Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, on a mission to the Middle East allies, delivered a “scathing rebuke” of the Obama administrations Mideast policies at the American University in Cairo, Egypt, last week. In his speech, Pompeo pointed out that while Hezbollah has a major presence in Lebanon, the U.S. will not accept the status quo. Addressing Iran, Pompeo stated that the U.S. will not let Iran turn Syria into the next Lebanon, and will act with diplomacy and partners to “expel every Iranian boot” from Syria.
Pompeo’s choice of Cairo seems to have been symbolic. Ten years earlier, President Obama delivered his message to the Arab and Islamic world from Al-Azhar University, the foremost Sunni-Muslim religious institution in Cairo. Pompeo sought to mend fences with the Sunni-Arab states which were disappointed by Obama, and skeptical about Trump’s intentions. According to Pompeo, Obama promised that the U.S. would open a new chapter with the Arab and Muslim states. Instead, Pompeo said, his policies projected weakness, and encouraged radical elements in the region, especially Iran.
“It was 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 U.S. and the Muslim world needed “a new beginning”. The result of these misjudgments have been dire.”
This might have been Pompeo’s way to reference the Obama administration’s being upset by the removal of Mohammad Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood President of Egypt. Morsi was removed by the current President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, following large scale demonstrations in Egypt against the radical regime of Morsi, who dragged Egypt into insolvency.
Pompeo also made a point in the choice of his venue for his speech. He stated:
“This trip is especially meaningful for me as an evangelical Christian, coming so soon after the Coptic church Christmas celebrations. This is an important time. We are all children of Abraham: Christians, Muslims, and Jews. In my office, I keep a Bible open on my desk to remind me of G-d and His Word, and The Truth.”
Pompeo declared that the U.S. is determined to protect its allies, removing Iran from Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Pompeo was not only seeking to confront the Obama legacy, but also mitigate the effects of President Trump’s recent declaration on the impending withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria, and his (Trump’s) statement that as far as he (Trump) is concerned, Iran can do whatever it wants in Syria. Pompeo said, “America’s reluctance, our reluctance, to wield our influence kept us silent as the people of Iran rose up against the mullahs in Tehran 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 tyranny that had fueled it. Emboldened, the regime spread its cancerous influence to Yemen, to Iraq, to Syria, and still further into Lebanon.”
Pompeo added, “Our penchant, 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. 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.”
In another dig aimed at Obama’s Cairo speech of 2009, Pompeo said:
“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.”
Unfortunately, there appears to be a contradiction between Secretary of State Pompeo’s words and his own State Department. While Pompeo promised to confront Hezbollah, the Administration is cooperating with the Lebanese government headed by President Michel Aoun, who is nothing more than a tool in the hands of Hezbollah. The Administration is, in fact, set to provide the Lebanese army, which is fully cooperating, if not being controlled by Hezbollah, with financial aid and arms shipments.
The Trump administration has shown its full determination in combatting Iran economically with some measured success. The U.S. imposed sanctions have had an impact on Iran’s treasury. The Ayatollahs regime has been forced to curb some of its aggressive and nefarious activities in the region, and reduce the number of its operatives in Syria and Yemen. In terms of western values, combatting Iran economically alone should suffice. After all, in the western mind, the welfare of one’s people should be paramount. That is not the case however, with the Iranian mullahs’ mindset. The U.S. and the West should be prepared for a long and multi-faceted struggle with the Ayatollah Khamenei’s regime. It may yet involve military action, given Iran’s deployment of Shiite militias from Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and its notoriously belligerent Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), who are commandeering international terrorist activities.
Europe has recently been exposed to the IRGC terror on its soil. Thanks to intelligence provided by Israel, Iranian agents were caught trying to assassinate Iranian opposition leaders in France, Denmark, and the Netherlands. As a result, the European Union (EU) has imposed sanctions on the IRGC. Another danger Iran poses to the U.S. and the West is in its development of long-range missiles that can reach Europe, and ultimately the U.S. When the Islamic Republic of Iran has mastered the technology to complete the construction of these missiles, it is more than likely that they will be able to threaten the West with nuclear charged long-range missiles. It is therefore incumbent upon the U.S. and its Western allies to consider combatting Iran beyond economic pressure.
Pompeo explained that,
“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 toward a political resolution.”
And in Lebanon,
“The U.S. will work to reduce the threat of Hezbollah’s missile arsenal, which is aimed at Israel and can reach all points inside of that country. Many of these rockets are equipped with advanced guidance systems, courtesy of Iran, and that’s unacceptable. Iran may think it owns Lebanon. Iran is wrong.”
Although addressing not the most Israel-friendly crowd, Pompeo reiterated U.S. support for Israel. He stated 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.”
Secretary of State Pompeo presented a decisive and more muscular U.S. policy for the Middle East. He did not attempt to appease Iran’s mullahs, nor heap praise on Islam. Nevertheless, in Egypt, as in the moderate Sunni-Muslim states, his word provided encouragement and hope. As for Israel, Dore Gold, former director general of Israel's foreign ministry, said Pompeo's "Critique of Iranian expansionism was very important for Israel."