Well, thank you, Fred,
for that kind introduction. It reminded me when I was going through my
confirmation process they were chasing down all the people I’d known my
whole life, and they found one of the young men who played basketball
with me at Los Amigos, and his quote was -- they asked how good I was.
And he said, “Well, he made the most of what he had.”
Thanks for the kind introduction and thanks for hosting me here at the
Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation
and Library. It’s a very special
place and an honor for me to be here.
I also want to thank my friend Tom for joining me here tonight. He and I
have been on multiple missions together, and I am confident we will
continue to do so in the days and weeks and years ahead.
And it’s great to see
Governor Wilson here. I voted for you a couple
times a long time ago.
And I know we have many members of the Iranian American community with
us this evening. This is just a fraction of the quarter million Iranian
Americans in Southern California alone. We have many Iranian American
guests from all across the United States here as well. Thank you. I look
forward to hearing from you this evening, learning more about the
situation in Iran as you see it, and understanding what your loved ones
and friends are going through living in that place.
And I recognize the Iranian diaspora is diverse. There are many faith
backgrounds and many different walks of life, and that’s a good thing,
and not all Iranian Americans see things the same way. But I think
everyone can agree that the regime in Iran has been a nightmare for the
Iranian people, and it is important that your unity on that point is not
diminished by differences elsewhere.
To our Iranian American and -- to our Iranian American friends, tonight
I want to tell you that the Trump Administration dreams the same dreams
for the people of Iran as you do, and through our labors and God’s
providence that day will come true.
Next year will mark the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in
Iran. As I’ll spell out more in a moment, the 40 years of fruit from the
revolution has been bitter. Forty years of kleptocracy. Forty years of
the people’s wealth squandered on supporting terrorism. Forty years of
ordinary Iranians thrown in jail for peaceful expression of their
rights. Why has the regime conducted itself in such an abhorrent way
over the past 40 years and subjected its people to these conditions?
It’s an important question.
The answer is at root in the revolutionary nature of the regime itself.
The ideologues who forcibly came to power in 1979 and remain in power
today are driven by a desire to conform all of Iranian society to the
tenets of the Islamic Revolution. The regime is also committed to
spreading the revolution to other countries, by force if necessary. The
total fulfillment of the revolution at home and abroad is the regime’s
ultimate goal. It drives their behavior. Thus, the regime has spent four
decades mobilizing all elements of the Iranian economy, foreign policy,
and political life in service of that objective. To the regime,
prosperity, security, and freedom for the Iranian people are acceptable
casualties in the march to fulfill the revolution.
Economically, we see how the regime’s decision to prioritize an
ideological agenda over the welfare of the Iranian people has put Iran
into a long-term economic tailspin. During the time of the nuclear deal,
Iran’s increased oil revenues could have gone to improving the lives of
the Iranian people. Instead they went to terrorists, dictators, and
proxy militias. Today, thanks to regime subsidies, the average Hizballah
combatant makes two to three times what an Iranian firefighter makes on
the streets of Iran. Regime mismanagement has led to the rial plummeting
in value. A third of Iranian youth are unemployed, and a third of
Iranians now live below the poverty line.
The bitter irony of the economic situation in Iran is that the regime
uses this same time to line its own pockets while its people cry out for
jobs and reform and for opportunity. The Iranian economy is going great
-- but only if you’re a politically-connected member of the elite. Two
years ago, Iranians rightfully erupted in anger when leaked paystubs
showed massive amounts of money inexplicably flowing into the bank
accounts of senior government officials.
And there are many more examples of the widespread corruption.
