“This will be in the dustbin of history before tonight”
Meanwhile, the dumpster fire blazes across the globe:
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s stridently partisan speech in Cairo today chiding the former Barack Obama administration for its Iran nuclear diplomacy and attempts to engage the people of the Middle East received a withering response from former US diplomats and regional experts, who called it unstatesmanlike and tone-deaf.
“In falsely seeing ourselves as a force for what ails the Middle East, we were timid in asserting ourselves when the times — and our partners — demanded it,” Pompeo said in the speech, titled “A Force for Good: America Reinvigorated in the Middle East,” at the American University in Cairo.
“Our desire for peace at any cost led us to strike a deal with Iran, our common enemy,” Pompeo said in another swipe at the Obama administration. “The good news is this: The age of self-inflicted American shame is over, and so are the policies that produced so much needless suffering.”
Current and former diplomats were, in a word, not impressed.
Pompeo’s speech “was a regurgitation of what they have been saying for two years. There was nothing new, and it was offensive,” former career US diplomat and ambassador to Yemen Gerald Feierstein told Al-Monitor. “That they think that anyone still wants to hear about Barack Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech — get over it.”
“You own the issue now, you own the policy,” Feierstein continued. “People want to know what you are going to do, not what you think Barack Obama did wrong. And on that score, there was nothing there, Just a lot of empty rhetoric of all things they are going to do and how wonderful the United States is and it never occupied anybody. So what.”
Pompeo’s speech is unlikely to reassure American allies and partners frustrated by constantly shifting Donald Trump administration positions on the region that they are not properly consulted about, said former FBI and Treasury Department official Matthew Levitt.
“I do not think they [the Trump administration] fully appreciate the level of anxiety among our allies and potential allies in the region and beyond in Europe in terms of how reliable we are as a partner,” Levitt, now with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told Al-Monitor.
“It is not just the decision to withdraw US forces in Syria,” Levitt continued. “Much more than that, it is the way the decision was arrived at and announced. [US Syria envoy Jim] Jeffrey said one thing one day, Trump says the opposite the next day. … People can’t keep up with the pace of the back and forth, ping pong. The lack of clarity, the lack of procedure in the policy making process — the allies see that.”
“While it is great to go to the region in a time of anxiety to reassure people you mean to have a reinvigorated role in the Middle East, it is not enough to say it,” Levitt said.
The extensive swipes in the speech at the previous administration were also discomfiting, Levitt said.
Whether it is done by Republicans or Democrats, “I always felt uncomfortable when Americans travel abroad and hang out dirty laundry,” he said.
“Embarrassing and shameful speech by the small, hyper-partisan Trump suck-up Pompeo,” Ellen Tauscher, a former undersecretary of state for arms control in the Obama administration and a former member of Congress, wrote on Twitter. “There’s not a ‘non-partisan statesman’ pore in his body.”
“Seriously. A joke. They really are struggling along with the C team only two years in,” a former US diplomat, speaking not for attribution, told Al-Monitor of Pompeo’s speech. “Honestly, it’ll be forgotten in about five minutes.”
Feierstein was among several observers who noted that Pompeo also got a big fact wrong in the speech, when he said who would have ever thought that an Israeli prime minister would visit Oman. In fact, two other Israeli prime ministers had visited Oman before Benjamin Netanyahu’s trip to Oman last fall.
“Look, when I was in government, whether in Republican or Democratic administrations, …they would never have allowed a speech to go forward like that without fact-checking the hell out of it,” said Feierstein, now with the Middle East Institute. “That they let obvious wrong statements creep in is a reflection of how this administration does business and a reflection of the fact that they don’t have professionals writing this stuff.”
“This will be in the dustbin of history before tonight,” Feierstein added. “Because it’s absolutely empty.”
When those diplomats get mad they really unleash the beast. Damn …