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Pompeo Speech Lays Out Vision for Mideast, Taking Shots at Obama

Later that afternoon, Mr. Pompeo declared that “when America retreats, chaos follows,” part of a broadside against Mr. Obama’s policies. But the declaration confounded many in the region who interpreted the president’s orders as the definition of a retreat.

Mr. Pompeo argued that it does not take troops on the ground to influence events.

“Let me be clear: America will not retreat until the terror fight is over,” he said.

Mr. Pompeo picked the timing and locale of his speech, the American University in Cairo, for dramatic effect, a deliberate echo of the setting for Mr. Obama’s speech. Mr. Obama’s 2009 speech, an effort to reset relations with the Muslim world in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks and the Iraq war, has proved a reliable foil for the Trump administration, and Mr. Pompeo devoted much of his speech to blaming Mr. Obama for the region’s ills.

Mr. Pompeo did not refer to Mr. Obama by name — noting only that “it was here, here in this city, that another American stood before you” — but he otherwise appeared to relish the stark differences between them.

[Dueling speeches: Pompeo in 2019 vs. Obama in 2009.]

He castigated Mr. Obama for having said that American fear and anger after the Sept. 11 attack “led us to act contrary to our ideals,” a reference to the use of torture. Mr. Pompeo characterized that remark and others as “falsely” blaming the United States “for what ails the Middle East.”

“It is a truth that isn’t often spoken in this part of the world, but I’m a military man by training, so I’ll put it bluntly,” Mr. Pompeo said. “America is a force for good in the Middle East. Period.”

Mr. Obama’s era was a time of disastrous misjudgments, he said. “What did we learn from all this?” he said. “When America retreats, chaos follows. When we neglect our friends, resentment builds. When we partner with enemies, they advance.”


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