QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thank you for being with Bloomberg.
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s great to be with you.
QUESTION: The situation in Iran has appeared to be escalating in recent weeks, the U.S. shooting down at least one drone, Iran seizing a British-flagged oil tanker. Is the situation getting back on track or is it still intensifying?
SECRETARY POMPEO: You know, it’s always important to remember the history. This seems like escalation because there’s been stories in the news, but this is 40 years, 40 years of malign behavior. So whether it was seizing a British tanker that was in international waters or shooting down an American UAV that was also in international airspace, or assassination campaigns in Europe or trying to kill an ambassador here in the United States, Iran has this long history of malign behavior.
So our mission set when we came in was to create as much stability in the Middle East as we could. We watched Iran engaging in this behavior. We had a terrible deal that the previous administration had entered into that had as one of its major side effects creating enormous wealth for the leadership inside of the Islamic Republic of Iran. And they were using that wealth in malign ways. So we broke out of the deal, we stopped giving them money, we put pressure on the Iranian regime, and we’re forcing them to make tough decisions about how they’re going to behave. We want change in behavior from the Iranian leadership so that the Iranian people can ultimately get what it is they deserve.
QUESTION: So how do you get that change in behavior when Foreign Minister Zarif, who was in New York the other day, is saying that the sanctions are going to quote-unquote “backfire?” What – how do you get that change in behavior?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, I mean, Foreign Minister Zarif is no more in charge of what’s going on in Iran than the man in the moon. At the end of the day, this is driven by the ayatollah. He will be the ultimate decision maker here. The IRGC, Qasem Soleimani has the capacity to do all of this activity that you’re talking about, all this seizure of ships and the bad behavior in the straits and the malign activity is all driven by this IRGC, this Qods Force leader. Those are the two that are the decision maker. Those are the people upon whom we’re trying to apply sufficient pressure to show them that the cost just isn’t worth it, to convince them that if they simply behave like a normal nation that the Iranian people can live normal lives.
QUESTION: Would you go to Tehran?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Sure, if that’s the call, happily go there.
QUESTION: Would you appear on Tehran television?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I would welcome the chance to speak directly to the Iranian people. I’ve talked about this before. Zarif gets to come here, he comes to New York, he drives around in the most wonderful city in America, and the – and he speaks to the media, he talks to the American public, gets to put Iranian propaganda out into the American airwaves. I’d like a chance to go not do propaganda, but speak the truth to the Iranian people about what it is their leadership has done and how it has harmed Iran. I think the reason they won’t permit that to happen is because they know the truth as well.
QUESTION: In terms of the economics of this situation, especially as it pertains to oil in particular, the U.S. recently – you issued sanctions against the state-run energy company Zhuhai Zhenrong for violating and doing business with Iran. Are you concerned about other nations, even potentially U.S. allies, still doing business with Iran in the oil market?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So the sanctions that we’ve put in place apply to everyone – equal opportunity with respect to our command. That is, thou shalt not create wealth for the ayatollah and the people who are killing others around the world. And so this happened to be a Chinese vessel. We have a pretty good bead on where these ships are moving around. We haven’t seen our allies and partners – they have all agreed to cooperate with this sanctions regime. But wherever we find violations, we will do our level best to enforce them completely and thoroughly.
QUESTION: Speaking of sanctions, Senator Lindsey Graham just saying, within the last few hours, to Defense One, that he called the Turkish foreign minister and said if you don’t activate the S-400, that sanctions won’t be applied. Is that the position of the administration?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’m not going to talk about internal deliberations. We’re all working – everyone’s working together to do our best. We’ve made clear to the Turks that the activation of the S-400 is unacceptable. We’ve already taken the action of curtailing the F-35 program that was an important part of what Turkey was doing. There could be more sanctions to follow, bur frankly what we’d really like is the S-400 not to become operational. That’s our objective. It’s what we’ve been talking to the Turks about for months and months. We’ve told them that it’s simply incompatible with the F-35. They’ve taken delivery of some of the components today, and we’re urging them to reconsider that decision.
QUESTION: I mean, there’s so much going on around the world. I mean, coming up with these questions, there’s literally like hot pockets all around the world. Just within the last 24 hours, the North Koreans test-firing two new short-range ballistic missiles on Thursday. How does this impact the denuclearization talks with Kim Jong-un?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Look, everybody tries to get ready for negotiations and create leverage, and create risk for the other side. President Trump has been incredibly consistent here. We want diplomacy to work. We want Chairman Kim to deliver on the promise that he made to President Trump, that he would denuclearize. I was there the day they signed the document. I’ve had Chairman Kim tell me this personally no less than half a dozen times. We remain convinced that there’s a diplomatic way forward, a negotiated solution to this. We look forward to the opportunity. Chairman Kim told President Trump that he would send his working team to negotiate with ours.
