Moments after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo proclaimed during his expansive Thursday speech in Cairo "America is a force for good in the Middle East," Iran's foreign minister Javad Zarif took to twitter to blast his remarks, saying US interference abroad has only created "chaos, repression, and resentment".
Pompeo's speech has been cast as a repudiation of a similar US-Mideast relations speech Obama gave early in his presidency in 2009, also in Cairo, called "A New Beginning". Countering Obama's "humble Mideast policy" approach, Pompeo said confidently, "The age of self-inflicted American shame is over, and so are the policies that produced so much needless suffering."
Specifically referencing what many dubbed Obama's "retreat" from the region, Pompeo set forth a contrasting vision of a strong and confident American force for good and "progress" for the Middle East. Calling out Obama's "timidity" Pompeo explained:
Remember, it was here, here in this city, that another American stood before you. He told you that radical Islamist terrorism doesn't 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 'a new beginning.' The results of these misjudgments have been dire.
Following the Trump administration's scrapping the Obama-brokered 2015 Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA), Pompeo specifically lashed out at Iran while casting US actions in the region as noble and bringing freedom:
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. Can you say the same about Iran?
Pompeo asserted the US has never been "an empire-builder or an oppressor," and noted at one point that "when the mission is over, when the job is complete, America leaves."
"In less than 2 years, U.S under Pres. Trump has reasserted its traditional role as force for good in this region, because we've learned from our mistakes. We have rediscovered our voice. We have rebuilt our relationships. We have rejected false overtures from enemies," Pompeo confidently asserted.
It appears that this is the language Iranian FM Zarif picked up on in his statement issued just after the speech. Zarif slammed Pomeo's remarks as follows:
Whenever/wherever US interferes, chaos, repression & resentment follow. The day Iran mimics US clients and Secretary Pompeo's "human rights models”— be it the Shah or current butchers—to become a “normal" country is the day hell freezes over. Best for the US to just get over loss of Iran.
This also follows Iranian leaders and official media's consistent critique of US interventionist policies in the Middle East over the past two decades, from Afghanistan to Iraq to Libya to Syria. At least 3 of those countries, ironically enough, continue to have significant American troop presence.
Whenever/wherever US interferes, chaos, repression & resentment follow. The day Iran mimics US clients & @SecPompeo's "human rights models”—be it the Shah or current butchers—to become a “normal" country is the day hell freezes over. Best for the US to just get over loss of Iran.— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) January 10, 2019
Pompeo is currently on an eight day tour of the Middle East, just after National Security Advisor John Bolton's trip to Israel and Turkey to hammer out the administrations confused Syria policy. The Thursday speech by Pompeo was promoted by the State Department as its most complete vision yet laying out US priorities in the Middle East.
Regarding Syria, Pompeo said that while Washington keeps open the potential of military intervention in the war-torn country, he hoped that Trump "won't have to". He said that US priorities were such that forces could never fully abandon the region until a “complete dismantling of the ISIS threat” is achieved. “When America retreats, chaos follows,” Pompeo said. “America will not retreat until the terror fight is over.”
However, Pompeo lashed out at Iran again while discussing US policy in Syria, and presumably in a nod to Israel, saying, "America will use diplomacy and work with our partners to expel every last Iranian boot from Syria and bolster efforts to bring peace and stability to the long-suffering Syrian people".
In this context, "our partners" is no doubt first and foremost a reference to Israel, which has long urged the White House toward muscular military intervention against Iran and Hezbollah in Syria.