New York Foreign Press Center Briefing: U.S. Call for Supporting Human Rights in Iran

MS NAUERT: Thank you so much. Good morning, everyone. It’s nice to see you all and thank you
so much for the nice introduction. I’d like to welcome our members
of the press corps. Some of you are from Washington,
so great to see you up here in New York and hope that you’re having
a good week at the UN. I’d like to open with a short video that
will help us to visualize the reality of the situation on the ground
for many people in Iran. Let’s take a look. (Video is played.) MS NAUERT: Powerful, but the reality
that people face every day. I’d also like to welcome the members
of the Iranian diaspora community who’ve joined us here today and
recognize your contributions. As nations from around the world gather
this week, I’d like to highlight the plight of more than 800 prisoners of conscience
who are still languishing in Iranian prisons for exercising their universal human rights
and their religious freedoms. We stand with them, we remain deeply
concerned about their well-being, and we call on the Iranian regime
for their immediate release. More than 20 protesters were killed
and 5,000 arrested during the brutal government crackdown
on nationwide protests beginning in December 2017. Hundreds more have been arrested
throughout the year. Women protesting the mandatory hijab law,
environmental activists, Ahwazis, wanting clean water to drink, Isfahan farmers,
and Gonabadi Sufis face spurious charges and contrived trials. Some have been killed. Once in prison, the regime singles out these
individuals for harsh torture and abuse. Suspicious suicides go uninvestigated. Many of those detained were seeking only
to bring about positive change for their society by calling attention to the government’s lack
of transparency and waste of public funds. Some of these activists dared to highlight that the regime was ignoring looming
environmental catastrophes in favor of funding proxy wars
throughout the region. Others are jailed for nothing more
than their religious beliefs. Evangelical Christian converts and all Christians
experience high levels of detention on account of their faith. Sunnis are denied permission to build houses
of worship and also pray in public. Leaders of the Baha’i faith suffer harsh
jail sentences and severe treatment. As Americans, as some of us who are here
as Americans, that is very, very difficult for us to understand what that would be like:
suffering for your faith. But it is the reality of the situation
on the ground in Iran. Their access to public education and employment
is restricted, their property confiscated, businesses closed, and
their cemeteries desecrated. The regime limits access to legal representation. It arrests attorneys fighting for the rights
of those whose voices it seeks to silence. Earlier this year prominent human rights attorneys
Nasrin Sotoudeh and Zeinab Taheri were arbitrarily arrested on claims that their routine legal work
endangered national security. Sadly, these imprisoned change-makers are
the very people that Iran needs to fulfill its potential and honor its proud history. Their imprisonment shows
the regime’s insecurities. I’d like to take a moment to recognize
the work of Asma Jahangir, a former UN special rapporteur on the situation
of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Ms. Jahangir passed away
suddenly in early February. We are grateful for her lifetime of service
advocating for universal human rights. She worked to show the true face of the regime
by gathering numerous reports about the use of torture and cruel, inhumane,
and degrading treatment of prisoners. These include allegations of physical and
mental torture to coerce confessions and the authorities’ routine denial
of medical care to those are in need, and also the rights of prisoners
to see their families. We are confident that her successor,
Mr. Javaid Rehman, will continue to document the regime’s manifest abuses. We urge our partners and allies in all nations
to publicly support the Iranian people and their demands for human rights
and fundamental freedoms. As President Trump has said, the longest-suffering
victims of Iran’s leaders are Iran’s own people. The regime can’t continue its institutionalized abuse
without the help of others. That includes international businesses continuing
to invest in a government with a horrendous record of corruption, discrimination, and abuses against
its own people and also foreign citizens. Foreign investment in a criminal regime will
only delay the reforms the Iranian people so desperately need. Let’s be clear: The Iranian regime
spreads instability around the globe and is alone to blame for the problems
that are facing their people now. The United States stands
with the Iranian people who long for a country of economic opportunity, transparency, fairness and greater liberty. I would like to introduce Ahmad Batebi
