US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday (Jan. 10) accused Barack Obama of sowing chaos by abandoning the Middle East to Islamist militants and Iranian influence in a blistering critique of the former president’s policies even as Pompeo’s boss, President Donald Trump, moves to pull American troops out of Syria.
In a speech at the American University in Cairo, Pompeo dispensed with a US diplomatic tradition of avoiding public airing abroad of domestic disputes by blasting Obama at the site of a landmark 2009 speech by Trump’s predecessor aimed at improving relations with the Islamic world.
Pompeo presented America as “a force for good in the Middle East” and suggested Obama saw the United States as “a force for what ails the Middle East.”
Pompeo accused Obama of underestimating “the tenacity and viciousness of radical Islamism,” of failing to adequately support the 2009 “Green Movement” mass protests against a disputed election in Iran, and faulted him for not bombing Syria in retaliation for chemical weapons use by Assad regime in its war.
Pompeo is touring the region to try to explain US strategy after Trump’s surprise announcement last month of an abrupt withdrawal of all 2,000 US troops from Syria, which rattled allies, shocked top U.S. officials and prompted US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’s resignation.
Pompeo sought to reassure allies that Washington remains committed to the “complete dismantling” of the threat posed by ISIS and to ending Iranian influence in Syria despite Trump’s decision to withdraw troops there.
“In Syria, the United States will use diplomacy and work with our partners to expel every last Iranian boot,” Pompeo said.
Pompeo faulted what he called Obama’s “desire for peace at any cost” that led him to reach the 2015 nuclear deal under which Iran agreed to curtail its nuclear weapons program in exchange for easing of international economic sanctions.
Trump last year abandoned that deal, pursuing instead a policy of “maximum pressure” on Iranian regime to try to force it to limit its nuclear program, curtail its ballistic missile activities and cease supporting proxy militias in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon.