Secretary of State Mike Pompeo used a speech at the American University in Cairo on Wednesday to repudiate the previous U.S. administration’s policy in the Middle East. In a swipe at President Barack Obama, who had delivered his own speech in the Egyptian capital almost 10 years ago, Pompeo praised what he described as the Trump administration’s efforts to contain Iranian influence and beat back extremist forces such as the Islamic State.
But a variety of issues and subjects were omitted from Pompeo’s vision for the region. One was glaring: Saudi Arabia.
Although the Saudi kingdom is a longtime U.S. ally and a key partner in Trump administration policies, it was barely mentioned by the top U.S. diplomat. Pompeo referred to Saudi Arabia only in passing when talking about the campaigns against the Islamic State and Iran and when discussing where he would travel next in his Middle East tour.
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Pompeo did mention the diminished U.S. presence in the kingdom, but he framed it as indicative of how the United States doesn’t intend to permanently occupy countries. “We once had tens of thousands of U.S. military personnel in Saudi Arabia,” he said. “Now that number is a tiny fraction.” He also briefly praised new diplomatic links the kingdom was developing with Iraq.
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