It was a full circle: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s foreign policy speech in Cairo put to rest the demons unleashed by President Barack Obama in the city 10 years previously.
Whereas Obama flirted with political and violent Islamism to the point of infatuation (which became a common theme of his administration), Pompeo nailed this dangerous ideology and its very real manifestations by calling it out for what it is: “radical Islamism.”
Pompeo’s rebuke against Obama’s misguided foreign policy was palpable. “Now comes the real ‘new beginning,’” said the secretary of state in an unmistakable reference to Obama’s infamous Cairo speech of 2009 titled “A New Beginning.”
In that speech — in front of Egypt’s elite as well as 10 members of the outlawed Islamist Muslim Brotherhood organization (the U.S. insisted they be given front-row seats) — Obama outlined his Middle East policy.
That policy facilitated the rise of the Brotherhood in Egypt. Through the Brotherhood’s candidate for president, who won the election, sharia law began to be imposed upon the Egypt’s population (until he was overthrown by the military and the popular will of the people. Obama also elevated Brotherhood-linked groups in the U.S., empowered Iran, dissed America’s long-standing allies in the Middle East and sought to diminish the stature of the U.S. in the eyes of the world.
Pompeo, by contract, stated, “The age of self-inflicted American shame is over” and asserted “America is a force for good in the Middle East.”
Moreover, Pompeo declared that in addition to continuing the fight against jihadi groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda, making sure that Iran’s ambitions for hegemony in the Middle East (and beyond) are thwarted was America’s number one policy goal. To this end, he also made it clear that the U.S. would support the Iranian people in their quest for freedom from the tyranny imposed upon them by the ayatollahs (in contrast to Obama, who turned his back on the Iranian people during the Green Revolution of 2009-10).
He praised the alliances the Trump administration has made to this end. In addition to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, “Egypt, Oman, Kuwait and Jordan have all been instrumental in thwarting Iran’s efforts to evade sanctions,” he said. Although Israel was not included in that list, it was certainly implied when he noted that last year, “The Israeli national anthem played as an Israeli judo champion was crowned the winner of a tournament in the UAE.”
He noted how the U.S. can be expected to assist its Middle Eastern allies in this fight, but made it clear that “‘Assist’ is the key word. We ask every peace-loving nation of the Middle East to shoulder new responsibilities for defeating Islamist extremism.”
Most importantly, Pompeo criticized Obama for his lack of honestly in refusing to call out or even name the real problem which Pompeo identified as “radical Islamism.” By nailing the ideology behind all violent jihadi groups, from ISIS to Al Qaeda, Iran to the Muslim Brotherhood, Pompeo gave us a taste of the clarity of this administration when it comes to fighting radical Islam.
That’s a policy we can get behind.