News Analysis: Pompeo's Mideast tour fails to achieve its goals: experts

Source: Xinhua| 2019-01-16 21:30:39|Editor: xuxin
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by Marwa Yahya, Ahmed Shafiq

CAIRO, Jan. 16 (Xinhua) -- The Middle East tour of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was not successful as it has not fully achieved its goals, experts said.

Pompeo on Monday cut short his Middle East tour over a family funeral.

"Secretary Pompeo will return to the United States after his meetings in Muscat, Oman," State Department Deputy Spokesman Robert Palladino said in an emailed statement. "This curtailment of travel is required so that the Pompeo family may attend a family funeral."

The U.S. top diplomat's tour covered Jordan, Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Qatar. Palladino said Pompeo will look to visit Kuwait at an agreeable time in the near future.

"The main goal of the visit is to establish an Arab alliance against Iran ... there are other minor goals, of course," Noha Bakir, professor of political sciences with the American University in Cairo, told Xinhua.

Based on that main objective, the countries of the tour were carefully chosen, she said, adding the most important pillar for building that alliance was to bring Qatar back to the Arab alliance.

While in Qatar, Pompeo called for ending the continuing crisis between Qatar and mainly its Gulf neighbors.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt severed ties with Qatar in June 2017, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism. Qatar has strongly denied the accusations.

"We are all more powerful when we are working together and disputes are limited. When we have a common challenge, disputes between countries with shared objectives are never helpful," Pompeo told reporters in Doha.

"There is no consensus among the Arabs to resolve the Qatari crisis. The priorities of the Arab countries on Iran are also completely different," Bakir said.

Delivering a major speech at the American University in Cairo on Thursday, Pompeo said countries of the Middle East will never enjoy security, achieve economic stability, or advance dreams of their peoples if Iran's regime persists on its current course.

"The U.S. is working with partners in the region and beyond to stop malign activity by Iran and its proxies in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere," he noted.

The expert said the priorities in Pompeo's visit to Egypt were different for the two sides.

"Egypt's foreign policies since President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi came to power are based on not joining any alliance or sending troops abroad," she noted.

While Pompeo focused on forming an alliance to defy Iran's influence, the Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry focused on combating terrorism in all its forms, she said, stressing that Pompeo did not touch upon the Palestinian cause, which is the main priority for Egypt.

She explained that Pompeo's visit wasn't successful as aspired by the U.S. side, adding that his tour was met with Arab dissatisfaction in general.

"The Arab people see the United States as the main power behind Iraq's destruction as well as the minimization of the Arab wealth. The people deemed that America destroyed the Arab region and then withdrew without fixing the chaos it has created," Bakir said.

In addition to forming alliance against Iran, Bakir said, Pompeo also wanted to show support for Qatar, adding he just failed to fulfill the goal too.

The U.S. administration also wanted to stress its new trend, which is abandoning the Middle East.

"The United States wants the Arab countries to run their own affairs and solve their problems," she said.

The expert stressed that 2019 will see a change in alliances in the region, adding Sisi's visit to Jordan on Sunday was meant to focus on this.

Meanwhile, professor of political sciences with Cairo University, Tariq Fahmy, said Pompeo's visit has not brought successful results "because the U.S. side wanted only to focus on the political vacuum in Syria and the Arab region, as well as Qatari crisis."

"The agendas of Arab countries forced Pompeo to get far from his own agenda during his tour," Fahmy told Xinhua. "Pompeo came to market the U.S. administration policies as the power that rescues the Arab region, while the Arabs delivered a message that they can handle their own problems."

He added that the U.S. ambition to form an anti-Iran Arab NATO is difficult amid disagreement among the Arab leaders on some files.

He added that the U.S. withdrawal from Syria was also frustrating for some Arab leaders, adding that the U.S. military is still present in the region.

"I can say that the Pompeo's visit was not successful in any way since it failed to convince the Arabs to form an alliance against Iran, and failed to reach reconciliation between Qatar and other countries," he stressed.