United States Sanctions Two Hizballah Officials

23 Oct

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

Today, the United States is designating two Hizballah officials to maintain pressure on the group and impede its ability to operate in the financial system.  The United States is designating Nabil Qaouk and Hassan Al-Baghdadi pursuant to Executive Order 13224, as amended, for being officials or leaders of Hizballah, a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization and Specially Designated Global Terrorist.  Qaouk and Al-Baghdadi are members of Hizballah’s Central Council, a group of senior Hizballah officials that elects the terrorist group’s Shura Council, Hizballah’s highest decision-making body.  Qaouk has also served on Hizballah’s Executive Council, which oversees the group’s social and economic activities.

Hizballah remains a terrorist threat to the United States, our allies, and our interests in the Middle East and around the world.  It is essential that countries take steps to restrict Hizballah’s activities and disrupt the terrorist group’s facilitation networks.

These designations reinforce other recent U.S. designations of Hizballah officials, entities, and others who have provided support or services to it, including certain political enablers.  These designations also expose their actions, which all too often prioritize their own interests or those of Tehran ahead of the Lebanese people.  As the United States commemorates the 37th anniversary of Hizballah’s heinous attack on the U.S. Marine Corps Barracks in Beirut, we reaffirm our commitment to take action to disrupt Hizballah’s operations and promote accountability for its terrorist acts.  All responsible nations must take appropriate steps to restrict Hizballah’s activities and constrain its influence.

For more information about today’s designation, please see the Department of the Treasury’s press release.


United States Designates Senior Iranian Official in Iraq

23 Oct

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

For many years, the Iranian regime and its primary tool of regional destabilization, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF), have exploited Iraq to advance their own interests at the expense of the Iraqi people.  The IRGC-QF’s activities in Iraq continue to undermine Iraqi security, sovereignty, and prosperity.

Today, the United States is taking another step to protect the Iraqi people from malign IRGC-QF influence by designating Iraj Masjedi, a senior IRGC-QF general in Iraq who also serves as Iran’s ambassador to Iraq.  Masjedi has helped direct a variety of IRGC-QF activities in Iraq for many years, including training and providing support for Iraqi militia groups and facilitating large-scale financial transactions involving the IRGC-QF.  Acting in a nefarious fashion for the IRGC-QF’s benefit, Masjedi has exploited his diplomatic position to facilitate financial transfers in Iraq for the IRGC-QF, concealing the group’s interest in the funds.  Moreover, Masjedi has publicly acknowledged the IRGC-QF’s role in training militia groups in Iraq and Syria.  The United States is designating Masjedi pursuant to Executive Order 13224, as amended, for acting or purporting to act for or on behalf of the IRGC-QF, a Specially Designated Global Terrorist.  The United States previously designated the IRGC, including the IRGC-QF, as Foreign Terrorist Organization as it supports, finances, and directs terrorist activities around the world.

In his decades of service with the IRGC-QF, Masjedi has overseen a program of training and support to Iraqi militia groups, undermining the Iraqi government, increasing sectarianism, and targeting peaceful Iraqi citizen protesters with violence.  He has directed or supported groups that are responsible for attacks against U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq.  Today’s action is another reminder that the United States will continue to counter the Iranian regime’s malign behavior in the region.

For more information about today’s designation, please see the Department of the Treasury’s press release.


Joint Statement by the Foreign Ministers of the Small Group on Syria

22 Oct

Office of the Spokesperson

Following is the text of a Joint Statement by the Foreign Ministers of the Small Group on Syria.

Begin text:

We, the Foreign Ministers of Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, and the United States continue to strongly support a political resolution of the Syrian crisis on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 2254.

We support the efforts of United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen to move forward with the political process.  A political solution as set out in UNSCR 2254 is the only way to bring a sustainable peace, stability, and security to the Syrian people, and would facilitate the withdrawal of all foreign forces that came into Syria after 2011.  Such a solution must preserve the territorial integrity, unity, and sovereignty of Syria.

We took note of the Constitutional Committee’s launch in 2019.  We urge continued engagement with the committee to ensure substantial progress on the discussion of the constitution in line with the committee’s mandate and procedures.  We stand behind Special Envoy Pedersen’s efforts to convene the fourth round of meetings, which must discuss substantial issues in order to achieve meaningful progress.  Steps should be made to advance all of the other dimensions of the political process, including towards the convening of UN-supervised free and fair elections in a safe and neutral environment as outlined in UNSCR 2254, in which internally displaced persons, refugees, and the diaspora must be able to participate.