Sadeq Larijani, the head of Iran’s judiciary. He is worth at least
$300 million dollars. He got this money from embezzling public funds
into his own bank account. The Trump Administration sanctioned Larijani
in January for human rights abuses, because we aren’t afraid to tackle
the regime at its highest level. Call me crazy -- you won’t be the first
-- but I’m a little skeptical that a thieving thug under international
sanctions is the right man to be Iran’s highest-ranking judicial
Former IRGC officer and
Minister of Interior Sadeq Mahsouli is nicknamed
“the Billionaire General.” He went from being a poor IRGC officer at the
end of the Iran-Iraq war to being worth billions of dollars. How’d that
happen? He somehow had a knack for winning lucrative construction and
oil trading contracts from businesses associated with the IRGC. Being an
old college buddy of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad just might have had something
to do with it as well.
The ayatollahs are in on the act, too. Judging by their vast wealth,
they seem more concerned with riches than religion. These hypocritical
holy men have devised all kinds of crooked schemes to become some of the
wealthiest men on Earth while their people suffer.
Grand Ayatollah Makaram Shirazi is known as the “Sultan of Sugar” for
his illicit trading of sugar, which has generated over $100 million for
him. He has pressured the Iranian Government to lower subsidies to
domestic sugar producers while he floods the market with his own more
expensive imported sugar. This type of activity puts ordinary Iranians
out of work.
Another ayatollah, one of Tehran’s Friday prayer leaders for the last 30
years, had the government transfer several lucrative mines to his
foundation. He too is now worth millions of dollars.
And not many people know this, but the
Ayatollah Khamenei has his own
personal, off-the-books hedge fund called the Setad, worth $95 billion,
with a B. That wealth is untaxed, it is ill-gotten, and it is used as a
slush fund for the IRGC. The ayatollah fills his coffers by devouring
whatever he wants. In 2013 the Setad’s agents banished an 82-year-old
Baha’i woman from her apartment and confiscated the property after a
long campaign of harassment. Seizing land from religious minorities and
political rivals is just another day at the office for this juggernaut
that has interests in everything from real estate to telecoms to ostrich
farming. All of it is done with the blessing of Ayatollah Khamenei.
This list goes on, but we’ve got places to go tonight. The level of
corruption and wealth among Iranian leaders shows that Iran is run by
something that resembles the mafia more than a government.
On foreign policy, the regime’s mission of exporting the revolution has
produced a decades-long campaign of ideologically-motivated violence and
destabilization abroad. Assad, Lebanese Hizballah, Hamas, Shia militant
groups in Iraq, and the Houthis in Yemen feed on billions of regime cash
while the Iranian people shout slogans like “Leave Syria, think about
Our partners in the Middle East are plagued by Iranian cyberattacks and
threatening behavior in the waters of the Persian Gulf. The regime and
its allies in terror have left a trail of dissident blood across Europe
and the Middle East.
Indeed, our European allies are not immune to the threat of
Just earlier this month, an Iranian “diplomat” based in Vienna was
arrested and charged with supplying explosives for a terrorist bomb
scheduled to bomb a political rally in France. This tells you everything
you need to know about the regime: At the same time they’re trying to
convince Europe to stay in the nuclear deal, they’re covertly plotting
terrorist attacks in the heart of Europe.
And because fighting the United States and destroying Israel is at the
core of the regime’s ideology, it has committed and supported many acts
of violence and terrorism against both countries and our citizens. As
just one example, well over a thousand American service members have
been killed and wounded in Iraq from Iranian-made IEDs.
Today, multiple Americans are detained and missing inside of Iran.
Xiyue Wang are unjustly held by the regime
to this day, and
Bob Levinson has been missing in Iran for over 11
years. There are others, too. And we in the Trump Administration are
working diligently to bring each of those Americans home from having
been wrongfully detained for far too long.
[Shouting.] President Trump imprisons children. The Trump-Pence regime
is kidnapping children. Trump and Pence --
Secretary Pompeo: Despite
-- despite the regime’s --
Audience Member: [Shouting
Audience: USA, USA, USA,
USA, USA, USA, USA, USA, USA, USA.
Secretary Pompeo: Thank
Audience Member: [Shouting
Secretary Pompeo: If there
were -- if there were only so much freedom of expression in Iran.
