Pompeo: U.S. Won't Stand By as Iran Continues Attacks on American Outposts in Iraq

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo / Getty Images
February 19, 2020

The United States will not stand by without taking action in response to Iran's ongoing support for attacks on American outposts in Iraq, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday.

In the past few days, Iraqi terror groups likely backed by Iran have launched yet another series of strikes on the U.S. embassy in Iraq. The latest round of missiles reportedly landed inside the U.S. embassy compound, while at least one other struck near a coalition base.

Responding to questions from the Washington Free Beacon on his plane en route to Saudi Arabia, Pompeo said the Trump administration will not allow Iranian-backed strikes to become the new normal for American outposts in war-torn Iraq.

"I never broadcast what our response may be in advance, but we're mindful that it cannot become ordinary course that the Iranians through their proxy forces in Iraq are putting the lives of Americans at risk," Pompeo said. "This can't be ordinary, this can't be routine. There, in the end, has to be accountability connected to those very serious attacks."

Iran's blatant support for the terror groups orchestrating these strikes prompted the Trump administration in January to kill top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, a move that has sparked a broadening conflict between the United States and Iran.

Pompeo said the U.S. government continues to investigate the latest round of strikes to determine who exactly launched them. Neither U.S. nor Iraqi officials have gone so far as to identify Iran as being behind the attack, but Tehran's financial and military support for local militia groups is well known.

"We're working with the Iraqi government. They have a responsibility to keep our embassy and our military facilities secure," Pompeo said, expressing regret that "they repeatedly have not been able to achieve that."

"We're looking to not only apprehend those who conducted this attack but demanding they still do more work," he added.

Pompeo confirmed that that there were no American injuries or deaths as a result of the latest missile salvo.

The secretary of state also expressed his administration's continued willingness to engage directly with Iran for talks.

"We're prepared to talk at anytime. But they've got to fundamentally change their behavior. That's what we've asked for consistently for three years of the Trump administration," Pompeo said.

Iran must end its continued buildup of its nuclear weapons program, including the enrichment of uranium to levels prohibited under the landmark nuclear accord and resulting United Nations resolutions.

"You can't build out your nuclear program, you can't foment terror around the world," Pompeo said.

Pompeo also called on Iran to stop building up its offensive missile capabilities, such as medium- and short-range ballistic missiles. These programs also are sanctioned under U.N. resolutions.

"They've got to get the missile program back in a place where they're permitted to defend themselves, but no more than that," Pompeo said.

"When they're prepared to come to the table and talk about those, so are we," he added. "We're standing by. We're not anxious. We're not rushed. The pressure campaign continues. It's not just an economic pressure campaign, it's diplomatic pressure, it's isolation through diplomacy as well."

Once in Saudi Arabia, Pompeo will spend several days meeting with the country's leaders primarily about Iran. The issue of human rights and the economic partnership with the United States also will feature into the meetings.

From Saudi Arabia, Pompeo will travel to Oman, another Gulf nation that plays a central role in the U.S. fight against terrorism and Iranian aggression.