January 22, 2022

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Secretary Michael R. Pompeo with Taher Baraka of Al-Arabiya

13 min read

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

QUESTION:  Thank you for joining us, Mr. Secretary of State.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Great to be with you.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  In regards to the Middle East peace process with more countries forging into peace deals with or agreements with Israel, are there more countries to come anytime soon?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So I’m very confident that other nations will join what the Emiratis have done, the Bahrainis have done, the Sudanese have done, and recognize the rightful place of Israel among nations.  So yes, I’m very confident.  They’ll do it because it’s the right thing to do for their nation, because it’ll increase prosperity and security for their country.  None of that could have happened without American leadership, without American engagement, without America laying down the reality of the risks in the Middle East, the mess from the Islamic Republic of Iran primarily —

QUESTION:  What does “confidence” mean, Mr. Secretary?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  They know we’re engaged.  We’re engaged in ways that previous administrations weren’t.

QUESTION:  So they’re going to do that soon?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  They’ll do it on their own timing.  They’ll do it when they think it’s in the best interest of each of their nations to do it.  We don’t set timelines.  We didn’t set timelines, we didn’t set —

QUESTION:  Even toward the last days of Trump’s administration — 

SECRETARY POMPEO:  We didn’t set timelines —

QUESTION:  — President Trump’s administration?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  We didn’t set timelines for the previous nations.  We won’t set timelines for these.  What we will do is we will set the conditions.  Right.  Previously, administrations said, boy, if you don’t solve the problem between Israel and the Palestinians, nothing can move.  We must all hate Israel.  That’s wrong.  That was fundamentally wrong.  It didn’t recognize the reality.  The reality is that now the Gulf states and Israel recognize they have a common threat from Iran, that in fact while we would love for the Palestinians to engage with Israel, they have chosen not to.  Their leadership has rejected President Trump’s vision for peace —

QUESTION:  Don’t you think that’s changing in the last days —

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So these nations will choose —

QUESTION:  — the Palestinian approach?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  — to join the Abraham Accords at the time that makes sense for their security and their prosperity.  I’m confident that they will do that.

QUESTION:  Do you think the Palestinian approach – do you think the Palestinian approach changed the last days with the meetings with the Israelis or not yet?  Not enough?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So the Palestinian leadership has not yet chosen to engage in a serious way to say the vision for peace is a good starting point for a discussion around which we can find common ground.  There’ll be places we disagree and conflict, but we can get to a solution that makes life better – more freedom, more prosperity for the people of – for the Palestinian people, including those in Gaza.

QUESTION:  You just said you are confident other countries will come anytime soon in the peace agreements with Israel.  Are we talking about even if this will take place in the last days of President Trump’s administration?  I get back to my old question.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I don’t know when they’ll make that decision.  Could be today.  Could be tomorrow.  Could be next week.

QUESTION:  Do you think they still interested to do it after the elections?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  They’re interested because it’s the right thing for their country.  This isn’t about American elections.  This is about American engagement, American leadership, and the recognition that the United States will continue to assist them in a way that provides security and freedom for the American people.  And when we do that, when America is a force for good throughout the world, including in the Middle East, other nations will want to come alongside of us and they’ll make the right choices, including the choice — 

QUESTION:  How many countries?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  — to partner with Israel for their prosperity.

QUESTION:  How many countries are we talking about here?  Two, three, four (inaudible)?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Each – every country that wants – every country that wants a better situation for their own people will come along to recognize Israel.

QUESTION:  Moving on to our second topic, Mr. Secretary, lately you’ve told the press in Israel that all options are on the table regarding how to deal with Iran from now on.  So we can say that even the military option is still on the table after the American elections and after President Trump’s supposedly loss in the elections?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yes.  Our policy has been consistent for the entire time that President Trump’s been in office.  It hasn’t changed a bit.  We’ve delivered on every commitment that we’ve made to countries throughout the Middle East.  We’ve protected Americans.  We’ve built up partners who want to be on America’s side, who want to partner with the United States of America.  There’s no reason to think that’ll change while President Trump’s in office.

QUESTION:  But you know with the transitional period, usually in the United States it’s been said that no president would take such an action in the last days in office.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Our policies don’t change.  Our duty doesn’t change.  My responsibilities don’t change.  I still have an obligation every hour, every minute, to defend the American people and to keep them foremost in our efforts, and we’ll do that.  We’ll do that till the very last minute.

QUESTION:  So what is the redline?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Redline for what?

QUESTION:  Iran.  The Iranian regime, what is the redline?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I don’t understand the question.

QUESTION:  What is the redline for the Iranian regime, that you have a redline, you tell them, if you do this, we’d strike or not?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Our policy has been consistent.  We’re working to build out a coalition, which we have successfully done.  It’s part of a larger Middle East strategy that recognized that we had to defeat the caliphate in Syria and Iraq.  We did that.  We built out a coalition and we crushed the caliphate in its entirety.  We built a coalition that said that Iran is the central threat inside of the region.  Then we built out a campaign that denied the regime the resources to underwrite Lebanese Hizballah, the Shia militias in Iraq, all the nasty work that they’ve done inside of Syria.  And we’ve brought partners alongside of us in each of those efforts.  It’s been our policy since we withdrew from the JCPOA back in May of 2018, and it’ll be our policy till our time is complete.

QUESTION:  Does the United States consider staging attacks against Iranian-backed militias in the Middle East and Lebanon and Iraq and Syria and Yemen?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  We never disclose what we’re talking about or what we’re planning.  What we have said consistently is this – and with respect to Iraq in particular – is that we want a free, independent Iraq.  You can see it.  You can see it in the protests in Iraq.  What do they want?  They want freedom.  They want independence.  They don’t want to be under the jackboot of the Islamic Republic of Iran.  And so we have been in Iraq to do two things:  to defeat the caliphate, which we are now complete with, to continue our effort to make sure that ISIS doesn’t arise again and pose risk to the American people; and second, we’re working to help build out Prime Minister Kadhimi and his team so that they can be free, independent, and sovereign in exactly the way the Iraqi people are demanding.

QUESTION:  Are you going to impose more actions on Iran or Iranian militias or their allies in the Middle East?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  We never get out in front of announcing a policy decision.  When we have something to announce, we’ll do that.

QUESTION:  But Mr. Secretary, what is stopping the USA from listing the Houthi militias on the terror list?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  We are always reviewing precisely the way to conduct our efforts.  That includes our economic pressure campaign.  It includes our diplomatic outreach.  It certainly includes whether we’re going to designate an individual or particular group.  Those issues are constantly under review, not only with respect to things in the Middle East but actions that the Chinese Communist Party is taking in Hong Kong and in Xinjiang.  This is part of an ongoing effort by the United States.  We’re still at it.

QUESTION:  Which might be coming soon – last question – putting Houthi militia on the terror list?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  We are constantly reviewing all of our efforts, including who and how we might designate a particular individual or group.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for your time.  I really appreciate it.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Great.  Thank you.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Have a good day.

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