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Tuesday 20th March 2018

Pompeo Reasserts US Middle East Role as Force for Good


Meriam H. Helal

Thu, 10 Jan 2019 17:52 GMT

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a speech in Cairo on Thursday January 10th rallied Arab nations across the region to galvanize against the Iranian regime and play a greater role in annihilating terrorist forces. More widely, he focused on reshaping the course of the Middle East under President Donald Trump.

In his speech at the American University of Cairo entitled “A Force for Good: America’s Reinvigorated Role in the Middle East,” Pompeo extolled the Trump administration’s actions in the region, including taking on Isis in Iraq and Syria and imposing tough new sanctions on Iran.

Pompeo stressed that the United States under President Trump has reasserted its traditional role as a force for good in this region, and it has learned from its mistakes.

“For those who fret about the use of American power, remember: America has always been a liberating force, not an occupying power, in the Middle East. We’ve never dreamed of domination. Can you say the same of the Iranian regime? Today in Iraq, at the government’s invitation, we have approximately 5,000 troops – where there were once 166,000.”

Without mentioning former president Obama by name, Pompeo denounced him for "misguided" and "wishful" thinking that diminished America's role in the region, harmed its long-time friends and emboldened its main foe: Iran.

Pompeo unloaded on President Donald Trump's predecessor for being naive and timid when confronted with challenges posed by the revolts that convulsed the Middle East, including Egypt, beginning in 2011. Pompeo laid the blame notably on a vision outlined by President Barack Obama in a speech he gave in Cairo in 2009 in which he spoke of "a new beginning" for US relations with countries in the Arab and Muslim world.

Pompeo said, “It was here, here in this very city, another American stood before you. He told you that radical Islamist terrorism does not stem from ideology. He told you 9/11 led my country to abandon its ideals, particularly in the Middle East. He told you that the United States and the Muslim world needed 'a new beginning.' The results of these misjudgements have been dire."

Pompeo blamed the previous administration's approach to the Middle East for the ills that consume it now, particularly the rise of Isis in Iraq and Syria and Iran's increasing assertiveness, which he said was a direct result of sanctions relief, since rescinded by the Trump administration, granted to it under the 2015 nuclear deal.

His speech stressed the need for the US to continue its role in confronting radical Islamist terrorism and asking Middle East nations to shoulder new responsibilities for defeating the extremism such groups embody.

“America will continue to confront the ugly reality of radical Islamist terrorism. The Trump Administration is calling on allies and partners to do more to confront this shared threat. America bolstered a coalition of allies and partners to dismantle the Isis caliphate. Of the territory Isis once held, 99% is now liberated,” Pompeo said.

He added “The United States will remain a steadfast partner on counterterrorism. Our airstrikes in the region will continue as targets arise. We will keep working with our partners in the Coalition to defeat Isis. We will continue to hunt down terrorists in the Middle East and around the world who seek safe havens.”

On Iran, Pompeo warned that the nations of the Middle East will never enjoy security, achieve economic stability, or advance the dreams of its peoples if Iran’s revolutionary regime persists on its current course.

He said, “Since withdrawing from the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Iran last year, the administration has steadily ratcheted up pressure on Tehran and routinely accuses the nation of being the most destabilizing influence in the region.” It has vowed to increase the pressure until Iran halts what US officials describe as its “malign activities” throughout the Mideast and elsewhere, including support for rebels in Yemen, anti-Israel groups and Syrian President Bashar Assad.

“The nations of the Middle East will never enjoy security, achieve economic stability, or advance the dreams of its peoples if Iran’s revolutionary regime persists on its current course,” Pompeo said in his speech.

Pompeo also rejected suggestions that Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria signalled a US retreat from the fight against Isis and maintained that differences with Turkey over the status of USbacked Syrian Kurdish forces that the Turks deem as terrorists could be overcome. He said the “crushing campaign” against Isis would continue even without American forces in Syria and said consultations with Turkey over the Kurds were continuing.

Pompeo arrived in Egypt after stops in Jordan and Iraq, where he sought to assure leaders about the Syria withdrawal. His nine-nation Middle East tour aimed at reassuring America’s Arab partners that the Trump administration is not walking away from the region and will maintain pressure on Iran.

After his visit to Egypt, Pompeo travels to the Gulf Arab states of Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Kuwait to press the case.

He met earlier with Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry to discuss security and economic cooperation.

Pompeo said on Twitter that his meeting with el-Sissi had been “productive.” He added that “the US stands firmly with Egypt in its commitments to protecting religious freedom and in the fight against terrorism that threatens all of our friends in the Middle East.”

At a brief news conference with Shoukry, Pompeo said “the United States will remain a steadfast partner in the region for Egypt and others” while also urging the countries of the region to recognise and fight back against Iranian aggression. He termed Iran the “greatest threat of all in the Middle East.”

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