and Mohsen Sazegara. Ahmad is here today. Ahmad, are you here? Sir, welcome. Thank you so much for being here. Ahmad was jailed in Iran after there
was a photo that you had taken – it was published on the cover of The Economist
magazine back in 1999 – protesting the regime. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison during
a secret trial for creating street unrest. That’s what you were accused of for a photograph
that ran on the cover of The Economist. While on furlough for medical treatment,
he fled from Iran to Iraq in 2008 and was eventually granted asylum
in the United States, and he would like to share
his story with you. And we are so proud to have you here. My understanding is that some of my colleagues
from the State Department and a prior administration, during the Bush administration, had helped facilitate
your eventually coming to the United States. And I know they’re looking forward to reuniting
with you today and over the next few days, so we’re tremendously proud
to have you here. Mohsen, I just mentioned, is an Iranian journalist
and a pro-democracy political activist. Are you here, Mohsen? Thank you, sir. Thank you. Welcome as well. We’re proud to have you here. He served as an elected official until his pro-democracy views got
him banned from public office by the regime back in 2001. He was arrested in 2003 and
served several months in jail. Upon his release, he fled to the United Kingdom
and eventually to the United States. Please join me in welcoming
Ahmad and Mohsen. (Applause.) And I believe you have some remarks. Please, come on up. MR SAZEGARA: Hello, everybody. My name is Mohsen Sazegara. I have come a long way from
Neauphle-le-Chateau, France, accompanying Ayatollah Khomeini victory flight
to Tehran in 1979 to here in New York in 2018. I am one of the writers of IRGC Charter
and member of the board of IRGC, first commanding board of IRGC,
head of national radio, prime minister office political deputy,
head of the IDRO, biggest governmental industrial holding company that owns 140 huge manufacturing
companies of Iran. But when I left the government and started
to criticize the regime, the pressures started. I published four newspapers:
one weekly, two monthlies. All were shut down by the regime. And at last, I ended in Evin Prison and confined. They arrested my son and put pressure
on my wife as well. Four times imprisonment,
and during the last one I was on two long hunger strikes
totaling 79 days. At last I was released in poor health
with heart and eye problems. I succeeded to rescue my family and myself, but many others were not lucky like me and lost their lives or their health. Right now, my main concern as a freedom seeker is the danger of Islamic Republic’s new plan to push the Iranian civil resistance
toward violence as they did in Syria to justify their brutality. Democratic opposition to the regime has started
a campaign for prevention of regime conspiracy. Let me finish my few words with informing
you about the letter that is ready to be sent to the secretary general of the United Nations
with wide spectrum of democratic opposition signatures and starting a campaign
in the street. Thank you. MS NAUERT: Mohsen, thank you. (Applause.) Ahmad, please go ahead. MR BATEBI: Good morning,
ladies and gentlemen. My name is Ahmad Batebi, a journalist
and former political prisoner. 1999, when I was a student, Iran Government
shut down a newspaper, and students came – thank you – out of the university
to support the newspaper. And IRGC forces, police, and some government
supporters attacked to students and dormitory and killed some of them, and the government
sent a big group of students to the jail, including me. In the jail, after a few weeks, interrogators
show me a picture of me with a bloody T-shirt in front of The Economist magazine. And they said that you, by this picture, show
a bad image of our government to the world and we are representative of God on the Earth,
so you show a bad image of God to the world. That’s why they gave me capital punishment. They tortured me and they said that you have to
come in the TV – state TV, front of the camera, and talk against the student movement,
and you have to say this picture is fake, it’s animal blood, and I got money
from U.S. Government and Israel to make this fake picture. I didn’t, actually. I had this chance; I escaped from prison. But at this moment we are talking about
the human rights, and this story – we have a lot of people as a political prisoner
inside Iran, and Iran Government tortured them. (Audio interruption.) I really appreciate it. (Audio interruption.) MR HOOK: Good morning. Did we solve the AV problems? Thank you very much, Heather, and I’m very
pleased to join an old friend of mine and a colleague from the State Department,
Ambassador Mike Kozak. I think as you know, we seek a comprehensive
