QUESTION: Let’s talk about the transition and foreign policy. Specifically, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo joins us again tonight. Mr. Secretary, thanks for coming back to Special Report.
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s great to be back with you, Bret. Thank you.
QUESTION: You’ve just returned from a trip to many places overseas, but the thing that got the most attention was a meeting that was believed to have happened. Did Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu meet with the Saudi crown prince on your visit to the region?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Bret, I had a meeting with the crown prince there. I had a meeting with the crown prince in the Emirates. I don’t want to expand any further on that. But importantly, what I was continuing to work on is creating space for the American people, security for the American people, and reducing risk in the Middle East. And what I took away from the gatherings is that while there is more work to do, I think each of them has come to understand that the work that we’ve done with the Abraham Accords, the work that we’ve done to isolate the regime in the Islamic Republic of Iran, has been good for their people, has been good for the Middle East. I know it’s been good for the security of people right here back at home.
QUESTION: Well, the report, Mr. Secretary, was that the Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu and the head of Mossad flew to Neom, Saudi Arabia to meet with MBS, the crown prince. So did that happen or not?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, look, I’ve seen the reporting. I was with each of those two. I was with the prime minister in Jerusalem. I was with the head of Mossad in Jerusalem as well. We had productive discussions. I don’t – I’ll leave to them to discuss the meetings that they may have had or may not have had.
QUESTION: Do you expect more normalization announcements from other countries, like Saudi Arabia, with Israel before the end of the president’s term?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I do. I expect more normalization announcements. Whether they’ll come in the next 30 days or 60 days or six months is difficult to know, but the direction of travel is very clear, and the rationale for that has a little bit to do with American policy. We got it right. We took away the excuse of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. We took away the excuse that the United States was going to appease Iran.
And so we took that away, and in the end those were good and sovereign decisions by those leaders. Those countries are more safe, more secure, and they’ll be more prosperous. I saw Emirati businessmen in Israel. I saw Israeli businessmen in the Emirates. Good things are happening the way those two countries are coming closer and closer together, and everybody who joined the Abraham Accords will see the benefits for their own people. So I am highly confident that many, many more nations will ultimately choose to do the right thing and recognize Israel as the rightful homeland of the Jewish people.
QUESTION: When you speak about Iran, you’ve talked about the maximum pressure campaign and how it has been effective, in your words. What do you say to the critics who say that Iran is closer to a nuclear weapon now as you get ready for this transition with another team that may look at the situation completely different than you?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, they’re just wrong factually about that. First, I came into an administration, as did President Trump, where we were funneling tens of billions of dollars into that country, creating wealth and prosperity. The real tools of creating a nuclear weapon are capacity, smart people, money. Those are the things that help you build out a nuclear weapons program.
The previous administration had chosen to give them an awful lot of that thing – money. We’ve chosen to deny them. I think the Iranians said now tens and tens of billions of dollars in wealth has been denied them as a result of the isolation which we have created. We’ve saved lots of lives, lots of American lives. We have to have fewer soldiers in the Middle East today because of the actions we have taken. I am confident that that’s the right policy. Appeasing terrorists, appeasing those who have hegemonic desires, appeasing those who are underwriting militias all throughout the region and destabilizing the Middle East, cannot possibly be the right course of action. It would put them on a pathway to a nuclear weapon, and we should never give Iran that chance.
QUESTION: Have you spoken to Tony Blinken since Joe Biden has said that he wants Blinken to be his secretary of state?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I have not. Today we began the process to see what GSA’s decision was, and we’ll do everything that’s required by law. We’ll make this work.
QUESTION: I want you to listen to the person that the President-elect Joe Biden has selected to be the new U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, obviously nominated to that, speaking about foreign policy and multilateralism. Take a listen: “And on this day I’m thinking about the American people, my fellow career diplomats and public servants around the world. I want to say to you America is back, multilateralism is back, diplomacy is back.” Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the nominee to be the U.S. ambassador to the UN.
Your response to that statement?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Where to begin, Bret? I remember what the previous administration did. They described leadership as leading from behind. President Trump never did that. We built out real coalitions – the coalition that crushed the caliphate in Syria, the coalition that’s pushed back against the Chinese Communist Party, a coalition that refused to appease Iran. The list of work that we’ve done is great.
What we’ve said along, Bret, and this is where I think I take a different path – I couldn’t tell exactly from her statement. But multilateralism for the sake of hanging out with your buddies at a cool cocktail party, that’s not in the best interest of the United States of America. We work with nations when we have common interests, and we develop coalitions that actually deliver real results and reflect the reality on the ground.
That wasn’t what was happening when we came in here to the State Department. We built out enormous teams. I’m proud of the work the State Department has done. We’re going to continue to do that. It’s our responsibility. So long as we have these offices, it’s our duty to continue to deliver on American security. And we’ve done it well, and we’ll continue to do so.
QUESTION: The defense secretary you worked alongside wrote an opinion editorial, or in part wrote it, former Secretary James Mattis saying this: “In practice, ‘America first’ has meant America alone. That has damaged the country’s ability to address problems before they reach U.S. territory and has thus compounded the danger emergent threats pose.”
That’s Jim Mattis. Your thoughts?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I have a lot of respect for Jim, but he’s just dead wrong on that. “America first” has been at its heart a recognition that when America is secure at home, when America does good things for our own economy and for our own prosperity, that America will be a force for good all around the region, and that indeed, we can’t deliver security, increased security around the world, when America is not secure.
I take great umbrage at the (inaudible) it’s been America alone. And I would tell you that our Japanese colleagues, our South Korean colleagues, our Indian colleagues, our Australian colleagues all know that the pivot to Asia was a joke, but that the United States under President Trump actually delivered real benefits to them. And whether it was the work that we’ve done to build out an enormous coalition to go after the socialist Maduro, to go after the Cubans, these are real coalitions, real things that work. It wasn’t America alone. It was us doing it with our friends and allies based on shared interests and a reality that recognized central facts about what is and not pretending that things are as we would like them to be.
QUESTION: What’s your greatest concern with what the next administration could do when it comes to foreign policy?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Bret, I don’t want to speculate. I know some of these folks. They took a very different view. They lived in a bit of a fantasy world. They led from behind. They appeased. I hope they’ll choose a different course. Here we are in 2020. It’s different than 2015. I hope they’ll see the things that we have done and how this has delivered greater peace in the Middle East, how it’s reduced risk from North Korea, where we took down what was a very tense situation when we came into office, whether it’s the central recognition of the Chinese Communist Party as a true threat to jobs all across America. If they’ll keep those things at center point and center mass, I think America’s trajectory will continue to be one that is safer, more prosperous, and more secure. The freedoms that we have secured for the American people in these four years are something I hope will continue.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, we appreciate your time.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Absolutely.
QUESTION: There’s a lot of people with questions when it comes to foreign policy, and you’re the guy who has the answers. Thanks for your time.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Bret, thank you very much. Have a Happy Thanksgiving, Bret.
QUESTION: You, too.
There’s a second part to this interview with Secretary of State Pompeo. It will air Thanksgiving night. We’ll talk about Afghanistan, his most memorable moment in the job, and what his future may hold.