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Pompeo Delivers Stern Choices For Regional Leaders

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is showing signs of new vigour in his mission to tackle Iran’s military adventurism and creeping influence over Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon. His energetic shuttle diplomacy in the region has seen him bolstering a network of alliances across the Middle East and giving reassurance to countries who have suffered as a result of Iran’s attempt at regional hegemony.

Last week Pompeo’s focus was on Hezbollah in Lebanon, where the radical Shia movement has given Iran a proxy powerbase on the shores of the Mediterranean. Hezbollah has sent fighters to Syria and Iraq. It is increasingly the most aggressive terror operator among the Palestinians and, together with its presence on the Golan Heights, Hezbollah consistently provokes Israel. All of this is done in accordance with Iran’s wishes and Iran is the great beneficiary of the mayhem. 

Lebanese President Michelle Aoun remains mute about Hezbollah’s terror and allegiance to Iran because the sectarian balance is so fragile, both in the Beirut Parliament and across the country. However, Pompeo delivered a message that should cause President Aoun some hard thinking. Pompeo voiced the ‘US government’s strong concerns over the role of Hezbollah and Iran in Lebanon and the region and the risks this poses to Lebanon’s security, stability and prosperity.’

Pompeo back this up during a joint press conference with the Lebanese foreign minister, where he stated that ‘Lebanon and the Lebanese people face a choice: bravely move forward as an independent and proud nation or allow the dark ambitions of Iran and Hezbollah to dictate your future.’ 

The message is coalescing all across the region that leaders have to make a choice to ally with the international rules-based global order, or take the path of sectarian fanaticism that has caused untold bloodshed and visited chaos across the Middle East.

The signs of the constriction being visited on Hezbollah were also highlighted by Pompeo when he commented on the fact that sanctions have hit the terror group so hard that its leader in Lebanon ‘Nasrallah begged for contributions.’

This fresh US zeal to tackle Iran’s ambitions was also reflected in Pompeo’s recent statements regarding the militias in Iraq who have ties to the Tehran regime. Pompeo’s staunch recommendation is that the State department in Washington should designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist group. His plan would also encompass the prohibition of many Iraqi Shia militias and their supporters in the Iraqi government.

 

This has put Pompeo at odds with some in the Baghdad Parliament including Prime Minister Adel Mahdi who said ‘The Americans can make the decisions they want but what the Americans see is different than what we see.’ He went on to state that ‘Our position on the Popular Mobilization forces is very clear and well known.’ 

Mahdi’s blithe equivocation says as much about Iran’s hold over Iraq as it does about his own weak position.  Just as President Aoun was served a diet of US power by Pompeo on which to ponder, Mahdi would do well to consider the way the wind is blowing across the region. The US is by slow and certain increments fencing Iran in.

 

The US is also demanding that regional leaders subscribe to the aim of cleansing the Middle East of Iran’s proxies and its ability to wage war. In the light of Mahdi’s comments a further note of reflection must also be urged upon leaders such as he; namely that one of the oldest and most enduring sins is treason. A prime minister or a president can only serve the interests of his people, not the interests of another regime. History provides acute lessons for collaborators.       

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