deal with Iran to address the full range of Iran’s destructive behaviors. We know it supports proxies around the Middle
East, violent proxies that proliferate missiles, maritime aggression, cyber-attacks. One aspect that’s very important to us is
pressing the regime to also live up to its human rights commitments. And it’s fitting that we are echoing this
call here at the United Nations. Earlier this week, Secretary Pompeo gave a
speech, and he said that the Iranian regime’s track record over the past 40 years has revealed
it as among the worst violators of the UN charter and UN Security Council resolutions. The regime’s actions both at home and abroad
are an affront to the UN’s core values, and they should be addressed, especially as
a member-state. We must not fall into the trap of complacency,
nor should we allow ourselves to be deceived by polished diplomats like Foreign Minister
Zarif or President Rouhani. These so-called moderates represent a regime
that routinely jails people who exercise their human rights. They jail lawyers for representing women – some
moderates. We wish fewer diplomats at the UN General
Assembly would accept as normal Iran’s serial violations of human rights. I can assure you there is nothing normal about
Iran’s actions. What’s more, the hollow words of the leaders
of the Islamic Republic here during the UN General Assembly are of little comfort to
the thousands of Iranians who continue to face repression and abuse on a daily basis. What we are demanding of the Iranian regime
is really what this body demands of every member-state. Stop persecuting civil society, please provide
all Iranian citizens with due process regardless of their political and religious beliefs,
and end the support of terrorist proxies who destabilize other nations. The activists that we have highlighted today
and throughout the days leading up to the UN General Assembly. They are guilty only of having the temerity
to stand up and to speak out, and it is time that the international community muster the
strength to do the same. And so to all of these courageous Iranians
who are languishing in prison, please be certain that the United States stands with you. And I encourage everyone to visit the State
Department’s website. We have published a report this week. The Secretary of State rolled it out a couple
of days ago. It’s titled ‘Outlaw Regime,’ chronicling
– ‘A Chronicle of Iran’s Destructive Activities.’ And if you look at chapter six, it is on human
rights abuses in Tehran and here is the photo we have inside and on the cover of a university
student in Iran who is being gassed with a smoke grenade. And so we talk here about the targeting of
religious minorities, the atrocities abroad, the repressions on very basic freedoms. It’s also the case that when you look at
what the Ayatollah was saying – Ayatollah Khomeini was saying when he was in Paris before
going to Iran and then what he said when he got to Iran, he promised an end to a number
of things, and he also promised more freedom, more prosperity, an end to corruption. And we have had 39 years of failed promises. They have not delivered. This regime has not delivered on the promises
of the revolution. I think the Iranian people know that. So many of the things that the United States
is asking the Iranian Government to stop doing are the same things the Iranian people are
asking the government to stop doing. And so we will continue to stand with them. Ambassador Kozak and I are happy to take a
few questions. MODERATOR: Hi, everybody. Welcome. We’re going to start with members of the
media. If you have a question, bring it up — MS NAUERT: One moment. MODERATOR: Yup. I’m going to welcome back Undersecretary
Nauert to the stage for one moment. MS NAUERT: Thank you. Gentlemen, before you start taking questions,
I would like to invite Ahmad to come back and join us. There was a little bit of an audio interference
and it interfered with his ability to tell his story in a way that could clearly be picked
up by those folks who are watching and recording this. So I wanted to ask him, sir, if you would,
apologies for that technical issue. If you would kindly step up and tell us about
your time in Iran in your home country, as you were taking a photograph that appeared
on the cover of The Economist. And after his photo appeared on the cover
of The Economist, you were harassed, detained and all of that. If you would be – kindly, share your story
once again for us. Thank you. MR BATEBI: Thank you. Good morning again. My name is Ahmad Batebi, journalist and former
political prisoner. Is it good? STAFF: Very good. MR BATEBI: Sure, sure. Can you hear me? Is it good? Perfect. My name is Ahmad Batebi, journalist and former
political prisoner in Iran. In 1999, when I was a student, the Iran Government
shut down a reformist newspaper and the students started a big demonstration to support this
newspaper. And a few hours after that, IRGC, Revolutionary
