by WorldTribune Staff, January 11, 2019
Since President Donald Trump took office, the United States has “reasserted its traditional role as a force for good” in the Middle East, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a speech delivered at the American University in Cairo on Jan. 10.
In a scathing rebuke of Obama administration policies, Pompeo said: “We learned that when America retreats, chaos often follows. When we neglect our friends, resentment builds. And when we partner with enemies, they advance.
“The good news. 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. Now comes the real new beginning. We’ve learned from our mistakes. We’ve rediscovered our voice. We’ve rebuilt our relationships. We’ve rejected false overtures from our enemies.”
During his Middle East tour, Pompeo planned to visit Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Kuwait.
In his address on Jan. 10, Pompeo directly slammed President Barack Obama’s 2009 “new beginning” speech in Cairo.
“Egypt has always been a land of striving. And yet at times, your aspirations and those of your brethren in the Middle East have seemed impossible to achieve. These lands witnessed convulsions from Tunis to Teheran as old systems crumbled and new ones struggled to emerge. That’s happened here, too,” Pompeo said.
“And at this critical moment, America, your long-time friend, was absent too much. Why? Because our leaders gravely misread our history, and your historical moment. These fundamental misunderstandings, set forth in this city in 2009, adversely affected the lives of hundreds of millions of people in Egypt and all across the region.
“Remember: It was here, here in this city, that another American stood before you. He told you that radical Islamist terrorism does not stem from an ideology. He told you that 9/11 led my country to abandon its ideals, particularly in the Middle East. He told you that the United States and the Muslim world needed, quote, ‘a new beginning,’ end of quote. The results of these misjudgments have been dire.”
Pompeo continued: “In falsely seeing ourselves as a force for what ails the Middle East, we were timid in asserting ourselves when the times – and our partners – demanded it.
“We grossly underestimated the tenacity and viciousness of radical Islamism, a debauched strain of the faith that seeks to upend every other form of worship or governance. ISIS drove to the outskirts of Baghdad as America hesitated. They raped and pillaged and murdered tens of thousands of innocents. They birthed a caliphate across Syria and Iraq and launched terror attacks that killed all across continents.
“America’s reluctance, our reluctance, to wield our influence kept us silent as the people of Iran rose up against the mullahs in Teheran in the Green Revolution. The ayatollahs and their henchmen murdered, jailed, and intimidated freedom-loving Iranians, and they wrongly blamed America for this unrest when it was their own tyranny that had fueled it. Emboldened, the regime spread its cancerous influence to Yemen, to Iraq, to Syria, and still further into Lebanon.
“Our penchant, America’s penchant, for wishful thinking led us to look the other way as Hizbullah, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Iranian regime, accumulated a massive arsenal of approximately 130,000 rockets and missiles. They stored and positioned these weapons in Lebanese towns and villages in flagrant violation of international law. That arsenal is aimed squarely at our ally Israel.
“When Bashar 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.
“Our eagerness to address only Muslims and not nations ignored the rich diversity of the Middle East and frayed old bonds. It undermined the concept of the nation-state, the building block of international stability. And our desire for peace at any cost led us to strike a deal with Iran, our common enemy.”
Pompeo mentioned that, in the first trip abroad Trump made (to Saudi Arabia), the president called on Muslim-majority nations to “meet history’s great test – to conquer extremism and vanquish the forces of terrorism.”
Pompeo thanked Egyptian President Abdul Fatah Sisi for joining “us in denouncing the twisted ideology which has brought death and suffering on so many. I thank President Sisi for his courage.”
Pompeo continued: “As I said in a recent speech that I gave in Brussels, our words mean something again, and they should. West Point taught me a basic code of integrity. If we commit American prestige to an action, our allies depend on us to follow through.
“The Trump administration did not stand idly by when Bashar Assad used chemical weapons against his people. Indeed, President Trump unleashed the fury of the U.S. military not once, but twice, with allied support. And he’s willing to do it again, although we do hope that he does not have to.
“For those who fret about the use of American power, remember this: America has always been, and always will be, a liberating force, not an occupying power. We’ve never dreamed of domination in the Middle East. Can you say the same about Iran?”