You know, despite the regime’s clear record of aggression, America and
other countries have spent years straining to identify a political
moderate. It’s like an Iranian unicorn. The regime’s revolutionary
goals and willingness to commit violent acts haven’t produced anyone to
lead Iran that can be remotely called a moderate or a statesman.
Some believe that
President Rouhani and
Foreign Minister Zarif fit that
bill. The truth is they are merely polished front men for the
ayatollahs’ international con artistry. Their nuclear deal didn’t make
them moderates; it made them wolves in sheep’s clothing. Governments
around the world worry that confronting the Islamic Republic harms the
cause of moderates, but these so-called moderates within the regime are
still violent Islamic revolutionaries with an anti-America, anti-West
agenda. You only have to take their own words for it. And for that
matter, the evidence reveals that their agenda is a anti-Iran agenda as
The regime’s absolute adherence to the Islamic Revolution mean it cannot
endure any ideas in the Iranian society that would contradict or
undermine it -- unlike we just did here this evening. It’s why the
regime has for decades heartlessly repressed its own people’s human
rights, dignity, and fundamental freedoms.
It’s why the Iranian police detained a teenage Iranian gymnast for
posting an Instagram video of herself dancing.
It’s why the regime arrests hundreds of
Ahwazis, members of Iran’s
minority Arab community, when they speak out to demand respect for their
language and for their basic beliefs. The government’s morality police
beat women in the streets and arrest those who do not wish to wear the
On “White Wednesday” activist recently -- one activist was recently
sentenced to 20 years in prison for protesting compulsory hijab wearing.
The desire to uphold the Islamic Revolution has especially resulted in
gross suppression of the freedom of religion in Iran, often to barbaric
Last month, a simple man, a bus driver, a father of two children, and a
member of the
Iranian Gonabadi Sufi Dervish Community, was convicted and
sentenced to death. His sentence came on questionable grounds following
violent clashes between security forces and the Dervishes. He was
reportedly denied access to a lawyer before, during -- before and during
his grossly unfair trial. This man, Mr. Salas -- and his supporters --
maintains his innocence throughout, reportedly stating he had been
tortured into a forced confession. Sadly, on June 18th,
hanged Mr. Salas in prison.
His death was part of a larger crackdown that began in February, when at
least 300 Sufis demanding the release of their fellow faith members were
unjustly arrested. Right now,
hundreds of Sufi Muslims in Iran remain
imprisoned on account of their religious beliefs, with reports of
several having died at the hands of the regime’s brutal security forces.
Among those imprisoned is the 91-year-old leader, Dr.
Noor Ali Tabandeh,
who has been under house arrest for at least the last part of four
months -- the greatest part of four months. He is in need of immediate
The religious intolerance of the regime in Iran does not only extend to
Sufi Muslims. The same goes for Christians and Jews and Sunnis and
Baha’is and Zoroastrians and members of many other groups inside Iran
who live with the fear that their next prayer may be indeed their last.
What grieves us so badly about the treatment of religious minorities in
Iran is that their presence far pre-dates the regime. They are a
historic part of the rich fabric of an ancient and vibrant Iranian
civilization. That fabric has been torn by intolerant, black-robed
enforcers. When other faiths are suppressed, the image of Iran becomes a
self-portrait of the ayatollahs and of the IRGC.
In response to myriad government failures, corruption, and disrespect of
rights, since December Iranians have been taking to the streets in the
most enduring and forceful protests since 1979. Some shout the slogan,
“The people are paupers while the mullahs live like gods.” Others choose
to shut down the Grand Bazaar in Tehran. The specific grievances do
differ, but all those voicing dissatisfaction share one thing: They have
been ill-treated by a revolutionary regime. Iranians want to be governed
with dignity, accountability, and respect.
