America It is a Force for Good in the Middle East?

John Bolton

A recent speech given by Mike Pompeo clearly exposes the philosophy that makes him what he is today and the factors that drive his agenda.  The speech which was given on January 10, 2019 at the American University in Cairo is entitled “A Force for Good: America Reinvigorated in the Middle East“. 

As you may recall, former President Barack Obama made a pilgrimage to Cairo on June 4, 2009 where he gave his speech “A New Beginning”.  In this speech, Obama reached out to the world’s Islamic community, drawing links between the United States and Muslims as shown in this excerpt:

We meet at a time of great tension between the United States and Muslims around the world — tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate.  The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of coexistence and cooperation, but also conflict and religious wars.  More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations.  Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.

Violent extremists have exploited these tensions in a small but potent minority of Muslims.  The attacks of September 11, 2001 and the continued efforts of these extremists to engage in violence against civilians has led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile not only to America and Western countries, but also to human rights.  All this has bred more fear and more mistrust.

So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, those who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity.  And this cycle of suspicion and discord must end.

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I’ve come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition.  Instead, they overlap, and share common principles — principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings…

So let there be no doubt:  Islam is a part of America.  And I believe that America holds within her the truth that regardless of race, religion, or station in life, all of us share common aspirations — to live in peace and security; to get an education and to work with dignity; to love our families, our communities, and our God.  These things we share.  This is the hope of all humanity.”

Here is Mr. Pompeo’s belated response to President Obama’s speech:

“Egypt has always been a land of striving. And yet at times, your aspirations and those of your brethren in the Middle East have seemed impossible to achieve. These lands witnessed convulsions from Tunis to Tehran as old systems crumbled and new ones struggled to emerge. That’s happened here, too.

And at this critical moment, America, your long-time friend, was absent too much. Why? Because our leaders gravely misread our history, and your historical moment. These fundamental misunderstandings, set forth in this city in 2009, adversely affected the lives of hundreds of millions of people in Egypt and all across the region.

Remember: It was here, here in this city, that another American stood before you.

He told you that radical Islamist terrorism does not stem from an ideology.

He told you that 9/11 led my country to abandon its ideals, particularly in the Middle East.

He told you that the United States and the Muslim world needed, quote, “a new beginning,” end of quote.

The results of these misjudgments have been dire.

In falsely seeing ourselves as a force for what ails the Middle East, we were timid in asserting ourselves when the times – and our partners – demanded it.”

So, what is it that drives Mr. Pompeo’s Middle East agenda?

We’re all children of Abraham: Christians, Muslims, Jews. In my office, I keep a Bible open on my desk to remind me of God and His Word, and The Truth.

Here is what Mr. Pompeo had to say about the United States and its relationship to the Middle East:

We learned that when America retreats, chaos often follows. When we neglect our friends, resentment builds. And when we partner with enemies, they advance.

The good news. The good news is this: The age of self-inflicted American shame is over, and so are the policies that produced so much needless suffering. Now comes the real new beginning.

In just 24 months, actually less than two years, the United States under President Trump has reasserted its traditional role as a force for good in this region. We’ve learned from our mistakes. We’ve rediscovered our voice. We’ve rebuilt our relationships. We’ve rejected false overtures from our enemies.

And look at what we’ve accomplished. Look at what we’ve accomplished together. Under new leadership, America has confronted the ugly reality of radical Islamism. On President Trump’s very first trip abroad to this region, he called on Muslim-majority nations to, quote, “meet history’s great test – to conquer extremism and vanquish the forces of terrorism….

For those who fret about the use of American power, remember this: America has always been, and always will be, a liberating force, not an occupying power. We’ve never dreamed of domination in the Middle East.(my bolds)

As an aside, let’s look at a quote from President Jimmy Carter’s January 1980 State of the Union Address which introduced the “Carter Doctrine” to the world:

Let our position be absolutely clear: An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.

