published: 2019-01-10 18:34:58
NEWS DESK | U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in the Middle East to discuss the American presence in the region with countries and groups there — including Jordan, Egypt, Iraq and the Kurds in Iraq. He also promised a fierce stand against Iran’s activities.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Thursday for an end to Middle East rivalries to roll back Tehran’s influence and vowed to ‘expel every last Iranian boot’ from Syria as he sought to reassure allies about US plans to withdraw troops from the war-ravaged country.
The top American diplomat took aim at former president Barack Obama’s Middle East policies in his address entitled ‘A Force for Good: America Reinvigorated in the Middle East’ at the American University in Cairo, crediting President Donald Trump for reversing the United States’ ‘willful blindness to the danger of the [Iranian] regime’.
Trump’s predecessor had ‘grossly underestimated the tenacity and viciousness of radical Islamism,’ Pompeo said. And parroting Obama’s words in his landmark 2009 speech in Cairo, Pompeo vowed that now was really ‘a new beginning’ in ties between the US and the Middle East.
‘In falsely seeing ourselves as a force for what ails the Middle East, we were timid about asserting ourselves when the times — and our partners — demanded it,’ Pompeo said, without explicitly naming Obama.
‘Countries increasingly understand that we must confront the ayatollahs, not coddle them,’ Pompeo added.He said that America’s ‘penchant for wishful thinking’ allowed Hezbollah in Lebanon, backed by Iran, to stockpile a massive arsenal of some 130,000 rockets and missiles, some equipped with precision guiding technology.
‘That arsenal is aimed squarely at our ally Israel,’ Pompeo said.
‘In Lebanon, Hezbollah remains a major presence, but we won’t accept this status quo. Our aggressive sanctions campaign against Iran is also directed at the terror group and its leaders,’ he said.Pompeo said that the United States ‘fully supports Israel’s right to defend itself against Iran’s aggressive adventurism’ and will continue to ensure that Israel has the military capacity to act ‘decisively’.
‘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.
He called for an end to old rivalries ‘for the sake of the greater good of the region,’ pointing to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s clandestine visit to Oman in October and the Israeli judo team’s participation in a tournament in the United Arab Emirates as signs of rapprochements already underway.
‘These steps toward rapprochement are necessary for greater security in the face of shared threats. And they hint at a brighter future for the region,’ he said.
This is Pompeo’s longest trip since taking office last year, and it has already taken him to Jordan, Baghdad and Arbil. The whistle-stop tour will also take Pompeo to Gulf countries including the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
His tour is aimed at urging regional allies to continue to confront the ‘significant threats’ posed by Iran and Islamic jihadists despite the US withdrawal.Pompeo met earlier Thursday with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, after arriving in Cairo late Wednesday.
‘We will withdraw our forces, our uniformed forces, from Syria and continue America’s crushing campaign,’ Pompeo told reporters at a joint press conference with Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shukry.
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