Published: Thu, January 10, 2019
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Pompeo vows United States troops will leave Syria

Pompeo vows United States troops will leave Syria

But he promised his audience that the Trump administration was ushering in a new era of US foreign policy. The U.S. has since re-imposed economic sanctions on the country, including on oil exports.

And moving former fighters to the United States poses some of the same challenges the USA has faced with men detained at the military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, including whether it's feasible to prosecute militants captured on the battlefields of northern Syria, according to experts.

Empty ambassador posts are filled in an interim capacity by career diplomats, who don't have the same clout or influence in their host country as a presidentially nominated and Senate-confirmed ambassador.

Shortly before Pompeo arrived, the State Department noted improvements in Egypt's human rights record. Pompeo laid the blame notably on a vision outlined by President Barack Obama in a speech he gave in Cairo in 2009 in which he spoke of "a new beginning" for USA relations with countries in the Arab and Muslim world. Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine, for example, has held up the nomination of the assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs, David Schenker, over the administration's failure to get congressional approval for airstrikes in Syria in 2017.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a scathing rebuke of the Obama administration's Mideast policies on Thursday as he denounced the former president for "misguided" and "wishful" thinking that diminished America's role in the region, harmed its longtime friends and emboldened its main foe: Iran. Other military officials suggested that the withdrawal of troops would be completed more slowly when the battle against ISIS was over. "It's essential that any administration has the people in place both in Washington and overseas to implement their policies", he said. "It's a crying shame that this is the new normal".

Pompeo met leaders in Iraq's capital and its semi-autonomous Kurdistan region on Wednesday, aiming to reassure them about Washington's plans following President Donald Trump's surprise announcement last month of an abrupt withdrawal from Syria. It also sparked the resignation of Secretary of Defense James Mattis and of Brett McGurk, the diplomatic point person in the campaign against the Islamic State.

Iran, alongside Russian Federation, has been supporting the Syrian government in the Syrian civil war, providing arms, military advisers, and reportedly combat troops.

Almost 10 years ago, then-President Barack Obama delivered a landmark address at Cairo University in which he said he had come to Egypt seeking "a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world".

Bolton's comments were widely seen as backtracking on Trump's announcement.

While Pompeo said a focus of his visit was to convince Baghdad to end its imports of electricity and natural gas from Iran, the main issue for Masoud Barzani was the United States withdrawal from Syria that will leave Kurds there exposed to an imminent offensive by Turkey.

"If they [the US] delay this process with false and absurd excuses like unreal statements such as 'Turks will slaughter the Kurds, ' then we will implement this decision", he said, referring to the looming Turkish operation in Syria to the east of the Euphrates. "We will labour tirelessly alongside you to defeat Isis [the Islamic State group], al-Qaeda and other jihadists that threaten our security and yours".

Pompeo has repeatedly called Iran "the world's largest state sponsor of terror", pointing to its targeting of domestic rivals in Europe and support of militant movements such as Lebanon's Hezbollah.

On Monday, Erdogan published an opinion article in the New York Times saying the Turkish government has "no argument with the Syrian Kurds."He called for a "stabilization force" in Syria that would be created by Turkey".

The United States now has no ambassador to Turkey.

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