On Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appeared on "Fox News Sunday." During the segment, host Chris Wallace grilled Pompeo on the Trump administration’s upcoming sanctions on Iran:
WALLACE: You’re reimposing, as we said, all U.S. sanctions on Iran, but you're giving exemptions to eight countries to allow them to keep buying oil from Tehran. Question: why?
POMPEO: Well, Chris, the sanctions that will be reimposed tomorrow are the toughest sanctions ever put in place on the Islamic Republic of Iran. They're aimed at a singular purpose: denying the world's largest state sponsor of terrorists the capacity to do things like they did this past couple weeks – attempted assassination campaign in the heart of Europe.
These sanctions have already had an enormous impact. We've already reduced Iranian crude oil exports by over a million barrels per day. That number will fall farther. There's a handful of places where countries that have already made significant reductions in their crude oil exports need a little bit more time to get to zero, and we're going to provide that to them.
Wallace then asked Pompeo if it’s true that the Trump administration will be giving exemptions to China and India, and if so, does the White House "have a firm commitment that within six months, they will stop all oil purchases?" Wallace noted that "there are a lot of experts who believe that India and China are never gonna stop buying oil from Iran."
There are a lot of experts, Chris, that said President Trump's policy wouldn't have any impact because it was just the United States, and other countries weren't participating. And, in fact, we have built an enormous coalition to keep this world safe and to deny Iran money. I am very confident that the sanctions that will be reimposed this Monday – not only the crude oil sanctions, [but] the financial sanctions that are being put in place by the Treasury Department and over 600 designations of individuals and companies in Iran – will have the intended effect to alter the Iranian regime's behavior. That's our expectation. It's the reason for President Trump's policy.
Unsurprisingly, Wallace wasn’t satisfied with Pompeo’s answer, so he asked again: "Specifically, sir, do you have a firm commitment from India and China that they will stop all oil purchases from Iran in six months?"
Pompeo once again appeared to pivot:
Chris, watch what we do. Watch as we've already taken more crude oil off the market than any time in previous history. Watch the efforts that President Trump's policies have achieved. We've done all of this, too, Chris, while making sure that American consumers don't suffer. We've got Brent crude at about the same price it was back in May when the president announced the withdrawal from the JCPOA. That's important for American consumers, and the march to zero continues.
Wallace moved to another point, asking Pompeo if the sanctions are enough, citing the fact that Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX), Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) "plan to introduce legislation to cut off Iranian banks from the global financial network known as Swift." He also noted that some have claimed that the Trump administration has "caved."
Pompeo repeated that the "president's policy of maximum pressure will be fully in place" on Monday, and to simply watch Iran. He made sure to add that the United States wants to "support the Iranian people," and that any effort against Iran is meant to change bad behavior on the part of the Iranian government.
Wallace attempted to press Pompeo on the alleged Swift exemptions, to which the Secretary of State said: "The Iranian banks that engage in sanctionable behavior will be sanctioned by the Department of Treasury, period, full stop."
The "Fox News Sunday" anchor once again brought up Senators Cruz, Cotton, and Rubio, who he stated are "pretty knowledgeable on the subject," and aren’t "persuaded."
Pompeo responded by saying that no one would call either himself or President Trump soft on Iran.
Here’s the full interview (pertinent portion begins at the 27:28 mark):