President Trump Delivers Remarks on the Iran Strategy
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
October 13, 2017
Remarks by President Trump on Iran Strategy
Diplomatic Reception Room
12:53 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. My fellow Americans: As President of the United States, my highest obligation is to ensure the safety and security of the American people.
History has shown that the longer we ignore a threat, the more dangerous that threat becomes. For this reason, upon taking office, I’ve ordered a complete strategic review of our policy toward the rogue regime in Iran. That review is now complete.
Today, I am announcing our strategy, along with several major steps we are taking to confront the Iranian regime’s hostile actions and to ensure that Iran never, and I mean never, acquires a nuclear weapon.
Our policy is based on a clear-eyed assessment of the Iranian dictatorship, its sponsorship of terrorism, and its continuing aggression in the Middle East and all around the world.
Iran is under the control of a fanatical regime that seized power in 1979 and forced a proud people to submit to its extremist rule. This radical regime has raided the wealth of one of the world’s oldest and most vibrant nations, and spread death, destruction, and chaos all around the globe.
Beginning in 1979, agents of the Iranian regime illegally seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran and held more than 60 Americans hostage during the 444 days of the crisis. The Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah twice bombed our embassy in Lebanon — once in 1983 and again in 1984. Another Iranian-supported bombing killed 241 Americans — service members they were, in their barracks in Beirut in 1983.
In 1996, the regime directed another bombing of American military housing in Saudi Arabia, murdering 19 Americans in cold blood.
Iranian proxies provided training to operatives who were later involved in al Qaeda’s bombing of the American embassies in Kenya, Tanzania, and two years later, killing 224 people, and wounding more than 4,000 others.
The regime harbored high-level terrorists in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, including Osama bin Laden’s son. In Iraq and Afghanistan, groups supported by Iran have killed hundreds of American military personnel.
The Iranian dictatorship’s aggression continues to this day. The regime remains the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, and provides assistance to al Qaeda, the Taliban, Hezbollah, Hamas, and other terrorist networks. It develops, deploys, and proliferates missiles that threaten American troops and our allies. It harasses American ships and threatens freedom of navigation in the Arabian Gulf and in the Red Sea. It imprisons Americans on false charges. And it launches cyberattacks against our critical infrastructure, financial system, and military.
The United States is far from the only target of the Iranian dictatorship’s long campaign of bloodshed. The regime violently suppresses its own citizens; it shot unarmed student protestors in the street during the Green Revolution.
This regime has fueled sectarian violence in Iraq, and vicious civil wars in Yemen and Syria. In Syria, the Iranian regime has supported the atrocities of Bashar al-Assad’s regime and condoned Assad’s use of chemical weapons against helpless civilians, including many, many children.
Given the regime’s murderous past and present, we should not take lightly its sinister vision for the future. The regime’s two favorite chants are “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.”
Realizing the gravity of the situation, the United States and the United Nations Security Council sought, over many years, to stop Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons with a wide array of strong economic sanctions.
But the previous administration lifted these sanctions, just before what would have been the total collapse of the Iranian regime, through the deeply controversial 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. This deal is known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.
As I have said many times, the Iran Deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into. The same mindset that produced this deal is responsible for years of terrible trade deals that have sacrificed so many millions of jobs in our country to the benefit of other countries. We need negotiators who will much more strongly represent America’s interest.
The nuclear deal threw Iran’s dictatorship a political and economic lifeline, providing urgently needed relief from the intense domestic pressure the sanctions had created. It also gave the regime an immediate financial boost and over $100 billion dollars its government could use to fund terrorism.
The regime also received a massive cash settlement of $1.7 billion from the United States, a large portion of which was physically loaded onto an airplane and flown into Iran. Just imagine the sight of those huge piles of money being hauled off by the Iranians waiting at the airport for the cash. I wonder where all that money went.
Worst of all, the deal allows Iran to continue developing certain elements of its nuclear program. And importantly, in just a few years, as key restrictions disappear, Iran can sprint towards a rapid nuclear weapons breakout. In other words, we got weak inspections in exchange for no more than a purely short-term and temporary delay in Iran’s path to nuclear weapons.
