(Highlights from the recent Cairo speech by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo)
I’m always eager to visit Egypt, a land I know so well, and am especially happy this time because I’m an evangelical Christian arriving soon after the Coptic Church celebrated Christmas here in beautiful Cairo. “We are all children of Abraham: Christians, Muslims, and Jews. In my office, I keep a bible open on my desk to remind me of God and His word and the truth.”
You don’t hear this worldly truth often in the Middle East but today at esteemed American University, I, a military man by training and instinct, am guaranteeing you that under normal circumstances “America is a force for good in the Middle East.” Tragically, several years ago when this region convulsed “from Tunis to Tehran” and even in Egypt, we, your long-time friend, were absent too much because President Barack Obama “gravely misread our history and your historical moment.” In this very city, he told you that “radical Islamist terrorism does not stem from an ideology… (and) 9/11 led my country to abandon its ideals…” and your world and ours “needed a new beginning.” Oh, how tragic his misjudgments have been.
I can’t fathom why President Obama considered American actions in the Middle East to be a principal part of your problems. What was he referring to? Two wars against Iraq? A war that continues in Afghanistan? Military and economic support of dictators in Saudi Arabia and Egypt and elsewhere? All that was essential. Obama should have done more but he “grossly underestimated the tenacity and viciousness of radical Islamism” and thus allowed the rape and murder of thousands of civilians and the birth of a “caliphate across Syria and Iraq” that slaughtered innocents in every direction.
President Obama’s timidity continued during the Green Revolution in Tehran when the people of Tehran tried to overthrow the brutal mullahs who have suffocated them for forty years. America offered scant support and this emboldened Iran to “spread its cancerous influence” to Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. Meanwhile, like an ostrich, Obama buried his head in the sand as Hezbollah, Iran’s henchmen in Lebanon, amassed more than a hundred thousand rockets and missiles, many aimed at our sacred ally Israel. And what did Obama do when Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad began shooting, bombing, and gassing his fellow Syrians? He criticized Assad but otherwise did nothing, and hundreds of thousands of Syrians have perished and millions fled into exile.
I already knew then what the U.S. president did not. “When America retreats, chaos often follows.” But do not despair. “The age of self-inflicted American shame is over.” In only two years President Trump has reestablished the United States “as a force for good in this region.” We have learned from the mistakes of the Obama administration and our current president stresses that “Muslim-majority nations” must “meet history’s great test – to conquer extremism and vanquish the forces of terrorism.” Your courageous Egyptian liberator, President Sisi, agrees about this.
America is again ready to help you. When barbaric Assad gassed his people, President Trump “unleashed the fury of the U.S. military not once but twice.” Our arms are again blazing in the Middle East, and you should all remember this: “America has always been a liberating force, not an occupying power.” We liberated Europe from the Nazis and Kuwait from Saddam Hussein and then Iraq from Saddam. Despite our many military bases in this region, “we’ve never dreamed of domination.” We only build and staff bases when we’re invited to do so, we have quite small deployments in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Turkey, and the Emirates. And we’re leaving Syria, as you know. President Trump has so ordered since “ninety-nine percent of the territory ISIS once held is liberated.” In humanitarian ways our churches and non-profits are helping to ensure that ISIS never returns.
Now let’s talk about Iran, my favorite and most frightening subject. As you know, President Trump “withdrew from the failed nuclear deal, with its false promises.” Now America has reimposed sanctions that should not have been lifted, and we’re cutting “off the revenues (the mullahs) use to spread terror and destruction throughout the world.” I guarantee that a majority of the Iranian people agree their government is squandering the nation’s wealth and former good name. Almost everyone now understands “we must confront the ayatollahs, not coddle them.” Bastions of freedom like Egypt, Oman, Kuwait, and Jordan are helping “in thrwarting Iran’s efforts to evade sanctions.” Today, I haven’t said much about Saudi Arabia, but our trusted friends are also countering “Iranian expansion.” Our coalition in the Middle East and Europe, including Germany, Britain, and France, has “cut Iranian oil imports to zero” and agreed that doing business with the regime is bad business.
I want the leaders, and the people, of Iran to understand that “America will not retreat until the terror fight is over.” All freedom lovers in the Middle East will battle to destroy ISIS and Al Qaeda and radical Islamists who “threaten our security and yours.” It’s true that President Trump is withdrawing our troops from Syria, but that’s what we do. We go home, sometimes. And while so doing we ask “our partners to do more.” We will help you with military and economic aid as well as our continued airstrikes.
Forty years in power are far too many for that medieval clan in Tehran, and we will continue the strongest economic sanctions in history until Iran begins “behaving like a normal country” and quits invading, occupying, or tormenting nations like Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen. Some blame Saudi Arabia for the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen. I believe the Iranians are far more responsible. And blame them we shall for as many outrages as we can until we figure out what to do. I surmise that’ll be unleashing more sanctions, more rhetoric, and probably a missile and bombing campaign sometime before the 2020 election.