AMMAN: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged Middle East allies on Tuesday to confront “significant threats” posed by Iran and jihadists as he visited a region shaken by Washington’s surprise decision to withdraw from Syria.
The top US diplomat, in Jordan on the first leg of his longest trip since taking the post last year, said that the US troop pullout would not undermine the battle against the so-called Islamic State group.
“The most significant threats to the region are Daesh [IS] and the Islamic revolution,” Pompeo said at a news conference with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, referring to IS and Iran.
Sustaining a regional coalition to counter Iran, the main enemy of US allies Saudi Arabia and Israel, is a major focus of Pompeo’s tour of eight Arab capitals in as many days.
“The counter Iran revolution is a coalition as effective today as it was yesterday and I’m very hopeful that it will continue to be effective and even more effective tomorrow,” he said. “You’ll see in the coming days and weeks we are redoubling all our diplomatic and commercial efforts to put real pressure on Iran.”
Pompeo has repeatedly called Iran “the world’s largest state sponsor of terror”, pointing to its targeting of domestic rivals in Europe and support of militant movements such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
Pompeo’s trip comes weeks after Trump announced that the United States would quickly pull its 2,000 soldiers out of Syria, declaring that IS had been defeated.
His advisers have since been walking back his timeline, and Pompeo reassured Washington’s allies in the region that the “battle continues”.
“The president’s decision to withdraw our folks from Syria in no way impacts our capacity to deliver on that,” said the secretary of state, who later also met Jordan’s King Abdullah II.
Pompeo’s tour will also take him to Cairo, Manama, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Riyadh, Muscat, Kuwait City, and possibly Baghdad.
He will deliver an address on Middle East policy in Egypt, whose army chief turned president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, has been a key partner of Trump.
Published in Dawn, January 9th, 2019