What is the purpose of a deal that, at best, only delays Iran’s nuclear capability for a short period of time? This, as President of the United States, is unacceptable. In other countries, they think in terms of 100-year intervals, not just a few years at a time.
The saddest part of the deal for the United States is that all of the money was paid up front, which is unheard of, rather than at the end of the deal when they have shown they’ve played by the rules. But what’s done is done, and that’s why we are where we are.
Iranian regime has committed multiple violations of the agreement. For example, on two separate occasions, they have exceeded the limit of 130 metric tons of heavy water. Until recently, the Iranian regime has also failed to meet our expectations in its operation of advanced centrifuges.
The Iranian regime has also intimidated international inspectors into not using the full inspection authorities that the agreement calls for.
Iranian officials and military leaders have repeatedly claimed they will not allow inspectors onto military sites, even though the international community suspects some of those sites were part of Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program.
There are also many people who believe that Iran is dealing with North Korea. I am going to instruct our intelligence agencies to do a thorough analysis and report back their findings beyond what they have already reviewed.
By its own terms, the Iran Deal was supposed to contribute to “regional and international peace and security.” And yet, while the United States adheres to our commitment under the deal, the Iranian regime continues to fuel conflict, terror, and turmoil throughout the Middle East and beyond. Importantly, Iran is not living up to the spirit of the deal.
So today, in recognition of the increasing menace posed by Iran, and after extensive consultations with our allies, I am announcing a new strategy to address the full range of Iran’s destructive actions.
First, we will work with our allies to counter the regime’s destabilizing activity and support for terrorist proxies in the region.
Second, we will place additional sanctions on the regime to block their financing of terror.
Third, we will address the regime’s proliferation of missiles and weapons that threaten its neighbors, global trade, and freedom of navigation.
And finally, we will deny the regime all paths to a nuclear weapon.
Today, I am also announcing several major steps my administration is taking in pursuit of this strategy.
The execution of our strategy begins with the long-overdue step of imposing tough sanctions on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The Revolutionary Guard is the Iranian Supreme Leader’s corrupt personal terror force and militia. It has hijacked large portions of Iran’s economy and seized massive religious endowments to fund war and terror abroad. This includes arming the Syrian dictator, supplying proxies and partners with missiles and weapons to attack civilians in the region, and even plotting to bomb a popular restaurant right here in Washington, D.C.
I am authorizing the Treasury Department to further sanction the entire Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for its support for terrorism and to apply sanctions to its officials, agents, and affiliates. I urge our allies to join us in taking strong actions to curb Iran’s continued dangerous and destabilizing behavior, including thorough sanctions outside the Iran Deal that target the regime’s ballistic missile program, in support for terrorism, and all of its destructive activities, of which there are many.
Finally, on the grave matter of Iran’s nuclear program: Since the signing of the nuclear agreement, the regime’s dangerous aggression has only escalated. At the same time, it has received massive sanctions relief while continuing to develop its missiles program. Iran has also entered into lucrative business contracts with other parties to the agreement.
When the agreement was finalized in 2015, Congress passed the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act to ensure that Congress’s voice would be heard on the deal. Among other conditions, this law requires the President, or his designee, to certify that the suspension of sanctions under the deal is “appropriate and proportionate” to measure — and other measures taken by Iran to terminate its illicit nuclear program. Based on the factual record I have put forward, I am announcing today that we cannot and will not make this certification.
We will not continue down a path whose predictable conclusion is more violence, more terror, and the very real threat of Iran’s nuclear breakout.
That is why I am directing my administration to work closely with Congress and our allies to address the deal’s many serious flaws so that the Iranian regime can never threaten the world with nuclear weapons. These include the deal’s sunset clauses that, in just a few years, will eliminate key restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program.
The flaws in the deal also include insufficient enforcement and near total silence on Iran’s missile programs. Congress has already begun the work to address these problems. Key House and Senate leaders are drafting legislation that would amend the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act to strengthen enforcement, prevent Iran from developing an inter- — this is so totally important — an intercontinental ballistic missile, and make all restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activity permanent under U.S. law. So important. I support these initiatives.
