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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on January 10 repudiated former US President Barack Obama’s Middle East policies while seeking to reassure allies of the United States’ commitment to the region. Ironically, allies have been rattled of late by US President Donald J. Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from Syria. This decision, Pompeo insisted, is not a change of mission.

“Let me be clear, America will not retreat until the terror fight is over,” Pompeo said in a speech at the American University in Cairo, adding that the United States “will labor tirelessly alongside you to defeat ISIS, al Qaeda, and other jihadists that threaten our security and yours.”

Describing the United States as a “force for good,” the secretary said: “For those who fret about the use of American power, remember: America has always been a liberating force, not an occupying power, in the Middle East. We’ve never dreamed of domination. Can you say the same of the Iranian regime?”

We reached out to Atlantic Council analysts for their reactions to the speech. This is what they had to say:

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Defense secretary to leave Trump administration at the end of February

The differences between Donald J. Trump and Jim Mattis were on display in their statements on December 20. While Trump wrote in a tweet that his defense secretary was “retiring” at the end of February; Mattis made clear he was resigning over policy differences with the president.


Mattis submitted his resignation after a failed attempt to convince Trump to keep US troops in Syria, The New York Times reported.

“Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position,” Mattis wrote in his resignation letter to Trump.

Trump said Mattis would leave the administration at the end of February.

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The US Treasury Department on November 15 slapped sanctions on seventeen Saudi officials in response to the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

The sanctioned Saudis include Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s trusted adviser, Saud al-Qahtani; senior aide Maher Mutreb; and Saudi counsel general in Istanbul, Mohammed al-Ootaibi.

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Sultan of Oman, Netanyahu hold rare meeting

On October 25, Omani Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said hosted a delegation of Israeli officials that included Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Mossad chief Yossi Cohen for an unannounced meeting in Muscat. The meeting turned heads as Gulf leaders rarely meet Israeli officials. It was a sign of not only improving Israeli-Omani relations, but also Israel’s quest to develop diplomatic relations across the Persian Gulf.

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