Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 6 April 2020

Mike Pompeo: US holds key to making world safer

Secretary of state rejects suggestions that Washington has disengaged from allies and global concerns

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addresses the 56th Munich Security Conference on February 15, 2020. via AP
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addresses the 56th Munich Security Conference on February 15, 2020. via AP

The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cited American military action against ISIS and its diplomatic campaign on Iran to tell world leaders the West was “winning” under Washington’s leadership.

Addressing the Munich Security Conference, which puts an annual spotlight on defence, Mr Pompeo no one should “buy the hype” that the US and it allies had lost their way.

On the contrary, he said, America was tackling the challenges to world security.

“Here’s the good news," Mr Pompeo said. "The United States has stared these dangerous threats in the face, and hasn't blinked. We're protecting our citizens. We're protecting our freedoms. We're protecting our sovereign right to choose how we live.

"The United States has worked to deprive the Islamic Republic of Iran of diplomatic sanctuary and financial ability to fuel its campaigns of terror – both in the Middle East and on the European continent.

”We took out [ISIS leader Abubakr] Al Baghdadi. We took out the leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula just this month. Is this an America that ‘rejects the international community'?"

America’s top diplomat pointed out that people do not flock to Iran or Cuba for a better life and wanted to study in Cambridge, not Caracas.

Addressing the same meeting, the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif appeared to want to draw a line under the death of the Revolutionary Guard general Qassem Suleimani in a US drone strike in Baghdad. Referring to Iranian missile attacks on Iraqi military bases, Mr Zarif said the country had concluded the cycle.

"The response in self defence under Article 51 of the UN Charter was concluded," he said. "That’s it.”

Speaking more broadly, Mr Zarif conceded that Tehran’s regional security initiative was in fact a repackaged version of an 1985 proposal to end the Iran-Iraq war.

President Hassan Rouhani proposed the Hormuz peace initiative last year as a route to establishing a regional security infrastructure. Acknowledging that regional powers have not expressed confidence in the measure, Mr Zarif said the idea was not a fig leaf. “It's not a PR exercise," Mr Zarif told the Munich forum. "We presented a package in 1985, security architecture for the region, that required all sides to refrain from actions that would exacerbate tensions in the region."

Sheikh Ahmed Nasser Al Mohammed Al Sabah, the Kuwait foreign minister, said the charter of the United Nations was a non-aggression rule book and that Iran’s proposals duplicated what was already in international law.

“We don’t need to sign another document in order to assure what is already assured,” he said.

Some dissent on Mr Pompeo’s bullish tone came from President Emmanuel Macron of France who bemoaned Europe’s failure to make a global impact.

He called for a European strategy to help the bloc compete as strategic power that is sovereign in its policies, defence and technology and one that acts to help and feed the world.

One illustration he made was with the impasse over Iran, saying that economically and militarily, the Europeans could not sustain their own diplomacy around the 2015 nuclear deal.

One of Mr Macron's big ideas is that France's European partners, particularly Germany, can share French nuclear weapons. He added that Eastern Europe states were "left in the lurch" once they lost the Soviet backing.

He said Russia needed a European partnership, suggesting that the Kremlin's go-it-alone approach in places such as Syria and Libya would not last forever.

Addressing the British departure from the EU, the French leader stressed the "Europe of defence" did not suffer from Brexit. He suggested a European security council could bind the UK into shared structures.

Opening the annual conference, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier outlined an “increasingly destructive dynamic in world politics” as he pointed the finger of blame at Washington for leaving its allies to fight their own battles.

"Year by year, we are distancing ourselves from the goal of international co-operation to create a more peaceful world.”

Both Mr Pompeo and Mark Esper, the US defence secretary, pushed the message that involving the Chinese technology company Huawei in 5G would be a mistake by Europe that would divide their alliance.

Wang Yi, the Chinese foreign minister, cautioned the Europeans to stick to their own priorities and not succumb to "bullying".

Mr Wang also declared that China was about to turn the corner in the fight to contain the new coronavirus outbreak. “After the storm comes the rainbow,” he said.

Updated: February 15, 2020 10:17 PM

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