ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a scathing rebuke of President Barack Obama's Middle East policy in Cairo on Thursday in an address that centered on exerting maximum pressure on Iran and doubling down on U.S. alliances with Sunni autocrats and Israel.
In establishing his own vision for the Middle East, Pompeo set up the Obama administration as a foil for what not to do, whether it was striking a landmark nuclear deal with Iran in 2015 or leaving Egypt's autocratic president, Hosni Mubarak, in the lurch during that country's protests in 2011.
“The United States has reasserted its traditional role as a force for good in this region,” Pompeo told an audience at American University in Cairo. “We've learned from our mistakes.”
The speech served as a rebuttal of the 2009 address Obama delivered in Cairo, extending an olive branch to Iran and calling for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In that address, Obama criticized Israel's settlement activity and underscored the suppression of rights by Arab monarchies.
Pompeo's remarks prompted a rebuttal from a group of mostly Obama administration officials.
“That this administration feels the need, nearly a decade later, to take potshots at an effort to identify common ground between the Arab world and the West speaks not only to the Trump administration's pettiness but also to its lack of a strategic vision for America's role in the region and its abdication of America's values,” the National Security Action group said in a statement.
Pompeo, by contrast, offered unconditional praise to Israel and credited Saudi Arabia and Bahrain for pushing back against Iranian aggression. He did not raise their human rights records, in particular the Saudi kingdom's killing and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October or the Bahrain government's suppression of its majority Shiite population.
Instead, he depicted those countries as victims of an Obama administration that was unwilling to stand proudly behind its allies. “The Trump administration has moved quickly to rebuild links among our old friends and nurture new partnerships,” Pompeo said.