Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a scathing rebuke of President Barack Obama’s Middle East policy in Cairo yesterday in an address that centred on exerting maximum pressure on Iran and doubling down on US alliances with Sunni autocrats and Israel.
In establishing his own vision for the Middle East, Pompeo set up the Obama administration as a foil for what not to do, whether it was striking a landmark nuclear deal with Iran in 2015 or leaving Egypt’s autocratic president, Hosni Mubarak, in the lurch during that country’s protests in 2011.
“The United States has reasserted its traditional role as a force for good in this region,” Pompeo told an audience at American University in Cairo. “We’ve learned from our mistakes.”
The speech served as an explicit rebuttal of the address that Obama delivered in Cairo in 2009, extending an olive branch to Iran and calling for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In that address, Obama criticised Israel’s settlement activity and underscored suppression of political rights by Arab monarchies.
Pompeo’s criticism included the administration’s hesitance to use military force and aggressively call out “radical Islam”.
“He told you that radical Islamist terrorism does not stem from ideology,” Pompeo said, referring to Obama’s 2009 address. “He told you 9/11 led my country to abandon its ideals, particularly in the Middle East.”
It is unclear what Pompeo meant by the abandonment of “ideals”, but Obama’s speech did take a stand against techniques used to interrogate terrorism suspects, as well as detentions at the US prison facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
In terms of calling out radical Islamists, Obama’s address referred to “violent extremism” — a term criticised by Republicans as “politically correct”.
Pompeo’s remarks prompted rebuttal from a group of mostly Obama administration officials.
“That this administration feels the need, nearly a decade later, to take potshots at an effort to identify common ground between the Arab world and the West speaks not only to the Trump administration’s pettiness but also to its lack of a strategic vision for America’s role in the region and its abdication of America’s values,” the National Security Action group said.
Pompeo, by contrast, offered unconditional praise to Israel and credited countries such as Saudi Arabia and Bahrain for pushing back against Iranian aggression. He did not raise their human rights records, in particular the Saudi kingdom’s killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October or the Bahrain government’s suppression of its majority Shiite population.
He depicted those countries as victims of an Obama administration unwilling to stand proudly behind its allies. “The Trump administration has moved quickly to rebuild links among our old friends and nurture new partnerships,” Pompeo said.
While Obama’s 2009 address cautioned that the United States did not have the answers to all of the Middle East’s “complex” problems, Pompeo castigated that approach as insufficiently prideful.
“The good news is this: The age of self-inflicted American shame is over, and so are the policies that produced so much needless suffering,” he said.
Pompeo spoke amid confusion among US allies over Trump’s announced plan to withdraw US troops from Syria immediately, a proclamation that was followed by remarks that the withdrawal will happen “slowly”.AP
This article provided by NewsEdge.