Pompeo takes US anti-Iran message to Gulf Arab states
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s Middle East tour brings to mind the sport of hurdling, as he tries to overcome obstacles while eyeing the last objective: Confronting Iran. The list of hurdles grows long: The Kurds, Turks, Syrians (both the government and fighting factions), Israelis, Iraqis, Saudis and Qataris. However, Pompeo left the region before completing the list.
How can Iran — America’s main political millstone in the Middle East — be beleaguered without forcing it out of Syria, wearing down its influence in Iraq, defying it in Lebanon, using Israeli air power to pressure it, preventing Turkey from opening up to it, thwarting Qatar from cooperating with it, and persuading Saudi Arabia to produce more oil to meet the world’s needs without resorting to Iran’s oil?
These are the tasks entrusted to Pompeo, and truth be told, he did very well despite the numerous contradictions, objections and even flip-flops from his president, Donald Trump. Pompeo managed to put forward a big project in difficult conditions that angered Tehran: He even announced that Poland will host an international conference on Iran in mid-February.
Pompeo’s unprecedented efforts have come a long way in putting forth measures and actions against Iran. Tehran is right to worry.
His purpose is clear: To build a huge international coalition against Iran of more than 70 countries. Tehran is confident that US efforts are doomed to fail, because almost all of Washington’s partners have rejected a policy submitted by the White House that aims to isolate Iran by re-imposing sanctions. This has made President Hassan Rouhani assume that the US is isolated when it comes to dealing with Iran.
Pompeo’s unprecedented efforts have come a long way in putting forth measures and actions against Iran. Tehran is absolutely right to worry, especially since European governments have found themselves in an awkward position in the past two months after receiving more data about Iranian operations that killed two opposition members, and a foiled bomb attack against an Iranian opposition rally near Paris last June.
Add to this the failure of Europe’s appeasement of Iran, and Brussels’ justifications in continuing to enforce the nuclear deal. The Iranian regime has not changed. It is still a wicked and dangerous regime that poses a great threat to the entire world, not only to Saudis, Bahrainis, Syrians and Yemenis.
The odds of the success of the conference in Poland are high, especially, in light of recent events in Europe, Syria, Iraq and Yemen that have changed the convictions of many countries, and reduced the number of those defending Tehran.
A big challenge, however, awaits Pompeo in trying to build a strong alliance against Iran — including the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states along with Egypt and Jordan — while also calming regional tensions. This is an almost impossible quest that requires him to adopt a different way of thinking and forge bilateral and multilateral brainstorming sessions.
• Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is a veteran columnist. He is the former general manager of Al Arabiya news channel, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat.