle that had to be crossed in the same way that we had to cross a hurdle back in February when we got the parties together for the first time. It was a truly historic moment where the Afghans came together and agreed that they would sit across the table from each other and begin to resolve what is, depending on your start point, 20 or 40 years of conflict.

I think those of us who have been at this for a while recognize that these things take time to resolve. There’s a deep-seated history. There’s lots of challenges, different views, not just two – we talk about the Afghan Government or the Taliban – this is a diverse society, and we’re working to bring every element of that society to the table so that all of those voices are heard. To get this right, to get this process right enabled us to move on to the substantive conversation. We know that that substantive conversation will take some time.

We also know that today that the violence that’s taking place in Afghanistan is unacceptably high, and we need to begin to have this conversation against a backdrop of much lower violence levels. I am optimistic. I was in Doha, goodness, now two weeks ago or three weeks ago, met with the Afghan negotiating team and the Taliban negotiating team. In each case, they demonstrated a willingness, they had lots of different views, making clear that this was going to be something that would have to be a hard-fought negotiation. But to a person, I made clear to them that the violence levels can’t continue while these negotiations go on. It won’t work. And so we’ve asked all of them to stand back and indeed stand down. In that respect, I hope we can begin to start to address some of the front-end issues about a ceasefire here before too long.

The next to last question was about Morocco. Well look, we’ve put a statement about Morocco – our policy hasn’t frankly changed very much from where we were six months or even 24 months ago. We hope that the Moroccans can find a way through this. We, just like in most conflicts in the world – our view is that it ought not be resolved through military means but through a set of conversations that can deliver good outcomes.

The third – the second question was about power projection and about our military power projection in particular. Yes, President Trump’s made very clear he wants fewer American young men and women in harm’s way. That’s good if you’re a secretary of state, because it says that he’s counting on you to figure out how to resolve these problems. We know that we can do this when we have a strong military. We’ve built it up. We spent $750 billion a year to build out the world’s finest military with the most capable set of structures to deliver good outcomes for when we need to do that.

But President Trump’s made clear he wants us to have to do that less often, and so the burden falls to those of us in the diplomatic world to go deliver that. It doesn’t mean we’re not going to have – we have our – our Fifth Fleet’s there in Bahrain, we’ve got forces throughout many places in the Middle East. I think those things are enduring and important. We’ve got forces in Saudi Arabia. We’ve got lots of activities all throughout not just the Middle East, but in the Indian Ocean and – these are important places, important places for America to be so that our deterrence posture can do what President Trump described, which is to put fewer of our young men and women in actual harm’s way.

And then the first question, and where I’ll wrap up, is this idea of what should Middle Eastern countries do about China. I don’t think it’s any different for countries in the Middle East than it is for any of the rest of us. Every country has deep commercial ties inside of China, and that has blinded us, including the United States for decades, to the malign activity of the Chinese Communist Party. This is not accidental. This is deeply intentional on the part of the Chinese Communist Party’s leadership. But as the DNI said yesterday, his basis for believing China’s desire for hegemony is that this is what the Chinese Communist Party says, it’s what they tell us.

So every country needs to be mindful of that. So we can’t have Chinese equipment in our telecommunications infrastructure. We can’t have the Chinese showing up with a commercial veneer for PLA – as PLA cover entities. We have to take those risks seriously and that may well mean that China will threaten certain commercial activities in your country. Walk through the fire, get it right, keep your people safe, do not let the Chinese Communist Party come to treat your country as a vassal state.

MR CHIPMAN: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for these opening remarks. Thank you even more for the conversation in which you’ve so vigorously engaged. And thank you even more for getting our 16th Manama Dialogue on to such a great start. Many thanks.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, sir. You all have – hope you have a great rest of your conference.

MR CHIPMAN: Thank you. (Applause.)