Guard and police and some Iran Government supporter attacked two students and two dormitory. They killed some of these students and injured
them, and sent hundreds of them to the prison, including me. And in the prison, after a few weeks, interrogators
show me a picture – front of The Economist magazine, and – with a bloody t-shirt of
a student has been injured by Revolutionary Guard. And they said that, “By this picture, you
show a bad image of our government to the world, and we are a representative of God,
Allah on the earth. And when you show a bad image of our government
to the world, you directly show a bad image of Allah to the people.” That’s why they gave me capital punishment. And they torture me – different kind of
torture me – mock execution, cable, mental pressure, everything. And they said that, “You have to come in
the TV, state TV, and interview us and talk against student movement and you have to say,
‘I was a spy. I got money from CIA and Mossad to make this
picture that’s not real blood, that’s animal blood or tomato sauce. And – but I didn’t. After nine years and half I had this chance;
I escaped from the prison, but we have a lot of Iranian people in the jail right now as
a political prisoner. They don’t have this chance. The Iran Government torture them. And we have a dream. As I said before, we have a dream, a dream
of freedom and democracy, which we all deserve that. And we all deserve that. Thank you so much, State Department and the
U.S. Government, for paying attention to Iran human
rights issues and thank you for your attention. Thank you so much. MS NAUERT: And thank you for stepping up again
and completing your story. Thank you so much. I’ll hand it over to our Special Representative
Brian Hook and also Ambassador Kozak. Thank you, gentlemen. MODERATOR: So at this time, we’re going
to take questions from the press. If you can raise your hand and wait for the
microphone. And please, state your name and media affiliation. QUESTION: Sure. Hi. I’m Guita with The Voice of America, the
Persian Service. Brian, I have a question for you. We have repeatedly heard from the U.S. Government about Iran’s malign behavior. Up until now, at least I assumed that this
was regarding its terrorist activities and what it supports around the world in terms
of the proxy wars and everything that it carries out. However, with this report that you’ve just
recently put out, you have included human rights in there, and also in the film that
we watched at the beginning there was the term “malign behavior” about human rights. So number one, how high a priority do you
attach to human rights with regards to the Islamic Republic of Iran among everything
else that you’re concerned about? And do you have a strategy for an approach
to addressing that? Thank you. MR HOOK: This report that we put out a couple
of days ago that the Iran Action Group published does represent the range – the entire range
of Iranian threats. We also though include in there a section
on human rights and a section on the environment. It’s – I think it’s been under-reported
in the press the degree to which this government has been systematically destroying the environment. Prior to this government taking power I think
there were about seven ancient dams. There are now over 600 dams and all of this
– all of the dam building has actually dried up many of the lakes and rivers, and so farmers
have a hard time farming, people don’t have access to clean water, don’t have access
– they don’t breathe clean air. And when they protest asking for clean air
and clean water, they’re arrested and killed, and we document this in this report. We don’t believe in taking these things
seriatim. We think that you need to take a comprehensive
approach and highlight the entire range of Iran’s destructive behaviors. Missile proliferation is a destructive behavior. It very much affects the security and the
safety of not only our diplomats, but also our allies and partners around the world. There’s also the destructive behavior inside
of the regime. And so we need to – we will continue to
take a comprehensive approach to all of Iran’s destructive behaviors. More specifically, we are seeking a new deal
with Iran, one that is not just limited to the nuclear program, but covers what we believe
are the threats. And so of those, the fifth of the 12, if you
look at Secretary Pompeo’s speech in May, he talks about releasing all united – citizens
of the United States who are detained unjustly and also those who are detained from our allies
and partners around the world, because their human rights are violated. So of the 12 requirements in a new deal we
include an aspect of human rights. QUESTION: This question is to both of you. My name is Anna Asatiani. I represent Independent Russian Network RTVI. I have a question. How exactly are you planning to support the
