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    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to students at the American University Cairo, in the eastern suburb of New Cairo, Egypt, east of the capital, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019

    Mike Pompeo Heralds 'Real New Beginning' in US Middle East Policy

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    US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a lengthy speech in Cairo, Egypt on 10 January. What was expected to be a clarification of the US Middle East policies largely became an anti-Obama rant, in which Pompeo explained what, in his opinion, led to Washington steering clear of the region.

    Revising the Obama Legacy

    The United States was "absent too much" in the Middle East, Pompeo told the audience at the American University in Cairo on Thursday, because its leaders "gravely misread our history and your historical moment". He referred to Barack Obama, who gave a speech titled "A New Beginning" in Cairo in 2009, in which the then-US president called for mutual interest and mutual respect in relations between the United States and the Arab countries, as well as omitted the words "terrorism" and terror", instead raising the issue of "violent extremism".

    Pompeo described Obama's message as having produced an "adverse effect" on the lives of Egyptians and people across the region. "We grossly underestimated the tenacity and viciousness of radical Islamism," he went on, adding that it was America's hesitation that contributed to the Daesh* resurgence in Iraq.

    Withdrawal From Syria

    "When America retreats, chaos often follows", Pompeo said in a nod to US withdrawal from Syria, "and when we partner with our enemies, they advance".

    READ MORE: 'Confusion Around US Withdrawal From Syria Undermines US Credibility' — Army Gen

    The Secretary of State expressed a willingness to bomb Syria again, if need be, in retaliation for the alleged use of chemical weapons by pro-Assad forces (which Damascus has vehemently denied). Pompeo also underlined that America will always be "a liberating force, not an occupying power".

    Iran's 'Revolutionary Agenda'

    Mike Pompeo followed Donald Trump's tough rhetoric on Iran; he accused Tehran of spreading its "cancerous influence" to several countries across the Middle East. He praised Donald Trump's decision to scrap the Iran nuclear deal, which curbed the Islamic Republic's nuclear weapons programme in exchange for a lifting of crippling economic sanctions.

    READ MORE: Iraq, Syria Not As Important for the US As Iran at the Moment — Prof

    He said that these sanctions should have never been lifted, because Tehran allegedly used revenues from the agreement to spread "terror and destruction" throughout the world.

    Relations with Iran were the centrepiece of Pompeo's speech: he referred to its perceived growing influence in Syria, its support for Hezbollah's presence in Lebanon, and the threat Tehran, in his words, poses to Israeli security.

    No Shifts in Israel Policy

    Unlike the case of Iran, Pompeo dedicated few words to the Israel-Palestine conflict. He vowed to "continue to press for a real and lasting peace" between Israel and the Palestinians. He failed to specify what would be Washington's next step in the rapprochement process, given that Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has hardly contributed to solving the conflict.

    Coalition Building

    Pompeo announced a new Middle Eastern alliance led by the United States. "The Trump administration has moved quickly to rebuild links amongst our old friends and nurture new partnerships," Pompeo remarked.

    According to him, the White House is working to forge the Middle East Strategic Alliance that would bring together members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, the UAE, Oman and the Saudi Arabia), as well as Egypt and Jordan. The alliance is designed to counter regional threats and step up cooperation in energy and the economy.

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    Tags:
    conflict, sanctions, policy, Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA), Donald Trump, Mike Pompeo, Iran, Israel, Syria, Middle East, United States
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