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    GAO began 37 new audits that involved the Department of Defense (DOD) in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2020. Of GAO's 37 requested entrance conferences for those audits, DOD scheduled 33 within 14 days and held 34 within 30 days of GAO's notification. Entrance conferences are initial meetings between agency officials and GAO staff that allow GAO to communicate its audit objectives and enable agencies to assign key personnel to support the audit work. The four entrance conferences that were scheduled more than 14 days after notification were scheduled late due to either difficulties in identifying a primary action officer or aligning the schedules of GAO and DOD officials. The three entrance conferences that were held more than 30 days after notification were scheduled late due to difficulties in aligning the schedules of GAO and DOD officials. GAO's agency protocols govern GAO's relationships with audited agencies. These protocols assist GAO in scheduling entrance conferences with key agency officials within 14 days of their receiving notice of a new audit. The ability of the Congress to conduct effective oversight of federal agencies is enhanced through the timely completion of GAO audits. In past years, DOD experienced difficulty meeting the protocol target for the timely facilitation of entrance conferences. In Senate Report 116-48 accompanying a bill for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, the Senate Armed Services Committee included a provision for GAO to review DOD's scheduling and holding of entrance conferences. In this report, GAO evaluates the extent to which DOD scheduled entrance conferences within 14 days of receiving notice of a new audit, consistent with GAO's agency protocols, and held those conferences within 30 days. This is the final of four quarterly reports that GAO will produce on this topic for fiscal year 2020. In the first three quarterly reports, GAO found that DOD had improved its ability to meet the protocol target. GAO analyzed data on GAO audits involving DOD and initiated in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2020 (July 1, 2020, through September 30, 2020). Specifically, GAO identified the number of notification letters requesting entrance conferences that it sent to DOD during that time period. GAO determined the number of days between when DOD received GAO's notification letter for each new audit and when DOD scheduled the entrance conference and assessed whether DOD scheduled entrance conferences within 14 days of notification, which is the time frame identified in GAO's agency protocols. GAO also determined the date that each requested entrance conference was held by collecting this information from the GAO team conducting each audit and assessed whether DOD held entrance conferences for new audits within 30 days of notification, which was the time frame identified in the mandate for this review. For more information, contact Elizabeth Field at (202) 512-2775 or Fielde1@gao.gov.
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  • [Protest of Army Contract Award for Silhouette Targets]
    In U.S GAO News
    A firm protested an Army contract award for silhouette targets, contending that the: (1) Army erroneously evaluated the awardee's transportation costs; (2) awardee did not qualify as a small business; (3) awardee and another offerer were commonly owned; and (4) Army should have conducted the procurement under advertised, rather than negotiated procedures. GAO held that: (1) while the Army may have miscalculated transportation costs, it relied in good faith on its specialists, and the protester was not prejudiced, since its offer would not have been low even had the Army calculated those costs using the protester's method; (2) the Army reasonably determined, based on a preaward survey, that the awardee qualified as a small business; (3) the common ownership did not create a conflict of interest, since the situation did not prejudice other bidders; and (4) the protester untimely protested after bid opening against an alleged solicitation impropriety. Accordingly, the protest was dismissed in part and denied in part.
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  • The Nation’s Fiscal Health: Effective Use of Fiscal Rules and Targets
    In U.S GAO News
    In fiscal year 2019, debt held by the public reached 79 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). The government's fiscal response to COVID-19 combined with the severe economic contraction from the pandemic will substantially increase federal debt. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected that debt held by the public will reach 98 percent of GDP by the end of fiscal year 2020. The nation's fiscal challenges will require attention once the economy has substantially recovered and public health goals have been attained. GAO has previously reported that a long-term plan is needed to put the government on a sustainable fiscal path. Other countries have used well-designed fiscal rules and targets—which constrain fiscal policy by controlling factors like expenditures or revenue—to contain excessive deficits. For example, Germany's constitution places limits on its deficits. The U.S. federal government has previously enacted fiscal rules, such as those in the Budget Control Act of 2011. However, current fiscal rules have not effectively addressed the misalignment between spending and revenues over time. GAO identified key considerations to help Congress if it were to adopt new fiscal rules and targets, as part of a long-term plan for fiscal sustainability (see table). Key Considerations for Designing, Implementing, and Enforcing Fiscal Rules and Targets Setting clear goals and objectives can anchor a country's fiscal policy. Fiscal rules and targets can help ensure that spending and revenue decisions align with agreed-upon goals and objectives. The weight given to tradeoffs among simplicity, flexibility, and enforceability depends on the goals a country is trying to achieve with a fiscal rule. In addition, there are tradeoffs between the types and combinations of rules, and the time frames over which the rules apply. The degree to which