The regime -- this is important. The regime’s brutal response to these
peaceful protests reflects the intolerance that its revolutionary
worldview has produced. Last January, the regime welcomed in the new
year with the arrests of up to 5,000 of its own people. They were
peacefully calling for a better life. Hundreds reportedly remain behind
bars, and several are dead at the hands of their own government. The
leaders cynically call it suicide.
Overall, it is clear the regime’s ideology has led many Iranians to be
angry they cannot call their homeland a “normal” country.
They know that a constitution that enshrines the export of Islamic
revolution and the destruction of its neighbors and the restriction of
citizenship is not normal.
Ordinary Iranians know that their government’s torture of its own people
is not normal.
Earning multiple rounds of sanctions by the UN Security Council is not
Inciting chants of “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” is not
Being the number one state sponsor of terror is similarly abnormal.
Sometimes it seems the world has become desensitized to the regime’s
authoritarianism at home and its campaigns of violence abroad, but the
proud Iranian people are not staying silent about their government’s
And the United States under President Trump will not stay silent either.
In light of these protests and 40 years of regime tyranny, I have a
message for the people of Iran: The United States hears you; the United
States supports you; the United States is with you.
When the United States sees the shoots of liberty pushing up through
rocky soil we pledge our solidarity, because we too took a hard first
step towards becoming a free country a few years back.
Right now, the United States is undertaking a diplomatic and financial
pressure campaign to cut off the funds that the regime uses to enrich
itself and support death and destruction. We have an obligation to put
maximum pressure on the regime’s ability to generate and move money, and
we will do so.
At the center of this campaign is the re-imposition of sanctions on
Iran’s banking and energy sectors.
As we have explained over the last few weeks, our focus is to work with
countries importing Iranian crude oil to get imports as close to zero as
possible by November 4th. Zero.
Recently -- Recently, as part of this campaign, we designated the
Bahraini Shia militia terrorist organization
Saraya al-Ashtar, and with
the UAE we have jointly disrupted a currency exchange network that was
transferring millions of dollars to the IRGC.
And there’s more to come. Regime leaders -- especially those at the top
of the IRGC and the Quds Force like
Qasem Soleimani -- must be made to
feel painful consequences of their bad decision making. We are asking
every nation, every nation who is sick and tired of the Islamic
Republic’s destructive behavior, to join our pressure campaign. This
especially goes for our allies in the Middle East and Europe, people who
have themselves been terrorized by violent regime’s activity for
And you should know that the United States is not afraid to spread our
message on the airwaves and online inside of Iran either. For 40 years
the Iranian people have heard from their leaders that America is the
“Great Satan.” We do not believe they are interested in hearing the fake
news any longer.
Today, one in four Iranians -- 14 million people -- watches or listens
to U.S. Government broadcasts each week. And it’s more important than
ever now to refute the regime’s lies and repeat our deep desire for
friendship with the Iranian people. Right now, our U.S. Board --
Broadcasting Board of Governors is taking new steps to help Iranians get
around internet censorship as well. The BBG is also launching a new 24/7
Farsi-language TV channel.1
It will span not only television, but radio,
digital, and social media format, so that the ordinary Iranians inside
of Iran and around the globe can know that America stands with them.
And finally -- and finally, America is unafraid to expose human rights
violations and support those who are being silenced.
We continue to raise our concerns over the Islamic Republic’s dire
record of human rights abuses each time we speak at the UN and with our
partners who maintain diplomatic relations with that country. We make it
clear that the world is watching, and as the regime continues to make
its own people the longest-suffering victims, we will not stand silent.
And now we call on everyone here in the audience and our international
partners to help us shine a spotlight on the regime’s abuses and to
support the Iranian people.
The goal of our efforts is to one day see Iranians in Iran enjoying the
same quality of life that Iranians in America enjoy.
Iranians in America enjoy all the freedoms secured by their government,
not trampled by it. They are free to pursue economic opportunities they
believe are best for them and their families, and they can be proud of
their country and practice their faiths in the way they desire.
