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Pompeo says US to hold Iran-focused summit in February

U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo and Mrs. Susan Pompeo speak to staff and family members of U.S. Embassy Cairo in Cairo, Egypt, on January 10, 2019. (U.S. State Department)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has announced U.S. plans to hold a global summit next month in Poland that is focused on the Middle East, particularly Iran.

In an interview with Fox News broadcast on January 11, Pompeo said the February 13-14 summit would “focus on Middle East stability and peace and freedom and security here in this region, and that includes an important element of making sure that Iran is not a destabilizing influence.”

He said the summit would bring together leaders from Asia, Africa, the Western Hemisphere, Europe, and the Middle East.

The decision was announced as Pompeo arrived in Bahrain on January 11 — his latest stop on a nine-country Middle East tour aimed at reassuring Washington’s Arab allies that the United States is not abandoning the region, despite plans to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria.

Pompeo is calling for increasing pressure on Iran and has pushed for unity among Arab states that have been embroiled in a diplomatic dispute with Qatar for more than 18 months.

“These Gulf partnerships are critical to achieving shared regional objectives — defeating ISIS, countering radical Islamic terrorism, protecting global energy supplies, and rolling back Iranian aggression,” a State Department spokesman said.

In Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and then later Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Kuwait, Pompeo is also expected to present the case he has already outlined in Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt — that U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to pull U.S. troops from Syria is not a sign Washington is retreating from the fight against Islamic State militants.

A U.S. military spokesman said on January 11 that the U.S.-led military coalition in Syria had begun the process of withdrawing troops from the country.

Pompeo is also expected to discuss the conflict in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition has been fighting Iranian-backed Huthi rebels since March 2015 amid a growing international outcry over the human cost of the conflict.

Pompeo began the Persian Gulf portion of his Middle East tour after a stop in Cairo, where he said the United States was seeking to “expel every last Iranian boot” from Syria, despite Washington’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from the war-ravaged country.

“It’s time for old rivalries [in the Middle East] to end for the sake of the greater good of the region,” Pompeo said in Cairo.

He said the United States “will use diplomacy and work with our partners to expel every last Iranian boot” from Syria and will bolster efforts “to bring peace and stability to the long-suffering Syrian people.”

The Trump administration has recently raised pressure on Tehran by withdrawing from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and reimposing tough economic sanctions.

Pompeo said in Cairo that the United States was a “force for good” in the Middle East and remained committed to the “complete dismantling” of threats posed by Islamic State militants.