human rights in Iran while cutting ties with the country and adding new sanctions? And if you could tell us about – more about
alternative to the Iran deal, and what alternative are you ready to offer? MR HOOK: Well, when you said, “cutting ties,”
we cut ties a long time ago, so we don’t have any ties. In terms of the – our sanctions that are
coming back into place in force in November. The first tranche has already come in back
in August. This is – but the most hard-hitting sanctions
will be around the energy and banking sectors, the financial sectors. The purpose of those sanctions is to deny
the regime the revenue that it needs to fund terrorism and instability around the Middle
East and beyond. And so that is the point of our sanctions,
is to advance our national security objectives and to create sufficient pressure on the Iranian
regime that it decides that the cost-benefit analysis of its destructive behavior is no
longer in their favor. And historically, the regime does not come
to the table absent pressure. If we can talk them into behaving better,
this would have been settled a long time ago. One of the – I would say perhaps the biggest
mistake this regime has made, they were given the opportunity of a lifetime in 2015 with
the Iran nuclear deal, they were given $100 billion in sanctions relief, and that was
their moment to choose a better path. Because the United States at that time – the
prior administration had decided to lift the sanctions and provide enormous sanctions relief,
and the regime then decided to spend billions and billions and billions of dollars on violent
misadventures. I’ve heard that there is a joke inside of
Tehran about the money, the billions that came on the plane: it didn’t land in Tehran,
it landed in Damascus. They – we have released all of these statistics:
almost $5 billion to Assad, $700 million a year to Lebanese Hizballah, hundreds of millions
of dollars in Yemen. And so where does this money come from? It comes from Iran’s opaque economy, money
laundering, the Revolutionary Guard Corps, which controls more than half of the economy. Eighty percent of its tax revenues are from
oil. Where does that money find its natural resting
place with this regime? It ends up in Lebanon, Hamas, Palestine Islamic
Jihad, and their militias in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, the missile proliferation that’s
going on. So we tried sanctions relief with this regime,
and it did not moderate the regime. They used the money and they have become even
more dangerous. And so now we are going back to pressure,
and we are imposing maximum economic pressure on the regime until it decides to change its
behavior. QUESTION: Thank you. Barbara Plett Usher from the BBC. Question for both of you. In your interactions this week with other
diplomats and colleagues, to what – how much has the message that you’re giving
about human rights been impacted by the widespread opposition to the U.S. decision to pull out
of the Iran nuclear deal? For example, you said that President Rouhani’s
words rang hollow, but in fact, they actually resonated much more strongly than they would
have otherwise because of this decision to pull out of the deal, and he was able to paint
the U.S. as a rogue state for violating an international agreement rather than Iran. So has that impacted your ability to strongly
send out your message about human rights? Thank you. MR HOOK: Well, I’ll take the first part
and then ask Ambassador Kozak the second part. As Foreign Minister Zarif told a meeting of
the joint commission last year, it’s not an agreement, it’s a plan of action. It doesn’t have signatures. It was a personal agreement that was approved
by a president no longer in office. The Iranian regime knows our system of government. If they wanted an agreement, a plan of action
that endured beyond the administration, they know what a treaty is, and they decided to
get a much better deal by getting something much lower in our hierarchy of plans. And so they essentially made a 20-year plan
of action with a president who had two years left in office. And so we are not legally bound by this plan. The UN Security Council resolution is not
legally binding. It does not bind any of UN members into staying
in the plan. It is just a plan, and that’s exactly what
Foreign Minister Zarif told a meeting of the joint commission last year, and now he puts
out tweets describing this as a glorious international accord, and he’s not telling the truth. And so we decided to leave the Iran nuclear
plan. We do have a disagreement with the other parties
on the sufficiency of the plan. That is the only disagreement we have. We share the same threat assessment of the
entire range of Iran’s malign behaviors. You could go around the world and ask people
to describe the – Iran’s threats to peace and security, and you’re going to hear almost
an identical version. Do you want to say anything about the human
