Pompeo’s Mideast reset: New starting or outdated cliché?

I used to be right here, within the Egyptian capital, to cowl that speech. Almost ten years later I returned to cowl one other “keynote” speech by an American official — this time, by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

In the intervening ten years, Egypt has come full circle. In 2011, a preferred revolt ended the almost 30-year-old sclerotic regime of Hosni Mubarak, adopted by the nation’s first and solely democratic presidential election in Egypt’s 5000-year historical past. Then, a army coup and a bloody crackdown ensued. As many elderly associates and human rights organizations attest, the Egyptian state is way extra oppressive than it was ten years in the past.

When Pompeo delivered his handle, “The United States: A Force for Good within the Middle East,” on Thursday, he did so in a rustic the place skepticism has changed optimism on the subject of US officials bearing rhetorical items.

“I do not imagine them anymore,” veteran political commentator Hisham Kassem informed me after listening to Pompeo’s speech.

“(He) began off by dangerous mouthing Obama for his insurance policies. It was dangerous sufficient for Obama to come back right here and dangerous mouth the Bush administration, however that is an excessive amount of. Every administration comes right here to bash the earlier one,” Kassem mentioned.

“It’s not statesmanship,” he added.

While Obama didn’t particularly title Bush in his 2009 remarks, he made a transparent distinction between his imaginative and prescient and that of his predecessor’s.

Pompeo rebukes Obama and takes on Iran in Cairo speech

Pompeo used his platform to blast Obama for saying “the United States and the Muslim World wanted a ‘new starting'” following eight years of George W. Bush’s administration and its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Pompeo promised that “the age of self-inflicted American disgrace is over, and so are the insurance policies that produced a lot useless struggling.”

Now, mentioned Pompeo, “comes the actual ‘new starting.'”

But the place is the “new?” If something, Pompeo’s speech means that the US — like Egypt — has additionally gone full circle, returning to the times when loyalty and stability (and now the dedication to the “conflict on terror”) trump all else.

Glaringly absent in his 15-page handle had been references to the dismal state of human rights within the area, the place the overwhelming majority of individuals dwell under corrupt, authoritarian regimes.

It’s value mentioning that lots of these regimes are shut allies of the United States.

That omission caught the attention of commentator Wael Eskandar.

“In the title of fighting terrorism, he is supporting the despotic leaders of the area. His message is obvious: the US will intervene to serve its myopic pursuits and all international locations within the area need to fall in line,” Eskandar informed me.

The government of Egypt, led by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Trump administration’s anti-terror rhetoric, a lot in order that Kassem quipped, “they’re turning this nation into the ‘Egyptian Arab Republic for Countering Terrorism.'”

Side by aspect with the conflict on terror within the speech was the problem of containing Iran’s affect within the area. Pompeo talked about Iran greater than 25 instances.

Iran is a good distance away from Egypt, which has sufficient troublesome neighbors — including Hamas-run Gaza and chaotic Libya — to occupy its consideration.
While not condoning Iran’s file, Cairo analyst Timothy Kaldas rejects the notion that Iran has a monopoly on evil, whereas America’s allies are all goodness and light-weight. Saudi Arabia, he says, “has additionally ravaged Yemen, creating what the UN describes because the world’s worst humanitarian crisis the place the inhabitants struggles with a cholera outbreak and meals shortages which can be resulting in widespread hunger.”
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Eskandar bluntly summarized his ideas on the speech, saying: “Today it felt that the US is bent on empowering tyrants in pursuit of its animosity in the direction of Iran, it doesn’t matter what the cost. Sadly, the cost we pay right here is US sanctioned injustice and lack of our freedom.”

When I listened to Obama’s speech, I, like many others right here, nodded my head and agreed the Middle East wants a brand new starting.

When I listened to Pompeo converse on Thursday, I once again agreed that the Middle East wants a brand new starting.

But it wasn’t in that speech.

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