fiscal rules and targets are binding, such as being supported through a country's constitution or nonbinding political agreements, can impact their permanence, as well as the extent to which ongoing political commitment is needed to uphold them. Integrating fiscal rules and targets into budget discussions can contribute to their ongoing use and provide for a built-in enforcement mechanism. The budget process can include reviews of fiscal rules and targets. Fiscal rules and targets with limited, well-defined exemptions, clear escape clauses for events such as national emergencies, and adjustments for the economic cycle can help a country address future crises. Institutions supporting fiscal rules and targets need clear roles and responsibilities for supporting their implementation and measuring their effectiveness. Independently analyzed data and assessments can help institutions monitor compliance with fiscal rules and targets. Having clear, transparent fiscal rules and targets that a government communicates to the public and that the public understands can contribute to a culture of fiscal transparency and promote fiscal sustainability for the country. Source: GAO analysis of literature review and interviews. | GAO-20-561 Our nation faces serious challenges at a time when the federal government is highly leveraged in debt by historical norms. The imbalance between revenue and spending built into current law and policy have placed the nation on an unsustainable long-term fiscal path. Fiscal rules and targets can be used to help frame and control the overall results of spending and revenue decisions that affect the debt. GAO was asked to review fiscal rules and targets. This report (1) assesses the extent to which the federal government has taken action to contribute to long-term fiscal sustainability through fiscal rules and targets, and (2) identifies key considerations for designing, implementing, and enforcing fiscal rules and targets in the U.S. GAO compared current and former U.S. fiscal rules to literature on the effective use of rules and targets; reviewed CBO reports and relevant laws; and interviewed experts. GAO conducted case studies of national fiscal rules in Australia, Germany, and the Netherlands. Congress should consider establishing a long-term fiscal plan that includes fiscal rules and targets, such as a debt-to-GDP target, and weigh GAO's key considerations to ensure proper design, implementation, and enforcement of these rules and targets. The Department of the Treasury and other entities provided technical comments, which GAO incorporated as appropriate. For more information, contact Jeff Arkin, at (202) 512-6806 or arkinj@gao.gov.
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  • Secretary Blinken’s Meeting with Israeli Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid 
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  • Request Denied for Preliminary Injunction on the Administration’s Landmark New Regulations Implementing under the National Environmental Policy Act
    In Crime News
    On Friday, Sept. 11, Judge James T. Jones of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia denied a request for a preliminary injunction against the Administration’s landmark new regulations implementing under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which will modernize environmental review, enhance the information-gathering process, and facilitate more meaningful public participation in the protection of our environment. These regulations had not been subject to a major revision since 1978, when they were first promulgated, and they were in need of modernization to improve the infrastructure permitting process.
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  • U.S. Trustee Program Reaches Settlement with McKinsey and Company to Withdraw and Waive its Fees in the Westmoreland Coal Bankruptcy Case
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice’s U.S. Trustee Program (USTP) has entered into a settlement agreement with global consulting firm McKinsey & Company (McKinsey) requiring McKinsey to forego payment of fees in the Westmoreland Coal bankruptcy case pending in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas (Westmoreland Case). 
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    In Crime News
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  • Justice Department Reaches $1.6M Agreement to Remedy Title IX Violations at San José State University
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California announced a settlement with San José State University (SJSU) to ensure that students can attend school and participate in college athletics free from sexual harassment, including sexual assault. The department conducted its investigation under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX).
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  • Justice Department Sues Northern Alabama Housing Authority and Property Owners for Housing Discrimination on the Basis of Race
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department announced today that it has filed a lawsuit alleging that the Housing Authority of Ashland, Alabama, which manages seven federally funded low-income housing complexes, violated the Fair Housing Act by intentionally discriminating on the basis of race or color against applicants for housing.
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    In Crime Control and Security News
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    In Crime News
    A Washington man was sentenced today to 84 months, or seven years, in prison for his role in a plot to threaten and intimidate journalists and advocates who worked to expose anti-Semitism.
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  • National Nuclear Security Administration: Information on the Fiscal Year 2021 Budget Request and Affordability of Nuclear Modernization Activities
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Energy's (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is in the midst of a long-term effort to modernize the U.S. nuclear weapon stockpile and its supporting production infrastructure. NNSA's modernization plans and budgets are communicated to Congress on an annual basis primarily through two key documents—the Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan (SSMP) and DOE's budget justification—together referred to as NNSA's nuclear security budget materials. GAO reviewed four areas related to the affordability of NNSA's modernization activities as described in these budget materials: Funding for nuclear modernization activities. Congress funds NNSA's nuclear modernization activities through the Weapons Activities appropriation account, which falls under the National Defense budget function along with other NNSA, DOE, and Department of Defense (DOD) appropriations related to the common defense and security of the United States. Discretionary defense spending for fiscal year 2021 may not exceed a certain statutory limit, or else a sequestration—a cancellation of budgetary resources—would be triggered. Therefore, a proposed increase for a given program under the National Defense budget function may need to be offset by reductions in other defense programs to keep the defense budget within statutory spending limits. Comparison of modernization activities in budget materials for fiscal year 2021 and earlier. The proposed funding in DOE's fiscal year 2021 budget justification for NNSA's nuclear modernization activities for fiscal years 2021 through 2025 is about $81 billion, which is about $15 billion more (or about 23 percent greater) compared to NNSA's estimate for the same period in its fiscal year 2020 budget materials. The main factor contributing to this large increase in proposed funding for fiscal year 2021 was NNSA's reevaluation of the funding needed to meet existing requirements, rather than costs associated with new requirements outlined in the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review. Affordability discussion in the Fiscal Year 2020 SSMP. The Fiscal Year 2020 SSMP included a new section entitled, "Affordability Analysis." NNSA added this section in response to GAO's April 2017 recommendation that the agency include an assessment of its portfolio of modernization programs in future versions of the SSMP. The recommendation addressed a shortfall between NNSA's projected budget needs to meet program requirements and projections of the President's budget, a condition that could recur in the future. GAO found that NNSA's new section on affordability does not fully respond to its recommendation because the section does not provide information about how potential misalignment between NNSA's estimates of future modernization funding needs and projections of the President's modernization budgets may be addressed, or about the potential impacts of adjusting program schedules or cost or schedule overruns. Implications of potential New START expiration for modernization activities. New START is a treaty between the United States and Russia for the reduction and limitation of strategic offensive arms, and it will expire in February 2021 unless both parties agree to extend it for no more than 5 years. DOD is basing its plans on the assumption that New START will be extended, and it currently has no plans to change its force structure. NNSA similarly has not considered the implications of the potential expiration of New START on the assumptions underlying its overall program of record and future-years funding projections as described in the fiscal year 2021 budget justification. GAO was asked to review issues related to the affordability of NNSA's modernization activities as reflected in its nuclear security budget materials. DOE's fiscal year 2021 budget justification for NNSA includes a proposed $3.1 billion increase for nuclear modernization activities. The budget justification states that it supports the modernization efforts and the scientific tools necessary to execute the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review. Nuclear posture reviews are issued periodically to assess the global threat environment and establish policy on U.S. nuclear forces. For more information, contact Allison Bawden at (202) 512-3841 or bawdena@gao.gov.
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  • Syndemics and the Commitment to Quitting Equitably
    In Human Health, Resources and Services
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  • July 29, 2021, letter commenting on AICPA’s February 2021 Exposure Draft, “Proposed Statements on Quality Management Standards – Quality Management”
    In U.S GAO News
    This letter provides GAO's response to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) Auditing Standards Board's (ASB) Proposed Statement on Quality Management Standards – Quality Management: A Firm's System of Quality Management (SQMS No. 1); Proposed Statement on Quality Management Standards – Engagement Quality Reviews (SQMS No. 2); and Proposed Statement on Auditing Standards, Quality Management for an Engagement Conducted in Accordance with Generally Accepted Auditing Standards (QM SAS). GAO provides standards for performing high-quality audits of government organizations, programs, activities, and functions and of government assistance to contractors, nonprofit organizations, and other nongovernment organizations with competence, integrity, objectivity, and independence. These standards, often referred to as generally accepted government auditing standards (GAGAS), are to be followed when required by law, regulation, agreement, contract, or policy. For financial audits, GAGAS incorporates by reference the AICPA's Statements on Auditing Standards (SAS). For attestation engagements, GAGAS incorporates by reference the AICPA's Statements on Standards for Attestation Engagements.
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  • Former Alabama Correctional Supervisor Convicted for Allowing Inmate Abuse
    In Crime News
    After a three-day trial, a federal jury convicted former Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) shift commander Willie Burks, 42, of failing to stop an officer under his command from assaulting an inmate at ADOC’s Elmore Correctional Facility.
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  • COVID-19 Contracting: Indian Health Service Used Flexibilities to Meet Increased Medical Supply Needs
    In U.S GAO News