QUESTION: Next week, right?
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’ll be in a couple weeks, I anticipate. Everybody’s got to get schedules right. Everyone – more importantly than the date, if we wait two weeks or four weeks or six weeks to make sure that we’ve had enough conversations so that there can be productive dialogue when the teams get together, that’s the real objective. If it takes us another two weeks or four weeks, so be it.
QUESTION: And the situation that – we alluded to China, but these protests in Hong Kong – the Hong Kong authorities have rejected a request by protesters to take the streets on Saturday. I mean, are you concerned about China’s military intervening in Hong Kong?
SECRETARY POMPEO: President I think captured it right when he said that we need China to do the right thing. We hope that they’ll do that. We hope that the protests will remain peaceful. We think that’s important, to avoid violence wherever there are protesters. We always think that’s in the world’s best interest, and that’s certainly the case here as well.
QUESTION: It is so interconnected with China, whether it’s North Korea or whether it’s U.S.-China trade talks. Just this week with Boris Johnson assuming power – I saw what you tweeted out just this afternoon about you’re hoping that you’ll be able to work with Boris Johnson on U.S. initiatives. I’m curious if you think that his government and his policies will be perhaps more in line with the Trump administration on something like Huawei.
SECRETARY POMPEO: I think so. We’ll see. Only time will tell. They’re still – I spoke with my counterpart, Dominic Raab, just a couple hours back. He’s busy. He’s still getting briefed up and making sure that he’s ready, but we talked about that, and we talked about the importance of these two democracies working together. I think we’ll find that there’s a very good working relationship there, but I’d say this: We already work together on most things. We work together on large segments of the Iran file as well. Everybody talks about the differences – they’ve stayed in the deal, we got out – but there’s large pieces of the pressure campaign against Iran that the United Kingdom understands, and there’s a lot of places we work together on making sure that their ships are secure. I’m confident that we will work together. These are places where democracies share a set of overlapping values and interests, and I’m looking forward to – when the prime minister gets his feet on the ground, I’m looking forward to having a chance to chat with him and his foreign secretary so that we can deliver on behalf of these two important democracies.
QUESTION: And in terms of so many of these sanctions and so many of these specific targets, earlier today I believe it was just announced that there were penalties against another Venezuelan for more corruption in the dictator Maduro’s regime. Why was that important?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So we add to the list of individuals in Venezuela who are sanctioned nearly every week. We try and find the right entities, the right people. In this case, it was a group of individuals this week that we have sanctioned. Our aim is really very clear, right – you come back to first principles. The first principle there is Maduro is not the duly elected leader. Juan Guaido is the duly elected interim president there in Venezuela. We want Maduro to leave so that there can be free and fair elections with the ultimate goal of ensuring that there is democracy and freedom in Venezuela. For that to happen, the Cubans have to leave. You can’t have a couple thousand Cuban intelligence and military officials in the country running the security apparatus and have the Venezuelan people flourish.
That’s our mission set. These sanctions are not aimed at the Venezuelan people but indeed just the opposite: They’re aimed at benefiting the Venezuelan people.
QUESTION: And American companies have interests there and security risks there. Chevron, for example – they’ve been in Venezuela I believe for like a hundred years. They’ve got a waiver that could expire. You have to make a decision about whether or not this waiver is going to expire on Saturday, about whether or not to partner with Venezuela’s oil company. Can you give us any inkling as to what that decision will be?
SECRETARY POMPEO: No. (Laughter.) The President will ultimately make an announcement, but I’m – I’ve been part of the conversations. Here in the next few days you’ll get a chance to see precisely what the President decided. Remember, again, though – come back to the first principle. What is it we’re trying to do? We’re trying to ensure that there aren’t wealth and resources that are getting into the pocket of Maduro and his cronies and flowing to the Cubans. That’s the objective. Where we make a decision on a license or a particular sanction or a particular designation of an individual, those are all aimed to support the strategy, which is the ultimate beacon for our direction.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, my final question for you: I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you just in this political – the political lens, there’s a lot of speculation, Mr. Secretary, about your political future. Perhaps maybe I will be interviewing you as Senator Pompeo. Is that something – is that a title you would maybe like to have one day?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Really happy doing what I’m doing. The speculation’s coming from places other than me. I have – I’ve made clear I’m the Secretary of State and I’m very focused on that.
QUESTION: Secretary Mike Pompeo, I appreciate interviewing in the Ben Franklin room of the State Department.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you very much. Yeah, it’s beautiful. Thank you very much. Thanks for the interview.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. I appreciate your time. Thank you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, sir. Thank you for your time.