Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is facing busy times. Late this week.. he met with a top North Korean negotiator to discuss prospects of a second summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un. That came on the heels of a trip to the MidEast to shore up support with allies.. even as ISIS demonstrated, that they are still a threat.
Scott: This week, four Americans were killed in Syria. ISIS has claimed responsibility. Yet, when the president announced that there was going to be withdrawal, he said, we have “won” against ISIS. In light of what we just saw, how do we declare that?
Sec. Pompeo: The loss of American life is always tragic. Loss of these four is certainly the case. This administration has done more to take down the caliphate in Syria that have been done in previous years. Where we're proud of that but we understand deeply that this threat, this ideological threat from radical Islamic extremism of which, of which, ISIS as a component: we have al Qaeda, there are many groups; Al Shabaab, we saw a terror attack this week. These threats are real and the United States continues to put enormous pressure all across the globe to defeat this threat from radical Islamic terrorism. We are serious about it. We're serious about it in Syria. We have forces throughout the region that will continue to attack ISIS in Syria proper. But in western Iraq, as well as is appropriate, all across the globe this administration is determined to take down this threat from terrorism.
Scott: Does the death of those four Americans reinforced the need to pull U.S. forces out or do you worry that creates a vacuum, would we essentially be declaring victory and walking away too soon?
Sec. Pompeo: So, the change the president has made there is tactical, right? We're gonna, get our 2000 uniformed military personnel out of the region. We still have enormous reach there. We have the capability to do this and most importantly, we have the direction from the commander President Trump to continue this fight and even as we sit here today, even as we're sitting in this room, the campaign in Syria against ISIS continues.
Scott: By far the largest effort to stop terror has been in the Middle East. You just returned from a trip there to ensure our partners that we are fully engaged. Now, critics would argue that by getting forces out of Syria, getting them out of Afghanistan, that were less engaged, less involved.
Sec. Pompeo: Remember we're fighting these terror threats all across the world. We're fighting them here in the United States. We do work to defeat them in Asia and in Africa. In every case, we try to make sure we have all of the tools of American power, and importantly, you mentioned my trip and our allies in the world working alongside us in a coordinated way to share intelligence, to provide the right tools, whether they're are diplomatic tools, military tools, counterterrorism tools, each of those elements of power to defeat these threats are fully engaged. And so a tactical change in one place or another, adding a few soldiers, taking some soldiers down, these are tactical changes, they don't change the mission set. And frankly, I'm convinced we will continue to have the successes we've already had in the first two years of this administration.
Scott: Are we winning the war on terror?
Sec. Pompeo: This is a long struggle. I'm confident we'll be at it for awhile and we've made real progress. We've had success at reducing the risk here in the homeland. The one one always wants to be cautious, but we've had some success there. These are important things that the American people need to understand. This threat continues, but this president is determined to reduce the risk to the American people from terrorism, wherever we find it.
Scott: Regarding Iran, you've talked about their five capital strategy, about the spread of their forces across the region, backing terror, and you've said that the people should quote, ‘take control of their capital.’ Does there have to be regime change in Tehran?
Sec. Pompeo: Nope. What there needs to be is behavior that is like a normal country. The religious revolution there is out actively engaged in suicide campaigns, assassination campaigns rather, in Europe. They are conducting terror campaigns throughout the region, whether they're supporting the Shia militias in Iraq, or the Houthi forces in Yemen, or Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria. These are real threats and what we're demanding from the Islamic Republic of Iran is very simple: Don't build nuclear weapons, don't continue your nuclear programs, cease the terror campaign, stop assassination efforts, behave like a normal country. And then you can live in your country.
Scott: How critical is it that the Arab nations band together and create essentially an Arab NATO, so that the U.S. could hand over some of the more costly, dangerous responsibilities there?
Sec. Pompeo: So we've already made real progress with that. We have a Arab partners throughout the region doing a lot of work alongside of us, and in many cases, as you've seen our efforts in Syria, doing some of the hardest, most difficult tasks in the region. I traveled to Egypt where the Egyptians are doing great counterterrorism work. We all need to do more. I was in Bahrain, where they've done really good work as well. In each of these places, these countries are already working on these problem sets to support our joint effort to take down the threat from extremism and terrorism.
Scott: Are we getting out of the Middle East?
Sec. Pompeo: Absolutely not, we’re a force for good. The notion of ‘get out’ frankly, doesn't capture, what it is the Trump administration is intending to do. This is about protecting Americans and we will do the things we need to do to protect America.
Scott: The controversy continues around the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Is the relationship with Saudi Arabia so important that, even if the Crown Prince had some involvement, he wouldn't punishment for that?
Sec. Pompeo: We've said everyone who needs to be held accountable. Period. Full Stop.
Scott: Are you satisfied with what you've seen so far on that action?
Sec. Pompeo: The United States continues to develop the facts, to make sure we understand precisely what happened, who all was involved. We, we recognize this murder was unacceptable. We've already held a number of actors accountable, and will continue to do so. You know, it's important, we can do two things at once here in the United States. Sometimes people suggest that you either have to spend all of your energy trying to hold the murders of Jamal Khashoggi accountable, or you can have an important partnership with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It is entirely possible, indeed we are accomplishing, both. This is an important relationship is important for a Saudi Arabia, it's important to the United States and we're going to continue to make sure we do the things to protect the American people by making sure that relationship is strong.
Scott: On North Korea, there's plenty of reporting about a delegation here in Washington this weekend and planning for a possible second summit. Critics say since that first meeting that North Korea has yet to truly denuclearize as far as giving up weapons, long range missiles. Some people wonder what is the point of having these conversations anymore is there a reason to be optimistic?
Sec. Pompeo: ‘Critics say’ is how you began this question as I recall. Some critics have said we've offered too much, many critics have said we haven't offered enough. I don't have much to add, other than the president has made enormous strides in working with North Korea to get their commitment to denuclearize. We now need to execute it. We need to implement it. We've always known this would be a long process. While we do that, we need to make sure we reduce risk and we've done that. There aren't nuclear tests being conducted. There haven't been missile tests conducted. These are things that were threatening the United States when President Trump took office. We want to reduce that risk, reducing North Korea's capacity to build-out the program. These discussions are important component of making sure that we do everything we can to deliver on the commitments that were made in Singapore, between Chairman Kim and President Trump.
Scott: Five past presidents have tried this same thing as a reason to believe that this time is different?
Sec. Pompeo: Yeah, it's the first time a North Korean leader has met with the United States president looked him in the eye and said, I'll do it.
On Friday, President Trump also met with Kim Yong-Choi - that North Korean negotiator - raising the topic of denuclearization.