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‘Self-inflicted American shame is over’ in Middle East, says Pompeo

25th Jan 2019
‘Self-inflicted American shame is over’ in Middle East, says Pompeo

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on January 14
(Photo: Bandar Algaloud/Saudi Kingdom Council/ AA)

Hamed Chapman

The US under President Donald Trump has learned its mistakes and reasserted its “traditional role” in the Middle East, according to US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.

“We have rediscovered our voice. We have rebuilt our relationships. We have rejected false overtures from enemies,” the former CIA chief said in a speech at the site of Barack Obama’s address to the Muslim World in 2009.

Without making any reference to human rights, he claimed that Washington was “a force for good” in the region while slating the policies of Trump’s predecessor, who he suggested was “a force for what ails the Middle East.”

“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,” the hawkish Secretary of State said in a 3,500-word address at the American University in Cairo.

He vowed to fight what he called “Islamic extremism”, to confront Iran, and stay true to Washington’s longtime allies — Israel, and the autocracies in Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

“Our eagerness to address only Muslims and not nations ignored the rich diversity of the Middle East and frayed old bonds.” What we learned was that “when America retreats, chaos often follows. When we neglect our friends, resentment builds. And when we partner with enemies, they advance.”

His speech was billed as seeking to lay out a vision for America’s relationship with the Middle East at a time of widespread confusion over Washington’s policy. It followed Trump’s unilateral abrogation of the Iran nuclear deal forged by Obama and other world leaders in 2015, the sudden announcement of the withdrawal of American troops from Syria and a drawdown of US forces in Afghanistan.

Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, mocked Pompeo’s claims. Writing on Twitter, he said: “Whenever/wherever the US interferes, chaos, repression and resentment follow.”
Others, Including Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Middle East Policy, Shadi Hamid, described it “as one of the worst foreign policy speeches” from a senior US official.

Paul Danahar, former BBC Middle East Bureau Chief, also referred to what was said as “simplistic,” noting that “its theme was the goodness of Israel and evil of Iran.”
Others who served under the former US President accused Pompeo of violating the American tradition that “politics stops at the water’s edge.”

Robert Malley, who served as the White House coordinator for the Middle East under the former president in an emailed remarks, dismissed Pompeo’s speech as “a self-congratulatory, delusional depiction of the Trump administration’s Middle East policy” and said the secretary of state was speaking from “a parallel universe”.

In his contrasting June 2009 speech entitled ‘A New Beginning’, Obama advocated better mutual understanding between the Islamic world and the West and said both should do more to confront violent extremism. It was to be “based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition.”

*Pompeo also visited Saudi Arabia where he met King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed Salman. Pompeo stressed to the Saudi officials the importance of supporting a political solution to end Yemen’s civil war and “the need for continued regional efforts to stand against the Iranian regime’s malign activity and to advance peace, prosperity, and security,” US State Department said.

The Department said Pompeo also made clear the importance of a credible investigation into Saudi journalists Khashoggi’s killing at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October.

Pompeo “emphasized the importance of Saudi Arabia continuing its investigation into the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in order to ascertain facts, assess information, and hold those responsible accountable.”

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