Iran, Islamic State on Agenda as Pompeo Visits Middle East
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is focusing on Iran and Islamic State as he makes a week-long visit to the Middle East.
Pompeo said ahead of his first stop Tuesday in Jordan that he wants to “send a clear message” that the United States is committed to the region, defeating Islamic State and countering what he called “Iran’s destabilizing activities.”
In his talks with Jordanian leaders, Pompeo was expected to discuss the situation in Syria, where the Trump administration is planning to withdraw 2,000 U.S. forces, as well as Jordan’s economic links with neighboring Iraq.
Other stops on the top U.S. diplomat’s trip include Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Kuwait.
Pompeo is due to give a speech in Cairo that the State Department says will focus on “U.S. commitment to peace, prosperity, stability and security in the Middle East.”
Ten years ago, it was President Barack Obama making a major address in Cairo, where he sought “a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world.”
Since taking office at the end of Obama’s term, President Donald Trump has taken different foreign policy paths than those of his predecessor, including abandoning the nuclear agreement the United States and five other nations struck with Iran to limit the Iranian nuclear program.
The other parties of the agreement say it is the best way to make sure Iran cannot develop nuclear weapons, something Iran has said it was not trying to do. The United Nation’s nuclear watchdog has certified in multiple reports that Iran is living up to its part of the deal.
Trump criticized the deal as giving Iran too much while demanding too little and says it leaves Iran with a path to nuclear weapons.
“We’re actually going to set a policy that’s actually going to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons,” Pompeo told reporters traveling with him. “That’s probably the most important thing that we’re expecting to achieve.”
Pompeo said he will be discussing with leaders at his various stops the ways in which the governments can “apply pressure” to get Iran to change its behavior.
His stops in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia will also include a focus on the war in Yemen, where Saudi and UAE forces are helping Yemen’s government fight Houthi rebels.
The United States has provided support to the Saudi-led coalition, including refueling for warplanes conducting airstrikes.
Last month, the U.S. Senate sent a strong signal of displeasure with Saudi Arabia by passing resolutions calling for an end to U.S. support for the Saudi military campaign and blaming Saudi Arabia for the death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Khashoggi was killed when he visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey in October. Initially Saudi Arabia said he safely left the site on his own, but later admitted he was killed there in what Saudi officials called a rogue operation.
Saudi Arabia has charged 11 people in connection with the killing.
The State Department said Pompeo would be seeking an update on the status of the Saudi investigation.