- US top diplomat says Obama's policies made ground for extremists
- US to host Iran-focused world summit next month
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday accused Barack Obama of sowing chaos by abandoning the Middle East to Islamist militants and Iranian influence in a blistering critique of the former president's policies even as Pompeo's boss, President Donald Trump, moves to pull American troops out of Syria.
In a speech at the American University in Cairo, Pompeo dispensed with a US diplomatic tradition of avoiding public airing abroad of domestic disputes by blasting Obama at the site of a landmark 2009 speech by Trump's predecessor aimed at improving relations with the Islamic world.
Pompeo presented America as "a force for good in the Middle East" and suggested Obama saw the United States as "a force for what ails the Middle East."
Some former US officials and analysts accused the top American diplomat of misreading history and camouflaging Trump's own desire to reduce US commitments in the region.
Pompeo accused Obama of underestimating "the tenacity and viciousness of radical Islamism," of failing to adequately support the 2009 "Green Movement" mass protests against a disputed election in Iran, and faulted him for not bombing Syria in retaliation for chemical weapons use by government forces in its civil war.
"What did we learn from all of this? We learned that when America retreats, chaos often follows. When we neglect our friends, resentment builds. And when we partner with our enemies, they advance," Pompeo said.
Pompeo is touring the region to try to explain US strategy after Trump's surprise announcement last month of an abrupt withdrawal of all 2,000 US troops from Syria, which rattled allies, shocked top US officials and prompted US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis's resignation.
Pompeo sought to reassure allies that Washington remains committed to the "complete dismantling" of the threat posed by the Islamic State militant group and to ending Iranian influence in Syria despite Trump's decision to withdraw troops there.
US plans to jointly host a global summit focused on the Middle East, particularly Iran, next month in Poland, the US State Department said yesterday.
Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, mocked Pompeo's speech, writing on Twitter: "Whenever/wherever US interferes, chaos, repression and resentment follow."
Many people in the Middle East are likely to disagree with Pompeo's assertion that the United States is a force for good in the region.