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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in Poland leading an international conference on Middle East peace and security with representatives from roughly 70 countries. From Warsaw, he talks to Judy Woodruff about the meeting's historic significance, why Iran continues to pose a major threat to Mideast stability and whether the U.S. is consistent in objecting to global human rights abuses.
Today, in Warsaw, Poland, the United States is leading a first ever conference on Middle East security, with more than 60 countries in attendance.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is the conference's co-host. Earlier today, he visited U.S. troops stationed in Northeast Poland, near the Russian border. He then attended a meeting on the war in Yemen that included officials from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which are leading a coalition fighting Iran-aligned rebels in that country.
U.S. officials are discussing multiple topics, but the focus has overwhelmingly been Iran.
I spoke to the secretary of state from Warsaw just a short time ago.
Secretary Mike Pompeo, thank you very much for joining us.
You are in Poland for a meeting to discuss the future of the Middle East. What do you want to come out of this meeting?
Well, Judy, thanks for having me on this show. I appreciate the opportunity to speak with your audience.
We have gathered 70 nations to talk about how we achieve Middle East stability and prosperity and peace. As you know, this region is fraught with risk. And we will spend tomorrow, and we spent a good part of tonight talking about the various risks and how this coalition — how different countries from every continent, save for Antarctica, can come together and deliver on Middle East peace.
We hope to walk away from here with a number of ideas and plans. We hope to have follow-up meetings where we can truly begin to deliver on something that the Middle East certainly needs and the world will benefit from as well.
So, we are told that a number of key Middle Eastern and European officials decided not to attend. There are some countries represented at a lower level.
How does that affect your ability to move this forward?
Judy, this event's been absolutely historic. It's the first time we have put it together.
And, even tonight, it's the first time in a quarter-of-a-century that you had a prime minister of Israel in the same room talking about threats in the Middle East with senior Arab leaders from all across the Middle East. It was truly remarkable. It was historic, 70-plus countries gathered together, all sharing ideas.
We come from different backgrounds, we come from different places, we see these risks differently, but, tonight, I think we began a conversation which will lead to really good outcomes all across the Middle East.
You mentioned the prime minister of Israel, Mr. Netanyahu.
He, just a short time ago, was quoted as saying, tweeting that the countries were there to discuss their common interests of war with Iran. Now, they later changed the wording to say common interests of combating Iran.
But is that the focus?
Well, it may not surprise you, Judy. I was out with American soldiers on freedom's frontier today. I didn't have a chance to spend a lot of time on Twitter. So I haven't seen those remarks.
No, this gathering is certainly about Middle East peace and stability. You can't talk about that without talking about the threat from the Islamic Republic of Iran, whether it's Hezbollah, Hamas, the Houthis — I call them the three H's — whether it's their work against the Iraqi government, trying to harm the independence and sovereignty of Iraq, whether it's what they're doing in Syria today.
There are shared interests there between the Saudis, between the Emiratis, between the Bahrainis, the Jordanians, the Israelis. All understand that their nations are at risk from Iran. And the Europeans heard tonight as well, their nations are at risk as well.
Iran is conducting an assassination campaign throughout Europe. This is a global phenomenon. The threat from Middle East instability is real. And you can't possibly talk about it without talking about the enormous influence that Iran has had in the Middle East, none of which has been for good.
Well, Mr. Secretary, we know you have appealed directly to the people of Iran.
But a question that has been raised is, how can you expect them to support this, when many of them wanted that nuclear agreement to go forward, many of them just don't want to be seen as supporting the U.S. right now? How — is that a tack that you think you can count on?
Judy, we don't expect the Iranian people to support the U.S. We expect them to take care of their own country.
We hear from Iranians all the time at the United States State Department. They're wholly dissatisfied with the conditions that are inside of their country. They watch the kleptocracy that is the clerical regime there. They watch it squander money around the world. And they watch it get their brothers and sisters killed in wars all across the region.
And for what? For the IRGC, for Qassem Soleimani, not for the benefit of the Iranian people.
So, what we want the Iranian people to do is not support Europe or support the United States or anyone else. We want the Iranian people to have the opportunity to live in a prosperous, peaceful society, and one that is controlled by their desires, their wishes.
And if we can get that, I am very confident that these behaviors that we see in Iran will change dramatically.
And one other question, Mr. Secretary, about Iran, and that is, it's been pointed out that the U.S. singles out human rights abuses in Iran, but does not do so with regard to countries like Egypt, like Syria, like Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
How do you reconcile that?
I mean — I mean, Judy, your statement is just false.
You reconcile it by going and looking at our record. We have made very clear that the failure to observe the most basic fundamental human rights, treating human beings with the dignity and respect which they are entitled by nature of their humanity, the United States calls that out wherever we find shortcomings, whether that's the Muslim leaders that are being held in detention camps in China, or what's happening in Iran, or any other country where we find it, North Korea.
The list goes on. The United States is very consistent. And we ask every nation to treat their people with the basic human rights to which each of us is entitled.
Well, one of the countries that conversation has led to has to do with the war in Yemen.
And you may know that, just a short time ago, the U.S. House of Representatives, where you previously served, passed a bill basically saying that the U.S. can no longer put money toward the military effort, the U.S. — the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.
Is this a — how much of a rebuke, of a setback is this to the president?
Look, members of Congress — I was one — they get to vote the way they want to vote and pass resolutions that they want to pass. That's certainly their right.
You should know that we listen to them. I meet with senators and members of the House of Representatives all the time to talk to them about a range of issues. And we certainly hear their voice with respect to Yemen.
But just tonight, Judy, I was with four ministers from the Emirates, the Saudis, and Britain, U.K. We met with Martin Griffiths from the U.N., who's working to solve this problem in Yemen.
We have two problems — three problems, really. The first problem is al-Qaida, still there. The United States is doing its best to take down that terror threat. The second problem is Iran continuing to fund the Houthis. If you want to know who's causing the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, you need look no further than the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Judy, for an example, how many dollars has Iran provided for humanitarian assistance in Yemen? I can tell you. Do you know?
I don't know.
How much money — how much money have the Emiratis and Saudis provided? The Americans, the Brits, Saudis and the Emiratis are doing everything we can to take down the threat from the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, while Iran fuels it.
It provides missiles to the Houthis that they launch into airports in Saudi Arabia and the Emirates. These are the challenges in Yemen. These are the challenges that this administration is determined to push back against.
And we're going to keep at it.
And we assume this legislation will go on to the Senate, which passed similar language not very long ago. So, we will watch to see what happens.
Just finally, Mr. Secretary, I want to take you to North Korea, which, of course, is another major focus of yours with this upcoming meeting between President Trump and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.
There are reports now that the International Atomic Energy Agency may be allowed back into North Korea. Can you confirm that?
No, ma'am, I can't. I can't confirm that for you this evening.
What I — what I can tell your viewers is that President Trump is heading there on the 27th and 28th to Hanoi to have a second conversation with Chairman Kim Jong-un. And we really hope that we can make progress, a significant step towards denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.
That will reduce risk. It will reduce all the tension that's been along that border for far too long. And then we hope we can create a brighter future, a much brighter future for the North Korean people as well.
That's the mission that the president has given me. And it's one that we hope we make significant advance on at the end of this month.
Well, we will certainly be following that story. And we will be following your travels in Europe today.
We wish you — we wish you safe travels. Secretary Mike Pompeo, thank you very much.
Thank you, ma'am. Have a good evening, Judy. So long.
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