Thursday, 24 January, 2019

United States troop withdrawal from Syria will happen - Pompeo

Pompeo Visits Middle East to Increase Pressure on Iran Pompeo starts Middle East visit to ramp up pressure on Iran
Jeannette Daniel | 10 January, 2019, 21:24

Cairo: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted Thursday that US troops will leave Syria, ahead of a keynote speech aiming to lay out a coherent US policy in the Middle East. "He told you that 9/11 (the September 11, 2001, al Qaeda attacks on the United States) led my country to abandon its ideals, particularly in the Middle East", Pompeo said.

The top U.S. diplomat was in Egypt on the latest leg of a whistle-stop regional tour aimed at shoring up Washington's Middle East policy following President Donald Trump's shock decision to withdraw 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria.

"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.

He blamed the previous administration for the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) and Iran's increasing assertiveness, which he said was a direct result of sanctions relief, granted to it under the 2015 nuclear deal.

Last December, Trump announced plans to withdraw all USA troops from Syria, claiming that American forces had defeated Daesh there.

Speaking to President al-Mahdi, Pompeo "discussed the recent territorial defeat of ISIS in Syria and the continuation of our cooperation with Iraqi Security Forces to ensure ISIS' lasting defeat throughout the region", according to a readout of the meeting provided by Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino.

Trump has not said, however, that he intends to withdraw American forces from Iraq, where 5,200 American troops are stationed.

He added that the U.S. was a "force for good" in the Middle East, adding: "Where America retreats, chaos follows".

He went on to list a sequence of crises in the Middle East - some of which have roots that predate the Obama administration - citing the explosive growth of ISIS, Syria's killing of its own citizens, Iran's moves to expand its influence, and Hezbollah's stockpiling of rockets.

More news: Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer on opposite sides of Australian Open draw

Instead, he told an audience in Cairo that under Mr Trump "the age of self-inflicted American shame is over" and that it had taken on a "reinvigorated role in the Middle East" and "reasserted its traditional role as a force for good in this region".

Jordan's Safadi did not hesitate to express frustration with Iran, but did not go almost as far as Pompeo in his criticism. "We will do that", Pompeo told a joint press conference in Cairo with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. Specifically, Salih said he would like to see the USA help in the reconstruction of Iraq and rebuilding the country's economy, according to a statement from his office.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has drawn heavily on Iranian military support, including units of the Revolutionary Guards Corps and Iran-backed Hezbollah militia fighters, during the country's eight-year civil war.

But he promised his audience that the Trump administration was ushering in a new era of USA foreign policy. They are the second batch the administration has re-imposed since Trump withdrew from the accord in May.

Why did Pompeo mention Iran?

Turkish officials expect that the withdrawal will take place in 120 days, and during this time, according to the source, U.S. officials need to show some goodwill to satisfy Turkish concerns.

In Qatar, Pompeo is likely to find a somewhat skeptical reception from a regime that has been under relentless attack from Saudi Arabia and its other Gulf allies for its willingness to defend Iran.

In a rebuttal to the speech, a group of mainly former Obama administration foreign policy officials rejected Pompeo's assertions as petty and weak.

Pompeo's tour is aimed at urging regional allies to continue to confront the "significant threats" posed by Iran and militants.

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