London, 12 Jan – At a keynote address in Cairo on Thursday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged Middle East nations to forge a common stand against Tehran, and pledged that the United States and its allies would chase all Iranian troops from Syria.
“It’s time for old rivalries to end, for the sake of the greater good of the region,” Pompeo told attendees. He added that America “will use diplomacy and work with our partners to expel every last Iranian boot” from Syria and bolster efforts “to bring peace and stability to the long-suffering Syrian people.”
Trump’s decision to pull out of Syria will go ahead, Pompeo told reporters at a joint press conference with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry, but the US will remain engaged. The “decision to withdraw our troops has been made. We will do that. We will withdraw our forces, our uniformed forces, from Syria and continue America’s crushing campaign,” he said.
After arriving in Cairo late Wednesday, he also met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.
The State Department has described Egypt as a “steadfast partner in the anti-terror fight, and a courageous voice in denouncing the radical Islamist ideology that fuels it.”
Egypt is part of the Secretary of State’s regional tour meant to shore up Washington’s Middle East policy following President Trump’s decision to withdraw 2,000 US troops from Syria. He aims to persuade regional allies to continue to confront the “significant threats” posed by Iran and extremists. It is his longest trip since taking office last year, and has included visits to Jordan, Baghdad, and the Iraqi Kurdish regional capital Arbil. He will also visit Gulf countries including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, and Oman.
Many of the Trump administration’s decisions have confused and angered regional allies. There are rising concerns that US policy is getting bogged down. A long-promised Trump plan for a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians has so far failed to materialize. As well, Turkey and the United States are now in disagreement regarding the future of Syrian Kurdish forces after the troop pullout, who are considered by Ankara to be “terrorists”.
In fact, the meeting that was aimed at coordinating the pullout process, between Turkish officials and Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton in Ankara this week, was described as “tense”, after Bolton set conditions that appeared to postpone it indefinitely.
The conditions include total defeat of Daesh, who are still active in some Syrian regions, and ensuring protection for the Kurdish fighters who fought alongside the Americans against the jihadists.
However, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told NTV television, “If the (pullout) is put off with ridiculous excuses like Turks are massacring Kurds, which do not reflect the reality, we will implement this decision,” referring to Turkey’s threat to launch an offensive against the Kurds.