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Pompeo: US committed to countering Daesh, Iran despite Syria troop withdrawal

U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo participates in a joint press availability with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, in Amman, Jordan, on January 8, 2019. (State Department photo by Ron Pryzsucha/Released)

The US decision to withdraw troops from Syria will not jeopardise Washington’s efforts to counter threats from Iran and Daesh, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday.

Pompeo was speaking in Jordan on the first leg of his Middle East tour designed to reassure allies after Donald Trump said the US had defeated Daesh in Syria and the 2,000 American troops were no longer needed there.

The US troops in Syria have served as a counterweight to the Syrian government, which is backed by Iran and Russia.

But Pompeo said Washington was not stepping down from its efforts to challenge Iran. The US was “redoubling not only our diplomatic but our commercial efforts to put real pressure on Iran,” he said.

“There is enormous agreement on the risk that Iran poses to Jordan and other countries in the region,” Pompeo added.

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Jordan has expressed worries in the past about Iranian influence near the Jordanian border in southern Syria.

“We all have problems with Iran’s expansionist policies in the region,” Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said during the meeting with Pompeo.

The secretary of state said the US is fully committed to the security of Jordan and its partnership with the kingdom.

The top US diplomat, on his longest trip since taking the post last year, pledged that Daesh would not be allowed to regroup following a string of battlefield defeats.

But in a stark reminder of the lingering threat, a war monitor reported that the terrorist group had killed 23 US-backed fighters in a counterattack in eastern Syria aimed at defending their last bastion.

After setting off on the trip to eight Arab capitals, Pompeo told reporters he would show that “the United States is still committed to all the missions that we’ve signed up for with them over the past two years.”

The eight-day tour comes weeks after Trump announced that the United States would quickly pull its 2,000 soldiers out of Syria, declaring that Daesh had been defeated.

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His advisers have since been walking back his timeline, with national security adviser John Bolton saying Monday in Jerusalem that the United States would verify that the group is truly beaten before withdrawing.

Highlighting that Daesh emerged during the tenure of Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, Pompeo said the campaign to destroy the movement’s self-styled “caliphate” in war-battered Syria has been “enormously successful.”

“And I am confident that we will continue to ensure that the kind of rise that ISIS had under the Obama administration doesn’t occur again,” he said on his plane.

*With AFP

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© 2019 Arab News (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.