However, in the event we are not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated. It is under continuous review, and our participation can be cancelled by me, as President, at any time.
As we have seen in North Korea, the longer we ignore a threat, the worse that threat becomes. It is why we are determined that the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism will never obtain nuclear weapons.
In this effort, we stand in total solidarity with the Iranian regime’s longest-suffering victims: its own people. The citizens of Iran have paid a heavy price for the violence and extremism of their leaders. The Iranian people long to — and they just are longing, to reclaim their country’s proud history, its culture, its civilization, its cooperation with its neighbors.
We hope that these new measures directed at the Iranian dictatorship will compel the government to reevaluate its pursuit of terror at the expense of its people.
We hope that our actions today will help bring about a future of peace, stability, and prosperity in the Middle East –- a future where sovereign nations respect each other and their own citizens.
We pray for a future where young children — American and Iranian, Muslim, Christian, and Jewish — can grow up in a world free from violence, hatred, and terror.
And, until that blessed day comes, we will do what we must to keep America safe.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America. Thank you.
1:11 P.M. EDT
October 13, 2017
President Donald J. Trump’s New Strategy on Iran
“It is time for the entire world to join us in demanding that Iran’s government end its pursuit of death and destruction.” – President Donald J. Trump
President Donald J. Trump, in consultation with his national security team, has approved a new strategy for Iran. It is the culmination of nine months of deliberation with Congress and our allies on how to best protect American security.
Core Elements of the President’s New Iran Strategy
• The United States’ new Iran strategy focuses on neutralizing the Government of Iran’s destabilizing influence and constraining its aggression, particularly its support for terrorism and militants.
• We will revitalize our traditional alliances and regional partnerships as bulwarks against Iranian subversion and restore a more stable balance of power in the region.
• We will work to deny the Iranian regime – and especially the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) – funding for its malign activities, and oppose IRGC activities that extort the wealth of the Iranian people.
• We will counter threats to the United States and our allies from ballistic missiles and other asymmetric weapons.
• We will rally the international community to condemn the IRGC’s gross violations of human rights and its unjust detention of American citizens and other foreigners on specious charges.
• Most importantly, we will deny the Iranian regime all paths to a nuclear weapon.
The Nature of the Iranian Regime under Supreme Leader Khamenei
• For 28 years, Ali Khamenei has been Iran’s Supreme Leader. Before that, he held the office of President for 8 years. In that time, he has shaped the Iranian regime in his image.
• Khamenei and the IRGC have pursued a steady policy of spreading a revolutionary ideology aimed at undermining the international system and many states by force and subversion. His main enemy and rallying point has been and continues to be the United States of America, which he calls the Great Satan.
• Under Khamenei, Iran exports violence, destabilizes its neighbors, and sponsors terrorism abroad. Within Iran, under Khamenei’s rule the Iranian government has oppressed its people, abusing their rights, restricting their access to the internet and the outside world, rigging elections, shooting student protesters in the street, and imprisoning political reformers like Mir Hussein Musavi and Mehdi Karroubi.
The Threats from the Iranian Regime
• The reckless behavior of the Iranian regime, and the IRGC in particular, poses one of the most dangerous threats to the interests of the United States and to regional stability.
• The Iranian regime has taken advantage of regional conflicts and instability to aggressively expand its regional influence and threaten its neighbors with little domestic or international cost for its actions.
• This occurred most recently following the emergence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) from the vacuum created by the Obama administration’s ill-considered withdrawal from the region.
• The full range of the Iranian regime’s malign activities extends well beyond the nuclear threat it poses, including:
o Ballistic missile development and proliferation;
o Material and financial support for terrorism and extremism;
o Support for the Assad regime’s atrocities against the Syrian people;
o Unrelenting hostility to Israel;
o Consistently threatening freedom of navigation, especially in the strategically vital Persian Gulf;
o Cyber-attacks against the United States, Israel, and America’s other allies and partners in the Middle East;
o Grievous human rights abuses; and
o Arbitrary detention of foreigners, including United States citizens, on specious charges and without due process.