After almost 10 years of conflict, the people of Syria have suffered deeply.  Hundreds of thousands have been killed and millions forcibly displaced.  Now facing COVID-19 and continued economic difficulties, we want to highlight again the importance of providing safe and unhindered humanitarian access for all Syrians currently in need of it, including areas where conditions are noticeably deteriorating, as in Idlib province and South Syria.  We would also like to urge the international community to continue supporting Syrian refugees and their hosting countries and communities until Syrians can voluntarily return home in safety, dignity, and security.  We also oppose forced demographic change and commit to disburse no assistance for any resettlement of Syrian refugees that is not in line with UNHCR standards.

Additionally, we want to reinforce that efforts toward a political solution in line with UNSCR 2254 must result in progress toward facilitating the safe, voluntary, and dignified return of IDPs and refugees, the release of Syrian detainees, and holding all those responsible for atrocities accountable.  We stress the importance of sufficient international support to assist host countries of refugees to help them in their efforts to fulfill the needs of refugees and maintain the resilience of host communities.

There is no military solution that will bring peace, security, and stability to Syria.  Progress on the political process as outlined in UNSCR 2254, in addition to the establishment of a nationwide ceasefire also as outlined in UNSCR 2254, remains the only path forward towards a better future for all Syrians.

We reiterate our commitment to the enduring defeat of ISIS and other UN-recognized terrorist groups throughout Syria including in the Northwest and the South, including al-Qaeda and HTS.  We express our deep concern regarding the terrorist threat in the South of Syria and commit to supporting humanitarian efforts there.  We deplore the possible further internalization of the Syrian conflict by the transfer of combatants, including militants, and equipment by various parties to other areas of conflict.

End text.


On the Loss of Life Due to Significant Flooding in Central Vietnam

22 Oct

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

The Government of the United States expresses its deepest condolences to the Government and people of Vietnam as they mourn those who perished due to significant flooding in the central region of Vietnam as a result of Tropical Storm Linfa.  The U.S. government stands ready to assist Vietnam in addressing the damage caused by the floods, and we send our deepest sympathies to all affected by this tragedy, including the many thousands who were displaced.


Secretary Michael R. Pompeo at a Naturalization Ceremony with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

22 Oct

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

Washington, D.C.

MR ROSENBERG:  Good morning.  My name is Ron Rosenberg.  I’m the Washington district director for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.  It’s my honor to welcome you to this very special naturalization ceremony at the Department of State.

Taking the oath of allegiance and embracing U.S. citizenship is a remarkable act of patriotism for those who choose to make a permanent commitment to the United States.  Today in taking the oath of allegiance to support and defend the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, you have gained important new rights and responsibilities, along with ownership of America’s future.

I hope you are inspired and dedicated to fully exercising these rights and meet the responsibilities that accompany U.S. citizenship.  I’m confident that your spirit and dedication will contribute to the continued prosperity, strength, and well-being of our nation.

It’s now my privilege to call your countries and present you for naturalization.

Candidates for naturalization, when you hear your country of current nationality called, please stand and remain standing.

Afghanistan.  Dominica.  Egypt.  El Salvador.  France.  Georgia.  India.  Nigeria.  South Korea.  Sudan.  And Turkey.

We’re fortunate to have USCIS Deputy Director for Policy Joseph Edlow here today to administer the oath of allegiance.  He is responsible for leading USCIS.  Mr. Edlow, I present to you 11 candidates, representing 11 countries, who have applied to become U.S. citizens.  Each candidate has been interviewed by an officer of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and, unless exempted by the law, has demonstrated the ability to read, write, and speak words in the English language.  Each has demonstrated his or her knowledge and understanding of the history and the principles and form of government of the United States.

Mr. Edlow, I recommend that these candidates be administered the oath of allegiance, thereby admitting them to U.S. citizenship.

MR EDLOW:  Ron, thank you so much.  Ladies and gentlemen, it is my privilege and pleasure to administer the oath of allegiance to these 11 candidates for naturalization today.

(The oath is administered.)

MR EDLOW:  Congratulations, you’re all now citizens of the United States.  (Applause.)

Please be seated.

It is a distinct privilege for me to join you and take part in such an important milestone in your lives.  This day marks the beginning of your first day as new American citizens.  I know that this occasion may represent for you the end of a long road, a road that began in another country, perhaps many years or decades ago.  It also represents the beginning of a new road as you embark on your journey as a new citizen.  Today you celebrate all that you have accomplished to meet the requirements to be called a United States citizen.  Now you will have the opportunity to add to the diverse and unique story of America.  It is a story written by all of us, and it is made possible by our shared love of this country and the ideals on which it is built.

I ask that you commit yourselves to exercising and upholding your new rights and responsibilities as U.S. citizens.  Register to vote; get involved in your children’s schools; participate in your church, temple, or synagogue; volunteer in your local community; serve in our armed forces; operate a business; run for public office.  America needs your talent, energy, and enthusiasm now more than ever in this challenging time in our nation’s history.