    Why This Matters The Indian Health Service (IHS) serves over 2 million American Indians and Alaska Natives. These groups have been disproportionately vulnerable to negative outcomes from COVID-19. During emergencies, federal contracting staff face pressure to work quickly to meet increased needs. We examined some of IHS's COVID-related contracts to see how the agency's efforts fared. Key Takeaways Despite facing challenges, including unprecedented demand for medical supplies, IHS was able to acquire needed products from a variety of vendors. IHS contract obligations for products, excluding prescription drugs, increased substantially during COVID-19 to address emergent needs for additional personal protective equipment, lab supplies, and more. Using emergency contracting flexibilities available under federal regulation, IHS bought personal protective equipment and other medical products in bulk awarded contracts noncompetitively used streamlined procedures for higher dollar contracts to obtain medical supplies faster However, we found that IHS contracting officers did not notice that some COVID-related supplies were delivered late. Officials attributed this oversight to the spike in volume as well as the urgency of procurements during a pandemic. Contracting officers are responsible for ensuring the terms of a contract are met—under normal circumstances and in emergency acquisitions. IHS officials told us that they began taking intermediate steps to improve tracking of products during 2020; the agency is currently obtaining new software to improve contractor oversight. IHS Contract Obligations Increased Substantially Due to COVID-19 How GAO Did This Study We analyzed relevant federal procurement data through June 30, 2021. We also reviewed four contracts—covering about 1/4 of obligations in IHS's largest product category (medical and surgical instruments, equipment, and supplies). We also interviewed IHS contracting officials. For more information, contact Marie A. Mak at (202) 512-4841 or makm@gao.gov.
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  • Aviation Consumer Protection: Increased Transparency Could Help Build Confidence in DOT’s Enforcement Approach
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Transportation's (DOT) enforcement approach generally uses a range of methods to encourage compliance with consumer protection regulations, including conducting outreach and information-sharing, issuing guidance, and sending non-punitive warning letters for those violations that do not rise to the level that warrants a consent order. DOT usually enters into consent orders when it has evidence of systematic or egregious violations. Such orders are negotiated between DOT and violators (e.g., airlines) and typically include civil penalties. DOT officials see benefits from using consent orders, which can include credits for actions taken to benefit consumers or to improve the travel environment. Annual consent orders increased from 20 in 2008 to 62 in 2012, but then generally declined to a low of eight in 2019. GAO's analysis showed that the decline in consent orders was most marked among those issued against non-air carrier entities (e.g., travel agents), those addressing certain types of violations such as advertising, and orders containing smaller civil penalty amounts. DOT officials said that the agency did not change its enforcement practices during this time. Examples of DOT's Compliance Promotion and Enforcement Efforts Airlines and consumer advocates GAO interviewed said that DOT's enforcement process lacked transparency, including into how investigations were conducted and resolved and about when and why DOT takes enforcement actions. Moreover, DOT publishes limited information related to the results of its enforcement activities, notably information about the number and type of consumer complaints it receives as well as issued consent orders. DOT does not publish other information such as aggregated data about the number or nature of open and closed investigations or issued warning letters. DOT is taking some actions to increase transparency, such as developing a publicly available handbook, but none of those actions appears to fully address the identified information gaps such as information about the results of investigations. Some other federal agencies provide more information about enforcement activities, including publishing warning letters or data about such letters. Publishing additional information about how DOT conducts investigations and enforcement, and about the results of enforcement activities, could improve stakeholders' understanding of DOT's process and help build confidence in its approach. Consumer advocates, airlines, and other stakeholders have raised concerns about how DOT enforces aviation consumer protection requirements. DOT has the authority to enforce requirements protecting consumers against unfair and deceptive practices, discrimination on the basis of disability or other characteristics, and other harms. The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 contained a provision for GAO to review DOT's enforcement of consumer protection requirements. This report examines: (1) DOT's approach to the enforcement of aviation consumer protections and the results of its efforts, and (2) selected stakeholder views on this approach and steps DOT has taken to address identified concerns. GAO reviewed DOT data on consent orders and consumer complaints; reviewed other DOT documentation related to its enforcement program; interviewed DOT officials and selected industry and consumer stakeholders, including advocacy organizations, which we identified from prior work and a literature review; and identified leading practices for regulatory enforcement. GAO is making two recommendations, including: that DOT publish information describing the process it uses to enforce consumer protections, and that DOT take additional steps to provide transparency into the results of its efforts. DOT concurred with these recommendations. For more information, contact Andrew Von Ah at (202) 512-2834 or vonaha@gao.gov.
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    In Crime Control and Security News
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