The Need for a Comprehensive Strategy
• The previous Administration’s myopic focus on Iran’s nuclear program to the exclusion of the regime’s many other malign activities allowed Iran’s influence in the region to reach a high-water mark.
• Over the last decade and a half, United States policy has also consistently prioritized the immediate threat of Sunni extremist organizations over the longer-term threat of Iranian-backed militancy.
• In doing so, the United States has neglected Iran’s steady expansion of proxy forces and terrorist networks aimed at keeping its neighbors weak and unstable in hopes of dominating the greater Middle East. Recently, the Iranian regime has accelerated the seeding of these networks with increasingly destructive weapons as they try to establish a bridge from Iran to Lebanon and Syria.
• The Trump Administration will not repeat these mistakes.
• The Trump Administration’s Iran policy will address the totality of these threats from and malign activities by the Government of Iran and will seek to bring about a change in the Iranian’s regime’s behavior.
• The Trump Administration will accomplish these objectives through a strategy that neutralizes and counters Iranian threats, particularly those posed by the IRGC.
Countering the IRGC
• Supreme Leader Khamenei’s primary tool and weapon in remaking Iran into a rogue state has been the hardline elements of the IRGC.
• The IRGC’s stated purpose is to subvert the international order. The IRGC’s power and influence have grown over time, even as it has remained unaccountable to the Iranian people, answering only to Khamenei. It is hard to find a conflict or a suffering people in the Middle East that the IRGC’s tentacles do not touch.
• Unaccountable to Iran’s elected leaders or its people, the IRGC has tried to gain control over large portions of Iran’s economy and choke off competition, all the while working to weaken and undermine Iran’s neighbors and perpetuate the chaos and instability in which it thrives.
• The IRGC has armed Bashar al Assad and guided his butchering of his own people in Syria and has cynically condoned his use of chemical weapons.
• The IRGC has sought to undermine the fight against ISIS with the influence of militant groups in Iraq under the IRGC’s control.
In Yemen, the IRGC has attempted to use the Houthis as puppets to hide Iran’s role in using sophisticated missiles and explosive boats to attack innocent civilians in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as to restrict freedom of navigation in the Red Sea.
• The IRGC has even threatened terrorist attacks right here at home. Senior IRGC commanders plotted the murder of Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the United States, Adel Jubeir, on American soil in 2011. But for exceptional work by our law enforcement and intelligence officers to detect and disrupt this egregious act, the IRGC would have conducted this terrorist attack and assassination in our own capital and would have killed not only a Saudi Arabian diplomat, but a host of other innocent bystanders at a popular restaurant in Washington, D.C.
• The IRGC, which repeatedly displays reckless hostility and disregard for the laws and norms that underpin the international order, threatens all nations and the global economy.
• Our partners in the international community agree with us that the IRGC’s reckless behavior threatens international peace and security. They agree that the IRGC is fanning sectarianism and perpetuating regional conflict. They agree that the IRGC is engaged in corrupt economic practices that exploit the Iranian people and suppress internal dissent, human rights, and Iran’s economic prosperity.
• For all these reasons, we want to work with our partners to constrain this dangerous organization, for the benefit of international peace and security, regional stability, and the Iranian people.
The Iranian Nuclear Program and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action
• The Iranian regime’s activities severely undercut whatever positive contributions to “regional and international peace and security” the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) sought to achieve.
• Even with regard to JCPOA itself, the Iranian regime has displayed a disturbing pattern of behavior, seeking to exploit loopholes and test the international community’s resolve.
• Iranian military leaders have stated publicly that they will refuse to allow International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections of their military sites. These statements fly in the face of Iran’s commitments under JCPOA and the Additional Protocol. Not long ago these same organizations hid nuclear facilities on military sites.
• This behavior cannot be tolerated; the deal must be strictly enforced, and the IAEA must fully utilize its inspection authorities.