rights piece? AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Yeah, I’ll just add briefly
I don’t – the goings-on on the nuclear side really hasn’t affected much our dialogue
with others on human rights. Other like-minded governments are also concerned
about the human rights situation in Iran, have been for years. We work together to pass resolutions in the
UN and so on, but you can see how much good that has done. So I think what’s different here is that
we’re putting some teeth behind the human rights factor as well as the other bad behaviors
of Iran. So, no, others have the same goals in that
area as we do. We’ve not had a tool to achieve that goal
up until now, and hopefully this will add some additional leverage that maybe will make
the government be a little more serious about when we all come to them and talk about their
human rights problems. MR HOOK: Let me mention one other thing which
– Mike makes a good point. In 2009 when the last administration had its
eyes on a deal, during the Green Revolution they sided with the regime in the first few
weeks. They were silent. And what we’ve seen is during the period
of negotiating the Iran deal, Western nations tolerated a lot of bad behavior to get the
deal, and they have tolerated much worse behavior since the deal has been signed. Iran has not diminished its pace of missile
tests in violation of UN Security Council resolutions since the JPOA. And if you look at the – all of the expansionist
activities that Iran has been undertaking during the lifetime of the JCPOA, it has acted
as a – for somehow complying – Iran’s compliance with the Iran nuclear deal somehow
became a proxy for Iran complying with all of its other international obligations to
behave like a normal country. And one of the advantages of seeking a better
deal is that it frees us to talk about human rights. In December and in January when the protesters
took to the streets, we were in immediate support of what they asked for from their
government, and we corrected the mistake of not standing with the Iranian people in 2009
during the Green Revolution. QUESTION: Mahmood Enayat from Iran International. I have two questions. One is regarding internet freedom, which is
captured in the report. As you know, Iran is one of the most restrictive
countries when it comes to internet freedom. Most of the social media platforms are blocked. My question is: What are the practical measures
that the U.S. Government is implementing with regard to
helping with internet freedom in Iran? And the second question is about a disinformation
campaign and the possible threat of the – Iran meddling in the upcoming midterm election. As you know, a number of state-sponsored outlets,
their profiles and their accounts on social media was closed down. I’m just wondering to what extent is actually
the real threat, sort of Iran meddling in the U.S. election. MR HOOK: Yeah. Secretary Pompeo’s speech earlier this week
highlighted how Iran has been exploiting social media to spread disinformation. Google, Facebook, and a few other social media
platforms shut down – I know it was hundreds, it might have been thousands of accounts that
were tied back to the Iranian Government. And so another example of how – another
example of an outlaw regime that doesn’t respect international norms, and we will continue
to call that out. We are doing – we think it’s very important
for the Iranian people to be as interconnected as possible. You’ve got – the ayatollah has a Twitter
account and Zarif and Rouhani have a Twitter account, but they ban social media inside
of Iran. This is the hypocrisy of the regime and Secretary
Pompeo has called out and will continue to call out all acts of hypocrisy by this religious
dictatorship. QUESTION: Hi, Kevin Princic with the Yomiuri
Shimbun. My question is: What are you doing for the
human rights or for the people of Iran? When you talked about Secretary Pompeo’s
remarks, you talked about freeing American or allies prisoners. What about the Iranian prisoners? And what kind of sanctions will you be pursuing
to support the Iranian people in terms of human rights as United States unilaterally
and also multilaterally through United Nations? MR HOOK: Well, I’ll give my quick answer. We – during the December and January protests,
we imposed U.S. sanctions on the minister of the judiciary in Iran, and that was because
of what he was doing to jail protesters, and so we thought it was very important to reach
into the judiciary. The Iranian people have been – they’re
completely jaded and frustrated by Iran’s judiciary. They don’t believe that Iran’s judicial
system provides any notion of due process or fairness, and so people have lost confidence
in their judicial system to render justice. That’s why – one of the reasons why we
sanctioned the head of the judiciary, and I’ll ask Mike to add anything else on that. AMBASSADOR KOZAK: No, well, I think that’s
