US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Barack Obama on
Thursday of sowing chaos in the Middle East by failing to adequately confront
Islamist militants in a blistering critique of the policies of President Donald
Speaking in Cairo, where Obama gave a major speech in 2009 in the first year of his presidency, Republican Trump's chief diplomat took on Obama by arguing that the Democratic former president had in effect misread and abandoned the Middle East.
"We learned that when America retreats, chaos often follows. When we neglect our friends, resentment builds. And when we partner with our enemies, they advance," Pompeo said in a speech at the American University in Cairo in which he did not mention Obama by name but called him "another American" who gave a speech in the capital of the Arab world's most populous nation.
Pompeo is touring the region to try to explain US strategy after Trump's surprise announcement of an abrupt withdrawal of all 2,000 US troops from Syria, which rattled allies and shocked top US officials.
Describing the United States as a "force for good"
in the Middle East, Pompeo sought to reassure allies that Washington remained
committed to the "complete dismantling" of the threat posed by the ISIS militant group despite Trump's decision to withdraw troops from
Pompeo also faulted what he called Obama's "desire for peace at any cost" that led him to strike the 2015 nuclear deal under which Iran agreed to curtail its nuclear weapons program in exchange for easing of international economic sanctions.
Trump this year abandoned that deal, pursuing instead what his administration has called a policy of "maximum pressure" on Iran to try to force it to limit its nuclear program, curtail its ballistic missile activities and cease supporting proxy forces in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon.
'SELF-INFLICTED AMERICAN SHAME'
"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 added.
In his June 2009 speech at Cairo University, Obama called for better mutual understanding between the Islamic world and the West and said both should do more to confront violent extremism. As a result, Republicans have long accused Obama of apologizing to the world for US actions abroad, a point that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney emphasized during his 2012 attempt to unseat Obama.
"Remember, it was here in this city that another American stood before you. He told you that radical Islamist terrorism does not stem from an ideology. He told you that 9/11 (the Sept. 11, 2001, al Qaeda attacks on the United States) led my country to abandon its ideals, particularly in the Middle East," Pompeo said.
"He told you that the United States and the Muslim world needed, quote, a new beginning, end of quote. The results of these misjudgments have been dire," Pompeo added. "In falsely seeing ourselves as a force for what ails the Middle East, we were timid in asserting ourselves when the time and our partners demanded it."