Pompeo eschews people power, praises ‘nation states’ in Cairo address

Pompeo eschews people power, praises ‘nation states’ in Cairo address

By Luke Vargas   
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivers remarks in Cairo, Egypt. January 10, 2019. Courtesy: U.S. Department of State
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivers remarks in Cairo, Egypt on Thursday. (U.S. Department of State)

Pompeo blamed President Obama for setting policy around the interests of individual Muslims, saying it "undermined the concept of the nation state."

UNITED NATIONS — In 2009, President Barack Obama used a speech in Cairo to describe the U.S. invasion of Iraq as “a war of choice” that needlessly fueled tensions between the U.S. and the Muslim world.

Obama said “globalization [had] led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam,” and he appealed for mutual understanding.

“Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire.”

If Obama painted in shades of gray, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo used a speech in Cairo on Thursday to put things back into black and white.

“America is a force for good in the Middle East. We need to acknowledge that truth, because if we don’t, we make bad choices.”

Whereas Obama said the U.S. would only reward states that respected the will of the people, Pompeo chided that focus on a people-centric foreign policy.

“Our eagerness to address only Muslims and not nations ignored the rich diversity of the Middle East and frayed old bonds. It undermined the concept of the nation state, the building block of international stability.”

That embrace of state power is especially noteworthy in Egypt, where Arab Spring hopes of democratic reform have given way to widespread repression of free speech, the media and political opposition under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

Philippe Nassif is the Middle East and North Africa advocacy director at Amnesty International.

“It’s incredible because it’s a blank check to all of the autocrats of the region to essentially continue what they’re doing.”

And just as Obama warned against turning groups of people against each another, Nassif says Pompeo talked up a clash of civilizations pitting the U.S. and its Sunni allies against Shia Iran.

“It was such a political speech, and it was meant to go out there and reverse what the United States was trying to reverse after [President George W.] Bush under Obama and support people who were trying to bring about change  in a sense saying, we don’t want that because it leads to Iranian domination. It doesn’t make any sense.”

Case in point, the only human-rights abuses Pompeo cited were in Iran.

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