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January 14, 2019 10:07 am

Pompeo’s Words Are Iran’s Worst Nightmare

avatar by Shmuley Boteach


US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to students at the American University in Cairo, Egypt, Jan. 10, 2019. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / Pool via Reuters.

Supporters of President Barack Obama attack President Donald Trump for reversing his predecessor’s policies. To be sure, many of Trump’s actions are debatable. But his approach to Iran and radical Islam are historic and vital correctives to the disastrous strategies pursued by Obama. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in particular, did a masterful job in his Cairo speech of making the president’s case with the moral clarity his predecessor lacked.

It was fitting that Pompeo gave his address in the same city where Obama made his first major foreign policy speech, and set the tone for his ill-advised and failed approach to the region. It was in Cairo that Obama made clear that he did not see radical Islam as a true threat, which was later reflected in his decision to support the Muslim Brotherhood’s ascension to power in Egypt and capitulate to Iran’s hegemonic designs by signing an unverifiable nuclear deal that rewarded the mullahs with more than $100 billion.

In both instances, Obama was guilty of — at best — naiveté. Pompeo rightly criticized Obama (though he did not use his name) for “fundamental misunderstandings” about the region that “underestimated the tenacity and viciousness of radical Islamism.” He justifiably upbraided the former president for blaming our country “for what ails the Middle East.”

“When we neglect our friends, resentment builds,” Pompeo told his audience. “When we partner with enemies, they advance.”

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This is exactly what happened under Obama. When he failed to enforce the “red line” in Syria after Bashar Assad gassed Arab children, he sent a message of weakness that our enemies exploited. He allowed Russia to come to Assad’s aid, almost comically invited Putin to oversee Assad’s destruction of chemical weapons, and allowed the Russian dictator to become more entrenched than ever in Syria. Obama pulled our troops out of Iraq, giving Iran greater influence over that country and eliminating a major deterrent to Iranian expansionism, while also reassuring the mullahs he would not use military force to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

It was refreshing to hear Pompeo speak bluntly: “Countries increasingly understand that we must confront the ayatollahs, not coddle them.”

Since Obama signed the nuclear deal, we have learned that the Iranians hid their research on nuclear weapons for future use; furthermore, the agency responsible for verifying the agreement refuses to inspect military sites where Iran is most likely to engage in weapons development, and Iran is testing ballistic missiles designed to carry nuclear warheads, in violation of UN resolutions.

Rather than change its anti-Western orientation as Obama predicted, Iran has become more belligerent. The situation has gotten so bad that even some of our European allies, who sided with Obama, just announced new sanctions because they discovered Iran was plotting terror attacks in their countries.

Listening to Obama officials attack Pompeo and defend the former president had a Twilight Zone quality. Robert Malley, one of the architects of Obama’s disastrous policies said, “Listening to Secretary Pompeo’s speech is like listening to someone from a parallel universe.” He is right in the sense that the universe he and his colleagues live in was one where radical Islam did not exist and where Iran was benevolent. To demonstrate how divorced from reality the Obama officials are, another former official said, “Pompeo sees his audience as the region’s autocrats rather than its people.”

Excuse me, but don’t they recall that Obama gave his speech in Cairo while Hosni Mubarak was in power?

I was opposed to President Trump’s initial announcement to pull troops out of Syria, but let’s not forget that Obama was unwilling to use any kind of direct force to protect Muslim civilians from massacres in Syria.

Worse, as Pompeo noted, when Iranians protested their cruel leaders during the Green Revolution, Obama refused to support their calls for democracy and an end to the repressive theocracy. Instead, Obama legitimized their brutal rule. “The ayatollahs and their henchmen murdered, jailed, and intimidated freedom-loving Iranians, and they wrongly blamed America for this unrest when it was their own tyranny that had fueled it,” Pompeo said. He also added that, “emboldened, the regime spread its cancerous influence to Yemen, to Iraq, to Syria, and still further into Lebanon.”

Speaking specifically of Lebanon, Pompeo noted: “Our penchant, America’s penchant, for wishful thinking led us to look the other way as Hizballah, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Iranian regime, accumulated a massive arsenal of approximately 130,000 rockets and missiles. They stored and positioned these weapons in Lebanese towns and villages in flagrant violation of international law. That arsenal is aimed squarely at our ally Israel.” While Obama ignored these developments, Pompeo pledged that “the United States will work to reduce the threat of Hizballah’s missile arsenal.”

We should also not forget that Pompeo’s predecessor devoted his final foreign policy address to attacking Israel. John Kerry preferred the theocrats in Tehran and the terrorists in Ramallah to the democrats in Jerusalem.

As I’ve written many times, there may be no greater global threat than the genocidal regime in Iran. That is why Pompeo’s remarks were so important. “America’s economic sanctions against the regime are the strongest in history,” he said, “and will keep getting tougher until Iran starts behaving like a normal country.” He subsequently announced plans for a summit in Poland to discuss how to ensure that “Iran is not a destabilizing influence.”

My friend Dan Shapiro, Obama’s ambassador to Israel and a fine and decent man, tweeted of Pompeo’s speech, “Prediction: no one in the Middle East will remember anything about Pompeo’s speech by next week.” Well, to the extent Obama’s speech was memorable, it was for all the flawed reasons outlined by Pompeo.

History will record that Trump’s withdrawal from the embarrassing nuclear agreement with Iran once again enforced American values by refusing to reward a genocidal, terrorist regime. Pompeo’s speech was a moral declaration that America will no longer apologize for its opposition to radical Islam, and will dedicate itself to combating Iran’s malevolent influence and nuclear ambitions.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the international bestselling author of 30 books, including his most recent, The Israel Warrior. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

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