I’m proud to welcome you as the newest generation of American citizens.  Thank you for your commitment that you’ve made to our country and to your fellow citizens.  Congratulations to you all.  Thank you.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is now my honor to introduce the Secretary of State, the Honorable Michael R. Pompeo.  Secretary Pompeo has truly demonstrated his deep commitment to this country, as evidenced by his long and distinguished history of military and public service.  After graduating first in his class from the United States Military Academy at West Point, he served this country in the U.S. Army.  He would later go on to become our – a four-term congressman in the Kansas fourth district before joining the current administration as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency in 2017 and then being sworn in as our Secretary of State on April 26th, 2018.  Throughout his illustrious career, Secretary Pompeo has been a dedicated public service, working hard for the betterment of his community, his state, and all of us in this country.  Please join me in welcoming Secretary Pompeo.  (Applause.)

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Well, good morning.  Good morning, everyone.  Welcome to the State Department, this beautiful room.  We’ve got Ben Franklin looking out at us, a completely appropriate place for us all to be on this very special day.

And for those of you who are here, I want to give a special welcome to you, those who just have taken the oath of allegiance and received a high honor.  You are now American citizens. It’s an incredible privilege to join you.  It’s a day I won’t forget, and I know none of you will either.

Deputy Director Edlow, District Director Rosenberg, thank you for being here, and for the work USCIS does to make American dreams come true.   I’ve had the chance to see this now as Secretary of State.  Please tell your teams they do wonderful, amazing work on behalf of America.

I’ve wanted to do this for a long time.  I’m glad I finally got the chance, that everybody’s schedule worked.

Last year, I had this cool opportunity – I went back to my hometown, a place called Pacentro, Italy.  You – take you a while to find it on the map.  It’s the town where my great-grandparents Carlo and Adelina, emigrated from in the 20th century.

When I was walking through the town, it made me contemplate the courage that they must have summoned to uproot themselves, the comforts that they had in their home country, to cross an ocean and make America their new place.

But they did it anyway, just as immigrants have done time and time again.

I always ask:  What drove them to do that?

My father told a little bit of the story.  They just knew America was special.  It’s really pretty simple.  Its unrivaled opportunities were something that appealed to them, and our freedoms, both of which they understood and they are something that you all have come to know are rooted in our foundational documents, in the American creed.

We live according to a simple Latin phrase: E Pluribus Unum.  And it’s different too, what you all have just experienced.

In other places, citizenship is linked with race, or ethnicity, or religion.  But not here.  In America, we unite around America herself.

You all love liberty.  That’s why you came to become American citizens.  We share that.  It’s something we all have in common.

And it means too – and you heard in your swearing-in – it means honoring and defending our Constitution.

It means joining with people who don’t look like you or speak like you or frankly worship like you, who all think:  God bless America.  It’s a great place.

That’s what you all, the 11 of you who are sitting in front of me today are doing.  You’ve become citizens of the most remarkable nation in the history of civilization.

And that’s no small statement.  True to our history, you’ve come from all over the place to pursue the American dream.

We went through the countries – Dominica, Egypt, Nigeria, Turkey.

Look, we have an accountant here today.  Where’s my accountant?  We got some math to do, all right.  We have a health technology specialist, Uber driver, other professions.

It’s been a pleasure to read some of the stories that you all have.

I’ll just read one from – for Kemal Dogan Emmez from Turkey, a project manager.  Here’s what you’re quoted as saying – you tell me if we got this right – that you came to the United States six years ago with your wife just eight months after marriage, that you wanted to start a new life in the United States where you could live in peace, wealth, and freedom.  Now I’m very excited that you’re very excited to become a U.S. citizen because the United States is your home and you want to be part of it.

We welcome you and your family to America.  I hope you get every bit of that.  I know you’ll get the freedom.  I hope you get the wealth.  And I know you’ll work hard to do that.

As – today, as you reflect on this in the days ahead, you’ve now made a forever pledge of allegiance to the red, white, and blue.  I have one encouragement for you today:

Chase it.  You came here for a reason.  You had a set of ambitions.  Continue to pursue them.

Remember how generations of Americans before you sometimes struggled to achieve the ambitions they came here to pursue, but they kept after it.  You all have worked, you’ve past a test that – you understand that we have as a foundational idea this pursuit of life and liberty and happiness.  But none of you should expect it will ever be easy.  It requires hard work, but it’s always worth striving for.

Remember too that the calling of citizen bestows on you not only that opportunity, but a responsibility as well.  Take that seriously.  It’s a responsibility to enlarge and beautify your golden American inheritance – an inheritance that you yourself will have the opportunity to leave to others.

