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Pompeo Repudiates Obama's Middle East Vision

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gives a speech at the American University in Cairo, Egypt, Jan. 10, 2019.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gives a speech at the American University in Cairo, Egypt, Jan. 10, 2019.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a sharp rebuke of former President Barack Obama's policies in the Middle East as he outlined the Trump administration's vision for the region.

"America is a force for good in the Middle East," Pompeo said Thursday in a speech at the American University in Cairo.

Speaking at the same spot 10 years ago, Obama had appealed to majority-Muslim countries for a new beginning and said that America had made mistakes in its fight against terrorism since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Pompeo, without directly mentioning the former president's name, called the previous administration's policies in the region "misguided."

"The good news is this: The age of self-inflicted American shame is over, and so are the policies that produced so much needless suffering. Now comes the real 'new beginning,'" Pompeo said.

He told the Cairo audience that in less than two years, the U.S. under President Donald Trump has reasserted its traditional role for good in the region.

"We've learned from our mistakes," Pompeo.

Pompeo said the U.S. has "confronted the ugly reality of radical Islamism."

Turning to Iran and the 2015 nuclear agreement from which Trump withdrew, Pompeo said, "President Trump has reversed our willful blindness to the danger of the regime and withdrew from the failed nuclear deal, with its false promises."

Pompeo thanked U.S. allies in the region and across the world for their work to constrain what he termed the Iranian "regime's malign activity."

Addressing criticism and confusion among a number of U.S. allies, Pompeo acknowledged that Trump has decided to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria.

"This isn't a change of mission. We remain committed to the complete dismantling of the ISIS [Islamic State] threat and the ongoing fight against radical Islamism in all of its forms." But, he said, the U.S. is "looking to its partners to do more in this effort moving forward."

Trump's abrupt announcement last month that he will pull all 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria has caused alarm among U.S. allies in the region.

Before traveling to Egypt, Pompeo made unannounced visits Wednesday to Irbil and Baghdad in Iraq.

"A common understanding that the battle against Daesh, to counter Daesh, and the fight to counter Iran is real and important," Pompeo told journalists before leaving Irbil, referring to Islamic State militants.

Pompeo met with top officials from the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government after his meeting with senior leaders of the Iraqi government.

Pompeo's visit to Iraq followed U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton's visit to Turkey, where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan refused to meet with Bolton.

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Erdogan dismissed Bolton's calls for the protection of the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) as a precondition to a U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria.

The YPG is a crucial ally in Washington's war against Islamic State militants, but Ankara considers it a terrorist group linked to an insurgency inside Turkey.

Nike Ching contributed to this report.