Pompeo’s missed opportunity
International | The secretary of state failed to clarify U.S. objectives in the Middle East in Cairo speech
by Mindy Belz
Posted 1/11/19, 02:02 pm
EGYPT: The Trump administration is giving the Obama White House a run for its money by compounding weeks of dangerously conflicting policy statements on the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria with a speech by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Cairo Thursday, which a leading expert described as “cynical, petty, incoherent, small.”
- The Obama administration’s Middle East policy—from the Iran nuclear agreement negotiations to support for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood to abandoning international chemical weapons protocol in Syria—ranged from incomprehensible to feckless, a setup of phony ideals with little will to see them through. (Exhibit A: the 21-hour delay while top U.S. operatives were under attack and killed in Benghazi and the cover-up later.)
- Pompeo wasted an opportunity to lay out clear U.S. objectives in the Middle East and markers for how the United States would engage beyond troop deployments. Instead, he made barbed criticism of President Barack Obama’s 2009 speech in Cairo (without having the forthrightness to mention the former president by name), gave a muddled picture of U.S. engagement in the region punctuated by inaccuracies (e.g., the United States until late last year did not distribute humanitarian aid to Iraq directly but funneled it through the UN), and hyperbole. “America will not retreat until the terror fight is over,” Pompeo said, as the USS Kearsarge headed toward the Syrian coast to begin a U.S. military pullout. There was no stance for democracy and its values, and no stance against human suffering in the region. That makes it hard to see it as anything more than a speech aimed at bolstering autocrats in the region and angry resolve at home.
- “You can see the Lord is at work here, in Egypt,” Pompeo said to reporters in praising the opening of the largest cathedral in the Middle East in the new administrative capital east of Cairo, which Egyptian President Abdul Fattah el-Sisi opened Sunday. But a report released last month showed that approvals for building churches actually slowed under el-Sisi: Of the 508 churches authorized (out of thousands of applicants), el-Sisi has granted permits to only eight, a much lower rate than under President Hosni Mubarak.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: The government’s electoral commission released long-delayed results of the Dec. 30 presidential election, pronouncing Felix Tshisekedi the winner despite polling data that showed opposition candidate Martin Fayulu winning in a landslide. Tshisekedi is seen as an ally to longstanding President Joseph Kabila, but not the strongman’s first choice.
The Catholic Church’s observer mission, known as the National Episcopal Conference of Congo or CENCO, said at a news conference Thursday that the electoral commission results did not match its data, which showed Fayulu had won. Still, the results could lead to the first successful democratic transfer of power in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 60 years.
IRAQ: Unknown gunmen shot to death Samer Ali, a cameraman for the U.S.-funded Arabic language Alhurra television network, in Baghdad. On Wednesday, Alberto Fernandez—former ambassador and currently president of the Middle East Broadcasting Networks, which includes Alhurra—spoke to WORLD Radio about U.S. policy in the region.
EUROPE: The European Court of Human Rights ruled against the Wunderlich family, denying their right to homeschool their children in Germany. Police and social workers had removed Petra and Dirk Wunderlich’s children from their home in 2013 because of a German law against homeschooling. Later, the family was reunited, but German courts sided with the government in the case. “We are now advising the Wunderlichs of their options, including taking the case to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights,” said Robert Clarke of ADF International, lead counsel for the family.
CHINA: U.S. manufacturer Badger Sportswear will end its business with a Chinese factory that used forced labor. An Associated Press investigation last month found that Hetian Taida Apparel, one of Badger’s suppliers, was located inside one of China’s reeducation camps, where more than 1 million Uighurs and Kazakhs have been detained.
Chinese scientist He Jiankui broke international ethical boundaries when he implanted gene-edited human embryos into a woman and let her deliver them. He fails to understand the implications of such experimentation, said the Stanford bioethicist who warned him against the pursuit for two years.
UNITED STATES: Starting Jan. 25, a highly rated exhibition from Oxford of J.R.R. Tolkien memorabilia comes to New York.
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