a good example, and we’ve been able to do things in other areas as well, the previous
question about internet freedom. We work in countries throughout the world
to try to help people overcome barriers to access to the internet and so on. So I think that the bottom line is that since
we’ve put this item on the agenda, as the report that Ambassador Hook laid out shows,
now we can talk about human rights with a little bit of leverage behind it. Instead of just saying it would be nice for
you to improve yourself in these – this area, we’re saying if you really want to
have a normal relationship with the United States and hopefully with other countries,
you should be paying attention to this. I think the other thing we’re trying to
do is also, as Secretary Nauert mentioned, call on businesses around the world to say,
do you really want to be joining in business ventures with people who behave this way? It usually does not end well for the businesses,
let alone for the suffering people in the country. So that’s another thing we can do to help
on human rights is to link that back and say, before you go and invest in – with the IRGC
or something, you should look at what they’re doing and try to get some assurance that they’re
not going to do that kind of stuff before you put money into a bad venture like that. MR HOOK: Yeah, exactly. Businesses around the world invest in Iran
at their peril. There is a great deal of reputational risk
when you partner with this regime for a couple of reasons. One, Iran has deliberately – the regime
has created a deliberately opaque economy. They don’t comply with international banking
standards. They’re not in compliance with SWIFT standards. They have a Revolutionary Guard Corps. Imagine a Revolutionary Guard Corps that controls
more than half of the economy. And when you do business in Iran, you never
know if you are supporting business or terrorism. And when you do business with this regime,
you are supporting a regime that gives money to Assad, who then uses that money to gas
his own people and use chemical weapons. And so businesses need to understand that
if they want to make a contribution to national security, they should stop foreign direct
investment in that country. QUESTION: Hi, my name is Atsushi Takemoto
with Kyodo News, Japan. Thank you for doing this. Couple of years ago I used to live in Iran. My house was close to the Evin Prison. And during my stay I met lots of Iranian citizens
who paid respect, big respect to American culture, American values, and those are the
people who are actually suffering from sanctions on the ground. So my question is on the Iran Action Group. So are you – other than putting pressure
on the regime, are you trying to communicate or are you trying to promote communication
with the Iranian citizens, not the regime? MR HOOK: Yes, of course. And understand something: As Heather was saying
earlier, the longest-suffering people of the Iranian regime are the Iranian people. For 39 years they have mismanaged their economy,
they’ve mismanaged the environment, and they have become an international pariah. Because this, at heart, is a revolutionary
regime. It’s the last revolutionary regime on Earth. You can’t say that about North Korea; it’s
a hermit kingdom. But this is a regime that has in its constitution
the export of revolution. And so what we have – what we have been
saying is it is – it’s important that the Iranian people understand that we have
exemptions in our sanctions regime that provide for food, medicine, medical devices. That will be very robustly implemented. We think that’s very important. But the suffering that the Iranian people
are going through economically with the collapse of the rial, the high unemployment, especially
high youth unemployment, is a consequence of a regime that has been robbing its citizens
for many decades, and they spend that money on revolution outside of its borders. And so our message to the Iranian people is
that we support your demands on the regime. Many of them are the same demands that we
have. MODERATOR: And this will be the last question. QUESTION: Thank you. Hatem El-Gamasy from Ambassador Hook, you just mentioned sanctions
did not moderate the regime of Iran. What else could be done to pressure the regime
to improve their human rights record? Also about doing business with Iran, some
of the United States key allies in the area, such as Qatar, enjoy excellent relations either
with military cooperation or economic with Iran. Doesn’t this concern the United States? Thank you, sir. MR HOOK: On the – what was the first part
of the question? QUESTION: What else could be done besides
sanctions? Sanctions did not — MR HOOK: Oh, yeah, pressure. Well, what we have is we are – our Defense
Department is trying to – is doing its best to restore deterrence against missile proliferation,
against terrorist attacks. A lot of our diplomacy in Syria under Ambassador
