On October 19th, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave an interview with the Jerusalem Post, while he was on a visit to Israel.
Pompeo made some interesting statements, such as:
“Our administration’s been very clear,” he said. “Israel has the fundamental right to engage in activity that ensures the security of its people. It’s at the very core of what nation-states not only have the right to do, but an obligation to do.”
Not only did countries in the region have the right to counter the presumed Iranian threat, but they were rather even “obligated” to do so.
“It’s at the very core of what nation states not only have the right to do but an obligation to do,” Pompeo added.
“We know this is a corner [of the world] where Iran has attempted to move weapons systems across into Syria, into Lebanon, that threatens Israel and we’re going to do everything we can to make sure we have the capacity to identify those so that we can collectively respond appropriately,” the secretary noted, pointing to alleged Iranian activities which have in the past led to Israeli drone and air strikes against targets across multiple regional countries.
Pompeo gave the interview after speaking to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is also Israel’s Defense Minister.
“We shared our ideas about how we can ensure Middle East stability together, and how we would further our efforts to jointly combat all the challenges that the world confronts here in the Middle East,” Pompeo told reporters with Netanyahu by his side.
Israel needed some reassurance after the US announced its pullout from Syria, and being actually carrying it out. This, in addition to Trump’s somewhat softer rhetoric toward Iran and firing of National Security Adviser John Bolton, who was the most avid hawk in the administration expectedly is cause for concern.
Pompeo said that the US wouldn’t allow Iran to be strengthened and would still assist Israel.
“I think the Israeli people should stare at the probably starkest change this administration has made in foreign policy vis-a-vis what the previous administration has done – the toughest sanctions we’ve ever put,” he said. “Sanctions that will be sufficient to decrease the scope and size of the Iranian economy by over 12% this next year. That’s serious stuff. We do this because this denies resources from Iran to do assassination campaigns in Europe, missile systems and infrastructure technology advancement, underwriting Hezbollah, Shia militias around the word. We have materially reduced their capacity to engage in those behaviors.”
He said that in no way should the US activity be considered as a way of walking back on its maximum pressure campaign against Iran.
“If you look at our strategy, America is committed to countering the threat from Iran,” he said. “We view it as the fundamental destabilizing force inside the Middle East, and we are determined to push back against that.”
He dismissed criticism of the deal with Turkey – which he said would “save lives” – and said that Israel has nothing to worry about, that America would stand by the Jewish state in the event of future conflicts.
“There is no risk of that,” Pompeo said. “There are decades of history that would support my statement, and I know that there are two and a half, and almost three, years of this administration that would support that statement as well… This relationship is strong, deep and growing, and in a position that reflects the historically important ties between our two countries for all the reasons we know: the value sets we share, and the common security interests and burden that we both jointly share.”
He reminded that following the September 14th attack on Aramco’s oil infrastructure in Saudi Arabia, the US immediately send troops to assist in protecting the country from further aggression that was blamed on Iran.
“We will flow additional forces and resources into the kingdom of Saudi Arabia in a very significant way in the next handful of weeks, aimed at deterring Iranian aggression,” he said. “We have made significant commitments to counter the threat, not only the threat to Israel but to the Middle East and the world that emanates from the ayatollah and his fellow clerics and kleptocrats that are running that revolutionary regime.”
He also partook in some usual fearmongering, saying the US took the Iran threat very seriously, and the Islamic Republic could potentially carry out an attack similar to the one in Saudi Arabia, but this time against Israel.
“I always take the Iranians at their word,” he said. “They have said that they would like to wipe Israel off the face of the earth, and I think it is reasonable to think that the Iranians would contemplate an attack on Israel… We should not suggest that this is mere bluster or threat, but they are engaged in activity that creates risk certainly for Israel, but we have seen what they did in Saudi Arabia and we’ve seen what they are doing today in Yemen, and we watch the activities they are engaged in Syria and the Shia militias in Iraq. This is a serious threat.”
And, yes, he takes the Iranians at their word, except when they say they had nothing to do with something they were blamed for.
It should be noted that Benjamin Netanyahu is pushing for increased funding for the military in recent weeks, and growing the Iranian threat narrative is potentially a sure way of achieving such a feat.
In recent weeks, Pompeo’s been going around saying some rather interesting and absurd things.
On October 15th, media focused on a recent speech he made, calling himself a “Christian leader” and also being dubbed as such on the US State Department website.
“I keep a Bible open on my desk, and I try every morning to try and get in a little bit of time with the Book,” Pompeo said, describing how the texts sacred to Christians influences his disposition, engagement with others and decisions. “We should all remember that we are imperfect servants serving a perfect God who constantly forgives us each and every day.”
A full transcript of his speech, with captions of when the audience laughs at him can be found on the State Department website.
He laments the difficulties, but also the positives of being a “Christian leader,” in addition to the absurdity of the claim itself.
It furthermore shows a rather chronic condition of the state of US foreign and internal policy. It shows that many of the officials in the Trump administration attract much greater importance to themselves and their presumed “mission” than common sense would dictate.