So much for not being a dominant force in the Middle East.  Nearly four decades later, much of the Middle East/Persian Gulf remains under the control of either the United States or one of its proxy states.  While the United States is experiencing a very temporary period of lowered dependence on oil imports from the Middle East, consuming nations around the globe still rely heavily on Middle East oil exports; without these exports, the global economy would be under threat.  Without heavy American intervention in the region, the price of oil would likely spike higher, leaving the economy around the world vulnerable.

Here is a partial listing of U.S. military operations in the Middle East gleaned from public sources:

Here are the United States service component commands for the Middle East:

Back to Mr. Pompeo’s speech.  What would a Mike Pompeo speech be without some reference to Iran, the “scourge of the Middle East”?

“America’s reluctance, our reluctance, to wield our influence kept us silent as the people of Iran rose up against the mullahs in Tehran in the Green Revolution. The ayatollahs and their henchmen murdered, jailed, and intimidated freedom-loving Iranians, and they wrongly blamed America for this unrest when it was their own tyranny that had fueled it. Emboldened, the regime spread its cancerous influence to Yemen, to Iraq, to Syria, and still further into Lebanon.

Our penchant, America’s penchant, for wishful thinking led us to look the other way as Hizballah, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Iranian regime, accumulated a massive arsenal of approximately 130,000 rockets and missiles. They stored and positioned these weapons in Lebanese towns and villages in flagrant violation of international law. That arsenal is aimed squarely at our ally Israel…

President Trump has reversed our willful blindness to the danger of the regime and withdrew from the failed nuclear deal, with its false promises. The U.S. re-imposed sanctions that should never have been lifted. We embarked on a new pressure campaign to cut off the revenues the regime uses to spread terror and destruction throughout the world. We joined the Iranian people in calling for freedom and accountability.

And importantly, we fostered a common understanding with our allies of the need to counteract the Iran regime’s revolutionary agenda. Countries increasingly understand that we must confront the ayatollahs, not coddle them. Nations are rallying to our side to confront the regime like never before. Egypt, Oman, Kuwait, and Jordan have all been instrumental in thwarting Iran’s efforts to evade sanctions…

It is important to know also that we will not ease our campaign to stop Iran’s malevolent influence and actions against this region and the world. The nations of the Middle East will never enjoy security, achieve economic stability, or advance the dreams of their people if Iran’s revolutionary regime persists on its current course.” (my bold)

What choice did these nations have when dealing with America’s sanctions against Iran?  In November 2018, Societe General, a major French bank was fined $1.3 billion after the bank was charged with violating U.S. sanctions on Iran and other nations.  This is the second largest fine ever assessed on a financial institution for violating U.S. sanctions.  This is not the first bank to be punished for dealing with Iran; in 2014, the French Bank BNP Paribas agreed to pay an $8.9 billion settlement to the United States for $100 billion worth of transactions with Iran, Cuba and Sudan.  This settlement was reached after BNP Paribas pled guilty to conspiring to violate Washington’s International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the Trading With the Enemy Act.  Obviously, Washington is clearly sending a message to the world – either you will fall in line with our anti-Iranian sanctions or you will pay a very heavy price for your disobedience.

Here is the conclusion of Mr. Pompeo’s speech:

First, it’s never easy to recognize truth. But when we see it, we must speak it. America has been criticized for doing too much in the Middle East, and we’ve been criticized for doing too little. But one thing we’ve never been is an empire-builder or an oppressor.

Just look at our history together, the history which I have recounted today. Look at our fights against common enemies. Look at our coalition building. And finally, just look around you at this university, which has existed now for a century. It’s not a coincidence that many other American universities like this one thrive all across the Middle East, from Beirut to Sulaymaniyah. These are symbols of America’s innate goodness, of our hopes for you, and of the better future we desire for all nations of the Middle East.(my bold)

Apparently, truth and goodness really are in the eye of the beholder.

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