There are a few individuals with us I want to highlight tonight who
embody what we hope for the Iranian people.
Goli Ameri came to the United States as a freshman at Stanford and has
founded successful companies and has served at the State Department and
at the UN.
Susan Azizzadeh was forced to leave everything behind and come here in
1979. Today she is the leader of the Iranian American Jewish Federation.
Makan Delrahim -- I think I saw him -- came to America with his family
when he was just 10 years old. He is now the Assistant Attorney General
at the Department of Justice -- quite amazing.
We hope that the successes of Goli and Susan and Makan and the many
others American -- Iranian Americans among the diaspora in the United
States remind all Iranians of what is possible under a government that
respects its people and governs with accountability. Iranians should not
have to flee their homeland to find a better life.
While it is ultimately up to the Iranian people to determine the
direction of their country, the United States, in the spirit of our own
freedoms, will support the long-ignored voice of the Iranian people. Our
hope is that ultimately the regime will make meaningful changes in its
behavior both inside of Iran and globally. As President Trump has said,
we’re willing to talk with the regime in Iran, but relief from American
pressure will come only when we see tangible, demonstrated, and
sustained shifts in Tehran’s policies.
I thought I’d close tonight in a perfectly appropriate way by invoking
the words of a man who routinely made the case for freedom and respect
far more eloquently than I ever could, President Ronald Reagan. In 1982
-- In 1982, President Reagan gave a speech to the British Parliament
that became known as the Westminster address. He urged other Western
governments to support those around the world trying to break free of
tyranny and injustice. His reason why was simple and powerful. He said,
“Freedom is not the sole prerogative of a lucky few, but the inalienable
right and universal right of every human being.”
This is why we also call on all governments to end their flirtations
with a revolutionary regime and come quickly to the aid of the Iranian
people. On that same day in those same remarks, President Reagan said,
“Let us ask ourselves: ‘What kind of people do we think we are?’ And let
us answer, ‘Free people, worthy of freedom, and determined not only to
remain so, but to help others gain their freedom as well.’”
Today, the United States condemns oppression levied on the Iranian
people by those who rule unjustly, and we proudly amplify the voices of
those in Iran longing to have those inalienable and universal human
rights cease to be ignored and instead to be honored. We do so knowing
that many in the streets and marketplaces speak for those who the regime
has permanently silenced over the years -- who may even have been loved
ones who are in the audience tonight.
It’s America’s hope that the next 40 years of Iran’s history will not be
marked by repression and fear -- but with freedom and fulfillment -- for
the Iranian people.
you’ve answered all the questions.
Secretary Pompeo: We’ll
take another swing. Thank you.
Wilson: Well, Mr.
Secretary, I had some questions for you, but you actually answered
almost all of them quite eloquently.
Secretary Pompeo: We’ll
see if I can give the same answer when I’m not -- got remarks in front
Wilson: Well, let
me just start with this one. Is it realistic to think that the Iranian
people will ever regain control of their country in what we would term
the foreseeable future?
Secretary Pompeo: Of
course. Well, of course. Of course. I always remind those who think it’s
not possible or think the time horizon will be measured in centuries not
hours, I always remind them that things change. There are disjunctive
moments. There are times when things happen that are unexpected,
unanticipated. Our revolution would be one of them. I could go on. You
all could name them, too.
We don’t know the right moment. We don’t know the day that the behavior
of the Iranian regime will change. But we do know the things that the
world is obligated to do so that when the right time comes, when the
right moment comes, that opportunity is even more likely to find its
Wilson: Would you
synthesize your excellent speech and really in a few words say what you
think the best way to effect that change within the Iranian Government
is and how the Trump Administration is helping the Iranian people in
their struggle to become freed from this current tyrannical
Secretary Pompeo: So
President Trump has been absolutely unequivocal on this not only in the
message but in the fact that this is a real priority for the
Administration as well. I think that’s important. One could have a
objective, but if one doesn’t rank it sufficiently high attention spans
are short and resources limited. The President has put this as something
he considers to be incredibly important.