On Iran, Pompeo said that Trump has “reversed our willful blindness to the danger of the regime and withdrew from the failed nuclear deal, with its false promises. The U.S. re-imposed sanctions that should never have been lifted. We embarked on a new pressure campaign to cut off the revenues the regime uses to spread terror and destruction throughout the world. We joined the Iranian people in calling for freedom and accountability.
“And importantly, we fostered a common understanding with our allies of the need to counteract the Iran regime’s revolutionary agenda. Countries increasingly understand that we must confront the ayatollahs, not coddle them. 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.
“The UAE has canceled its imports of Iranian condensate following the re-imposition of American sanctions. Bahrain has exposed the Revolutionary Guard proxies that are active in its country, and which – and working – is working to stop Iran’s illicit maritime activities in its region. Saudi Arabia, too, has worked with us to counter Iranian expansion and regional influence. We, the United States, commend each of these efforts, and we seek for all nations to continue the work to constrain the full array of the regime’s malign activity.
“The work to curb the regime’s deadly ambitions isn’t confined to the Middle East. America’s friends and partners from South Korea to Poland have joined our effort to stop Iran’s wave of regional destruction and global campaigns of terror.
“Countries across the globe have cut Iranian oil imports to zero and are working towards that goal. Private companies in France, Germany, Britain and elsewhere have all calculated that enriching themselves through work with the regime is bad for business and bad for the people of their own countries.
“In Yemen, we’ve assisted our coalition partners as they take the lead in preventing an Iranian expansion that would be disastrous for world trade and regional security. As is always the case with America, our engagement has also been coupled with robust humanitarian aid. We’ve supported the UN talks to put Yemen on the path to peace.
“In Lebanon, Hizbullah 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, including the son of Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hizbullah.
“It is important to know also that we will not ease our campaign to stop Iran’s malevolent influence and actions against this region and the world. The nations of the Middle East will never enjoy security, achieve economic stability, or advance the dreams of their people if Iran’s revolutionary regime persists on its current course.
“Feb. 11 will mark 40 years since the oppressive regime came to power in Tehran. America’s economic sanctions against the regime are the strongest in history, and will keep getting tougher until Iran starts behaving like a normal country. The 12 demands that we stated in May remain in force, because the regime’s threat to the region endures.
“In Syria, the United States will use diplomacy and work with our partners to expel every last Iranian boot, and work through the UN-led process to bring peace and stability to the long-suffering Syrian people. There will be no U.S. reconstruction assistance for areas of Syria held by Assad until Iran and its proxy forces withdraw and until we see irreversible progress towards a political resolution.
“In Lebanon, the United States will work to reduce the threat of Hizbullah’s missile arsenal, which is aimed at Israel and can reach all points inside of that country. Many of these rockets are equipped with advance guidance systems, courtesy of Iran, and that’s unacceptable. Iran may think it owns Lebanon. Iran is wrong.
“In Iraq, the United States will help our partners build a nation free of Iranian influence. This past May, Iraqis rejected sectarianism in a national election, and we will support that wholeheartedly. The people there refused to be cowered by Iranian-backed thugs and armed groups. Iraqis have strengthened ties with Arab neighbors, peacefully resumed cooperation between the Kurdish Region and Baghdad, and have renewed their focus on fighting corruption.
“And in Yemen, we will continue to work for a lasting peace.
“And I think this is clear, but it is worth reiterating: 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.”
Pompeo said the Trump administration “will also continue to press for a real and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Again, we’ve adhered to our word. President Trump campaigned on the promise to recognize Jerusalem – the seat of Israel’s government – as the nation’s capital. In May, we moved our embassy there. These decisions honor a bipartisan congressional resolution from more than two decades ago. President Trump acted on this commitment.”
The secretary of state said that “America has been criticized for doing too much in the Middle East, and we’ve been criticized for doing too little. But one thing we’ve never been is an empire-builder or an oppressor.
“Just look at our history together, the history which I have recounted today. Look at our fights against common enemies. Look at our coalition building. And finally, just look around you at this university, which has existed now for a century. It’s not a coincidence that many other American universities like this one thrive all across the Middle East, from Beirut to Sulaymaniyah. These are symbols of America’s innate goodness, of our hopes for you, and of the better future we desire for all nations of the Middle East.”