United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed in a speech in Cairo on Thursday that the Trump administration will work with allies to “expel every last Iranian boot” from Syria, the Times of Israel reported. “We strongly support Israel’s efforts to stop Tehran from turning Syria into the next Lebanon,” the secretary said.
In his speech, which begins at 18 minutes in the video embedded below, to the American University in Cairo entitled “A Force for Good: America’s Reinvigorated Role in the Middle East,” the senior U.S. diplomat warned that areas controlled by the regime of Bashar al-Assad will receive no reconstruction aid from the U.S. until Iran and its proxies had completely withdrawn.
Pompeo stressed that “The United States fully supports Israel’s right to defend itself against the Iranian regime’s aggressive adventurism. We will continue to ensure that Israel has the military capacity to do so decisively.”
The secretary sharply criticized ex-President Barack Obama’s Middle East policy, saying he had made “dire misjudgements.” Pompeo observed that when “Assad unleashed terror upon ordinary Syrians and barrel-bombed civilians with sarin gas, a true echo of Saddam Hussein’s gassing of the Kurdish people, we condemned his actions. But in our hesitation to wield power, we did nothing.”
As a result, Pompeo said, America’s enemies had been emboldened and allies weakened. The secretary specifically criticized the Obama administration for enabling Iran to expand its “cancerous influence to Yemen, to Iraq, to Syria, and still further into Lebanon,” as well as to deepen its military presence near Israeli territory.
“America’s penchant for wishful thinking led us to look the other way as Hezbollah, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Iranian regime, accumulated a massive arsenal of approximately 130,000 rockets and missiles,” Pompeo said. “That arsenal is aimed squarely at our ally Israel.”
Praising positive developments in the Middle East, the secretary welcomed Israel’s warming ties with Arab Gulf states as “old rivalries” are put aside to confront the Iranian regime. “Nations are rallying to our side to confront the regime like never before. Egypt, Oman, Kuwait, and Jordan have all been instrumental in thwarting Iran’s efforts to evade sanctions,” Pompeo remarked.
“New bonds are taking root that were unimaginable until very recently. Who could’ve believed a few years ago that an Israeli prime minister would visit Muscat?” he asked, referencing Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s trip last year to the Sultanate of Oman. After the historic visit, Oman’s foreign minister called on the Arab world to recognize Israel’s right to exist.
Pompeo also noted a judo competition in Abu Dhabi where for the first time Israeli athletes were able to compete under the Israeli flag and Hatikvah, the national anthem, was played. “These steps toward rapprochement are necessary for greater security in the face of our shared threats, and they also hint at a much brighter future for the region,” Pompeo noted.
The secretary’s speech came on the third leg of a nine-nation Mideast tour aimed at reassuring America’s Arab partners that the U.S. remains committed to the stability of the region amid confusion over plans to withdraw forces from Syria. Following a visit to Israel by National Security Adviser John Bolton, the Trump administration said it was taken Jerusalem’s concerns very seriously.
Pompeo is traveling from January 7 to 15 to Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Kuwait.
[Photo: U.S. Department of State / Facebook ]