Confident Pompeo makes Middle East diplomatic debut from Saudi Arabia

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Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir meets with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at his office in Riyadh on April 27, 2018. (SPA)
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Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir (left) welcomes US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Riyadh on April 27, 2018. (SPA)
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Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir welcomes US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (left) in Riyadh on April 27, 2018. (SPA)
Updated 29 April 2018
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Confident Pompeo makes Middle East diplomatic debut from Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: Washington’s newly appointed secretary of state landed in Riyadh Saturday on a tour of America’s key Middle East allies, after vowing to bring some “swagger” back to US diplomacy.
After attending NATO talks in Brussels, Mike Pompeo embarked on a three-day trip to Saudi Arabia, Israel and Jordan to update friends on President Donald Trump’s plans for the Iran nuclear deal.
Pompeo was met on the tarmac in Riyadh by a sizeable Saudi Arabian delegation, including the kingdom’s foreign minister, Adel Al-Jubeir, and US ambassador Khalid bin Salman — brother of the powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Trump is widely expected to pull the United States out of the Iran accord next month, re-imposing sanctions against Tehran’s nuclear program. Pompeo insists the president has not yet made the decision.
The former CIA chief, who was sworn in as Trump’s top diplomat on Thursday and set off within two hours for Brussels, will consult with leaders of Iran’s main regional opponents ahead of the announcement.
But he also has a second more personal mission, to show foreign capitals and his own colleagues that US diplomacy is back on track after the troubled reign of his sacked predecessor Rex Tillerson.
Trump’s first secretary of state, a former oil executive, failed to fill senior positions, embarked on unpopular bureaucratic reforms and had conspicuously little chemistry with the president.
Pompeo — a former army officer, businessman and conservative congressman — wanted to set off on the road immediately on being sworn in, in order to reach out to NATO and Middle East allies.
But he has promised to address State Department staff in Washington on his return on Tuesday, and was full of praise for the staff who scrambled to put together his first foreign itinerary.
“I just met with a great group of State Department officers who work here at the mission. They may have been demoralized, but they seemed in good spirits,” he said Friday, at NATO headquarters.
“They are hopeful that the State Department will get its swagger back, that we will be out doing the things that they came onboard at the State Department to do,” he promised.
“To be professional, to deliver diplomacy — American diplomacy — around the world, that’s my mission set, to build that esprit and get the team on the field so that we can effectuate American diplomacy.”
The former Kansas politician is seen as an anti-Iran hawk with hard-line views about projecting US military might, and his socially conservative opinions might be out of place at the State Department.
In Saudi Arabia on Saturday, Pompeo is due to hold talks with Jubeir in Riyadh, before having dinner with Prince Mohammed, who has strengthened his ties to Washington since being appointed in June.
Trump also wants Riyadh to do more and spend more to support the US-led operation in Syria to defeat the Daesh group and allow American forces to come home more quickly.
After Saudi Arabia, Pompeo is due to fly on to Israel for talks with staunch US ally Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then to Jordan, a friend with a long border with war-torn Syria.
 


Vote gives Jordan’s premier ‘breathing space’

The confidence vote is likely to give Prime Minister Omar Razzaz room to introduce wide-ranging reforms at least until the end of the year. (Reuters)
Updated 28 min 5 sec ago
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Vote gives Jordan’s premier ‘breathing space’

  • Reformist leader Razzaz proves parliamentary majority after a week of intense debate
  • Razzaz came to power partially on the back of popular protests and, as a result, he didn’t need to make any deals

AMMAN: Jordan Prime Minister Omar Razzaz’s comfortable victory in a parliamentary confidence vote has given the reformist leader some breathing space — for the time being at least.
Razzaz survived the vote by a 79-49 margin after a week of intense debate in the 130-member Parliament.
However, the embattled leader, who has been in office for only six weeks, knows the victory cannot be taken for granted.
The confidence vote is likely to give Razzaz room to introduce wide-ranging reforms at least until the end of the year. Jordan’s Parliament will return from recess in October and, short of an emergency, another vote of confidence is unlikely.
After the vote, Razzaz told his supporters: “The weight on our shoulders is heavy, the road is long, and we need stamina for the long run. I know you have high expectations and this is a big responsibility. May God help us to live up to this confidence.”
Riyad Alsubuh, a human rights lawyer, said that the vote was unique because it was not based on compromises.
“The Razzaz government didn’t make any deals with MPs in return for their votes, which has given the government unprecedented power. Razzaz came to power partially on the back of popular protests and, as a result, he didn’t need to make any deals.”
Voting was temporarily interrupted when an unemployed worker jumped from a balcony into the main hall. Razzaz left his seat and was later seen on video talking to the protesting worker and taking his personal information.
Before the vote Razzaz reassured the Parliament that although the country’s situation is difficult, “we can overcome if we work together.”
The premier’s s failure to make any special promises angered some MPs, who were hoping to trade their vote for something tangible to their communities.
Assem Rababa, director of the Adaleh Center, told Arab News that some government supporters believed they were losing their influence in reforming election law.
“Key people close to the government felt that this new government competes with them. The speaker of the Parliament had a role in helping Razzaz win the vote.”
Saed Karajeh, a lawyer and political observer, said that some MPs voted out of confusion.
“The prime minister had a month to prepare and can’t be expected to come up with fully developed plans. If he did, it would have been rushed. I am surprised by many of the MPs who have been preaching reform and then voted against the Razzaz government.”
Sinan Sweiss, a Jordan publisher, said that security issues are harming the country.
“Having a strong security system is essential, but allowing security to overrule all other areas in the governance and society is harming our country. We are losing our best people, those who are able to change or improve things here.”
Sweiss, who is active in the civil state movement, said that while Razzaz is a reformer, he has been attacked much more than other prime ministers.
“MPs from the civil coalition voted against him, while those with money and ego voted for him.”
One issue that dominated the discussion was the fact that seven members of the Razzaz government are women.
Members of the Islamic ActionFront criticized Razzaz because all seven fail to wear the head cover (hijab).
Obaida Abdo, a television presenter who focuses on women’s issues, said that Razzaz showed his humanity throughout the discussions, while the MPs were hypocrites.
“Many of those who support the policies and person of Razzaz voted against him, which reflects the chaos that has become a hallmark of consecutive governments in Jordan,” she said.