I hope you’ll take enormous advantage of your new set of opportunities, your liberties.  I hope you’ll vote; I hope you’ll volunteer.  I hope you’ll participate in civic life and live that life out with integrity.

As John Page, one of the first governors of the state of Virginia, said, quote, “There’s nothing more desirable than to see good order, public virtue, and true morality constituting the character of the citizens of the United States.”

America’s enduring strength at home and abroad lies ultimately in the hearts of our citizens.

That’s you.

Don’t forget that.

In 1918, now just over a hundred years ago, during World War I, an American songwriter named Irving Berlin – everyone will come to know him – who is a Jewish immigrant from Russia, was serving in the U.S. Army, writing patriotic songs.  We can all sing them.  He wrote a tune that he liked very much, but decided to set it aside at the time.

Twenty years later, as the threat of World War II loomed, he dusted it off.  That song quickly became famous.  It’s “God Bless America.”  I will read it, not sing it to you.  (Laughter.)  You’re welcome.  (Laughter.)  But it reads as this, it says:

God bless America, the land that I love

Stand beside her and guide her

Through the night with the light from above

From the mountains to the prairies

To the oceans white with foam

God bless America, my home sweet home

To my new American friends:  May God bless you.  May God bless each of your families as well.  And may God bless this great nation, our home sweet home.  It was a privilege to be with you all here today.  And I will ask Director Rosenberg to come up and give some closing remarks.

Congratulations to each of you.


MR ROSENBERG:  Thank you, Secretary Pompeo, for those inspiring remarks.  At this time, I would like to ask the USCIS team to distribute the naturalization certificates to our new citizens.

While they are doing that, on behalf of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, I would like to take a moment to say a special thank you to Secretary Pompeo for hosting us in this beautiful setting.  I know this will be a memorable day for all our new citizens.

Thank you all for joining us today, and please join me in a final round of applause for America’s newest citizens.  Congratulations.




Joint Statement on the Launch of the U.S.-UAE Strategic Dialogue

22 Oct

Office of the Spokesperson

The text of the following statement was released by the Governments of the United States of America and the United Arab Emirates.

Begin Text:

The United States, led by Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), led by Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, today further developed bilateral ties and solidified the strategic partnership between the two countries through the launch of a new strategic dialogue.  The launch of the inaugural U.S.-UAE Strategic Dialogue demonstrates Emirati and American resolve to advance efforts to promote regional stability and cooperation as partners in peace.

The Strategic Dialogue will cover a number of key areas, from political coordination and defense cooperation to economic and cultural exchange, with the broad aim of advancing mutual policy interests, solving regional issues, promoting tolerance, and countering extremism.

In recognition of the two countries’ security partnership, the Strategic Dialogue is meant to underline the importance of U.S.-UAE defense coordination to deter military threats through joint planning, training, exercises, and interoperability of equipment.  Deepening and expanding the defense and intelligence relationship is expected to enable the UAE to continue developing its security capabilities and the United States to continue playing an active role in regional security efforts.

The Strategic Dialogue will advance cooperation in law enforcement and border security to combat criminal activity, as well as U.S.-UAE- intelligence sharing to counter extremism and strengthen multilateral partnerships that enhance international security.

Moreover, the Strategic Dialogue aims to support mutual prosperity through open and increased trade and investment in critical sectors, including medicine, life sciences, energy, agriculture, food security, logistics, aviation, and artificial intelligence.

On the cultural front, the dialogue is intended to broaden the enduring people-to-people connections between the UAE and United States in education, media, the arts, religious dialogue, and political institutions through our bilateral exchanges.  Important collaboration across these sectors will be further advanced and highlighted by U.S. participation next year at Expo 2020 Dubai, the Middle East’s first-ever World’s Fair.

Furthermore, noting the shared objective to support the peaceful use of outer space to the benefit of humanity, the two countries plan to work to expand cooperation on civil and commercial space activity and provide opportunities for collaboration in the space sector.

Finally, the United States and UAE plan to include within the Strategic Dialogue an effort to strengthen the U.S.-UAE human rights partnership by exchanging best practices and jointly working to combat human trafficking, confront religious hatred and ethnic bigotry, and protect and promote human rights on the domestic, regional, and international levels.

The launch of the U.S.-UAE Strategic Dialogue comes in the wake of the historic Abraham Accords that was achieved with U.S. support, and as the friendship between the United States and the United Arab Emirates has never been stronger.  We share common values and hopes for the future, and our partnership is flourishing in commerce, investment, and defense.  Through the Strategic Dialogue we plan to engage in an open, robust, and deep discussion that sustains and improves our cooperation and deepens our bilateral relationship.

End text.