US Troop Withdrawal From Syria Will Happen, Says Mike Pompeo

Frederick Owens
January 10, 2019

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has begun a Mideast visit to talk to regional leaders about ramping up pressure on Iran.

Pompeo's visit comes against a backdrop of escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran, as Washington seeks to counter Iran's sway in the Middle East.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a major speech outlining the Trump administration's Middle East policy on Thursday that took aim at two of the Trump administration's main foes: President Barack Obama and the Iranian regime. "It did come as a surprise to many", he said.

The problem has been further complicated by conflicting reports of Trump's timeline for recalling the 2,000 United States troops from Syria. "He told you that 9/11 (the September 11, 2001, al Qaeda attacks on the United States) led my country to abandon its ideals, particularly in the Middle East", Pompeo said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the planned U.S. pullout will not deter Israel from continuing to carry out airstrikes against Iranian military interests in Syria.

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".

"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.

He went on to list a sequence of crises in the Middle East - some of which have roots that predate the Obama administration - citing the explosive growth of ISIS, Syria's killing of its own citizens, Iran's moves to expand its influence, and Hezbollah's stockpiling of rockets.

"He's an ally, he represents a friendly country", said Abdul Mahdi.

Since 1980, the USA government has provided Egypt with more than $40 billion in military and $30 billion in economic assistance. "This is not in the interest of any Arab country", the Egyptian source said.

But the U.S. delegation instead delivered what Turkish officials described as a "non-paper", an unofficial diplomatic note listing a country's position on certain matters which is open for discussion.

Shahoz Hasan, co-chair of the largest Kurdish group in Syria the Democratic Union Party, or PYD, says it was clear from the latest statements Turkey was planning an assault.

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The U.S. has about 5,000 troops in Iraq, and Trump said on his visit that he had no intention to bring them home as he's signaled he'll do with the 2,000 American soldiers in Syria.

Turkey already has forces on the ground in rebel-held areas west of the Euphrates river in northern Syria, where it considers Kurdish militias a security threat to its southern border.

One Cairo-based foreign diplomat informed on the highlights of Bolton's talks in the Middle East this week said that the United States national security adviser had assured his interlocutors that the U.S. would neither risk the stability of Syria nor allow for a situation that could endanger their interests. He added that an immediate withdrawal of USA forces from Syria would serve the interests of the Arab country.

"Bolton has made a serious mistake and whoever thinks like this has also made a mistake".

However, Bolton's remarks on the Kurdish matter had infuriated Ankara.

Turkish officials had a tense meeting this week with US National Security Adviser John Bolton in Ankara aimed at coordinating the pullout process after Bolton set conditions that appeared to postpone it indefinitely.

He added that the U.S. was a "force for good" in the Middle East, adding: "Where America retreats, chaos follows". A long-promised Trump plan for a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians has so far failed to materialise.

Speaking from Ramallah earlier this week, a PA source said that nothing had changed on this matter. Others called it a breach of diplomatic norms at the least.

Informed regional diplomats said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is undergoing a rough political moment and is scheduled to face early elections in the spring, had asked the United States to delay any announcement pending the outcome of the current political turmoil in Israel.

This will likely be a central issue in the Abbas-Sisi talks in Cairo this week.

"Negotiations with Israel are off the table now".

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