Pompeo: US seeks to ‘expel every last Iranian boot’ in Syria

Pompeo meets the Egyptian president ahead of his wide ranging speech on US Middle East policy in Cairo. (AFP)
Updated 11 January 2019

Pompeo: US seeks to ‘expel every last Iranian boot’ in Syria

  • US secretary of state launches blistering critique of Barack Obama’s Middle East policy
  • Pompeo’s tour is aimed at urging regional allies to continue to confront the “significant threats” posed by Iran and extremists

CAIRO: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed Thursday the United States and its allies would chase all Iranian troops from Syria, and urged Middle East nations to forge a common stand against Tehran.

“It's time for old rivalries to end, for the sake of the greater good of the region,” said Pompeo at a keynote address in Cairo.

America “will use diplomacy and work with our partners to expel every last Iranian boot” from Syria and bolster efforts "to bring peace and stability to the long-suffering Syrian people," he added.

The top US diplomat was in Egypt on the latest leg of a whistle-stop regional tour aimed at shoring up Washington's Middle East policy following President Donald Trump's shock decision to withdraw 2,000 US troops from Syria.

Pompeo stressed the pullout would go ahead, despite comments in recent weeks appearing to walk back Trump’s decision, but that the US would remain engaged.

The “decision to withdraw our troops has been made. We will do that. We will withdraw our forces, our uniformed forces, from Syria and continue America's crushing campaign,” Pompeo told reporters at a joint press conference with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry.

He also met earlier with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, after arriving in Cairo late Wednesday on his longest trip since taking office last year which has already taken him to Jordan, Baghdad and the Iraqi Kurdish regional capital Arbil.

In his address entitled “A Force for Good: America Reinvigorated in the Middle East” at the American University in Cairo, Pompeo also took aim at former president Barack Obama without naming him.

Trump’s predecessor had “grossly underestimated the tenacity and viciousness of radical Islamism,” Pompeo said.

And parroting Obama’s words in his landmark 2009 speech in Cairo, Pompeo vowed that now was really “a new beginning” in ties between the US and the Middle East.

Pompeo’s tour is aimed at urging regional allies to continue to confront the “significant threats” posed by Iran and extremists.

Even though Daesh have been largely eradicated from Iraq, after capturing a vast swathe of territory in 2014, some still control a few pockets in war-torn Syria.

Pompeo will also visit Gulf countries including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman.

As he arrived in Egypt, the State Department described the country as a “steadfast partner in the anti-terror fight, and a courageous voice in denouncing the radical Islamist ideology that fuels it.”

But there are rising concerns that US policy is getting bogged down. A long-promised Trump plan for a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians has so far failed to materialise.

And many of the Trump administration's decisions have stoked confusion and angered many regional allies.

Turkey and the United States are now at loggerheads over the future of Syrian Kurdish forces, considered by Ankara as “terrorists,” after the troop pullout.

Turkish officials had a tense meeting this week with Trump's national security adviser John Bolton in Ankara aimed at coordinating the pullout process after Bolton set conditions that appeared to postpone it indefinitely.

The terms included total defeat of Daesh - still active in some Syrian regions - and ensuring that Kurdish fighters who fought alongside the Americans against the jihadists will be protected.

On Thursday, Turkey renewed its threat to launch an offensive against Kurds.

“If the (pullout) is put off with ridiculous excuses like Turks are massacring Kurds, which do not reflect the reality, we will implement this decision,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told NTV television.


Sudan’s army calls for unconditional talks with protesters

Updated 17 min 36 sec ago

Sudan’s army calls for unconditional talks with protesters

KHARTOUM: Sudan’s military council said talks on the transition of power should resume without preconditions, signaling a continued standoff with opposition leaders who launched nighttime demonstrations to push for civilian rule.
Protest leaders have set conditions for a resumption of talks, including a withdrawal of the military and militias from cities, the resumption of Internet service and an international investigation of the violent razing of their sit-in camp on June 3.
Transition talks collapsed over the military’s crackdown.
At least 128 people were killed across the country since security forces cleared the sit-in area outside the military’s headquarters. Authorities offer a lower death toll of 61, including three from security forces.
Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of the council, told health workers in Khartoum on Wednesday that the council did not have preconditions for returning to the negotiating table with the Forces for Declaration of Freedom and Change, which has represented protesters.
He said neither side should make up-front demands.
“I repeat our invitation to all political forces and the FDFC to come (for talks), and there is no need for preconditions,” he said. “We do not deny their role in the uprising and the popular revolution ..., but the solution should be satisfactory to all Sudanese factions.”
Protest leaders could not be reached immediately for comment.
On Saturday, the Sudanese Professionals’ Association said it would stick to its conditions for the resumption of talks.
Meanwhile, protest leaders launched nighttime protests this week.
Late Wednesday, about 300 protesters, mostly young people, marched in Khartoum’s western district of Abbasiya, waving Sudanese flags and calling for justice for those killed since the sit-in dispersal.
Protesters avoid daytime demonstrations for fear of being quashed by security forces heavily deployed in Khartoum.
The military council has rejected the idea of an international probe and said it had started its own investigation along with another one by prosecutors.
An Ethiopian initiative to resume talks apparently failed to make progress in the deadlock. A top general in the military council pushed back last week against a key demand from the protest leaders to have the majority in a transitional legislative body.
Burhan said that the country cannot remain without a government, more than three months after the military ousted autocratic President Omar Al-Bashir in April.
“We do not want that things (get) out of control,” Burhan said. “Another coup could be carried out because of the country’s impasse.”