The mission set for our team is clear. It’s to deny the Iranian
leadership the resources, the wealth, the funds, the capacity to
continue to foment terrorism around the world and to deny the people
inside of Iran the freedoms that they so richly deserve. How’s that in
pretty good. There is a perception among some that Iranians, including
students and including legitimate visitors, can’t obtain U.S. visas
because of a travel ban. Would you clarify what U.S. policy is regarding
what we will call Iranian civil society visitors?
Secretary Pompeo: Sure,
I’d be happy to do that. So President Trump has made clear with respect
to a number of countries that weren’t providing us with sufficient
information that we had risks of American security that we were going to
do our best to work with those countries to develop the information that
we needed. Iran continues to deny us the basic data-sharing systems that
hundreds of countries -- or, excuse me, dozens and dozens of countries
have already provided us. We would like Iran to do that.
We still allow students to come in. There are many students. I’m sure
there are students here tonight who are Iranians who are here studying.
We welcome that. But this Administration does have as one of its primary
policies to make sure that we appropriately vet all those who come to
the nation so that we can keep our country safe. That’s the plan. That’s
Wilson: Well, on
perhaps an unduly optimistic note, what could be a basis for
reconciliation between the United States and Iran?
Secretary Pompeo: So it’s
always possible. And the President has made clear the fact that --
I shouldn’t have joked. The President has made clear he would love that,
he would welcome that. I’ve now made three trips to Pyongyang, a regime
that has treated its citizens in way that also denies them their
The President has said if we can get this change, if we can get the
leadership to make a strategic decision about how to ensure its
well-being and the well-being of its peoples, that we’re prepared to
have a conversation and to discuss how that might proceed. The President
has stated at least once, perhaps more than once, that he is prepared to
do that with the leadership in Iran, but not until such time as there
are demonstrable, tangible, irreversible changes in the Iranian regime
that I don’t see happening today. But I live in hope.
Wilson: And what
would be your advice for students -- hopefully many in the audience
today -- who will be interested in being part of that effort and seek a
career at the State Department? How can they best prepare and what
challenges should they anticipate?
Secretary Pompeo: So we
welcome all hardworking, talented patriotic folks to come be part of a
great diplomatic team in the United States. It’s an incredible honor.
I’m now 12 weeks, almost to the day, as the Secretary of State. The team
is fantastic. My wisdom for them is no different than the same wisdom I
gave my son. If he was here he’d be rolling his eyes about now.
Work hard, study, tell the truth every place you go. We have lots of
folks who speak different languages who have spent time in other
countries who have been able to learn about other cultures. It’s
critically important that we get that skill set at the State Department.
Those are the kinds of things that young people who want a wonderful,
exciting, rewarding, important career working as an American diplomat
ought to think about doing as they move their way through college and
beyond and we welcome. Go to state.gov. It’s easy to find. We’ve got
lots of great places for talented young Americans to come be part of our
Wilson: Well, Mr.
Secretary, you have been quite clear, and it’s, I think, clear to all of
us who are privileged to be in this audience and in this house dedicated
to the preservation and the enhancement of the Ronald Reagan legacy that
you understand it better than perhaps anybody I’ve come across in a long
We, I think, both remember that at a critical time in the history of
this country he said, with a smile, “Trust, but verify.” And it
seems to me that’s your message very clearly, and we thank you for the
distinguished service that you have given from the moment that you left
the Point, number one in your class. I find that quite impressive. And
whoever that opponent was against whom you were playing basketball at
Los Amigos, I think he would have to say when he said, “Well, he made
the most of what he could,” you made the most of a very generous helping
from the good Lord of brains and courage and directness. We are lucky to
Secretary Pompeo: Thank
you, Pete. That’s very kind. Thank you, thank you. That’s very kind.
Secretary Pompeo: That’s
very, very kind. Thank you, sir.