Jeffrey, a lot of his diplomacy is focused on a political track that ensures that all
forces under Iranian control have left Syria. Iran has about 2,500 soldiers from the IRGC
and the Qods Force, and they also manage 10,000 Shia fighters. And we will be denying reconstruction assistance
to territories held by Assad until we achieve our goal of removing forces under Iranian
control from Syria. We also are working very closely in government
formation in Iraq. Our ambassador in Baghdad is working very
hard on that. We are doing what we can to interdict weapons
shipments to Yemen. We have had some success with that. Ambassador Haley has been to the Defense Department
to show the range of Iranian hardware that we have picked up on the battlefield. These are missiles, drones, AK-47s, grenades,
I’ve seen it all. And what’s remarkable now is that when you
see, like, the Qiam 2 missile and the missile that actually was shot from Yemen and landed
right on the margins of the Riyadh International Airport, you can see on the tailfin clear
markings of Shahid Bakeri Industries, which manufactures missiles in Iran. We have another missile that we recently interdicted
with our partners in the region that’s on display. It’s in pristine condition, and you can
see all the markings in Farsi. They’re really doing this quite brazenly,
and so this is why our message is we really need to restore deterrence. That’s the deterrence side. The diplomatic side is putting in place maximum
economic pressure. The sanctions regime that brought Iran to
the table for the JCPOA, the Iran nuclear deal, started in 2006 in the UN Security Council,
where the IAEA reported Iran’s nuclear program to the council because they could not verify
that it was a peaceful nuclear program. And so then we started – the first one was
Resolution 1696, then we started passing Chapter 7 resolutions under 1737, 1747, and what followed
were a series of resolutions that continued through the Obama years putting pressure on
the regime. That then brought them to the table. It will be much easier for us to restore pressure
than it was back in 2006. And so our sanctions are going to be re-imposed,
there will be maximum economic pressure to deny the regime the revenues it needs to conduct
terrorism, but also to create leverage for us to achieve a comprehensive deal that we’re
seeking. Mike, want to add anything to that? AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Yeah, I think we too often
on human rights issues with other countries get focused on one particular tool or another. I mean, the reason these countries have human
rights problems is it’s deliberate, and as we’ve outlined today, they don’t want
to change that. So you have to put something in place that’s
going to make them have to come and make a deal with you to change it. And it’s the whole range of pressures, and
it’s the range of isolation from the normal world that I think eventually will bring a
regime like this to the table. Because at some point they do have to be able
to get revenue and be able to trade, and if you can say that’s not going to happen until
you make some progress on these points, eventually you get there. But we get too often – get very focused
on, well let’s – this sanction didn’t work in this case so we shouldn’t do that
anymore. And it doesn’t work that way. It’s what collectively puts them under enough
pressure to say, “Okay, I really don’t want to have to stop repressing my people
but I guess I’m going to have to in order to be able to get what I want on the economic
side.” MR HOOK: Ambassador Kozak has a distinguished
history of advancing human rights, and he and I have had a lot of conversations over
the years about how do you go about that. And we think that the biggest mistake you
can make is to separate human rights from everything else. When you do that, as other administrations
in the past have done, you end up not making much progress on your national security objectives
and you don’t – and you make even less progress on human rights. We believe in taking a comprehensive approach
to these things, so that’s why when the President addresses the UN General Assembly
and he talks about the range of threats that Iran presents to peace and security, he also
talks about standing with the Iranian people and highlighting the abuses this regime has
committed. These things have to travel arm in arm, and
that is the most effective diplomacy if you want to actually make progress on human rights. QUESTION: One more question, please? MODERATOR: I’m so sorry. That takes us to the end of our press conference. Thank you all for coming. QUESTION: (Off-mike.) MODERATOR: We will – this concludes the
press portion of the program. There’ll be other opportunities to engage
our speakers. Ambassador Kozak, Special Representative Hook,
thank you very much. MR HOOK: Great, thank you. (Applause.)

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