Secretary of State reinforces alliance with kingdom while discussing Yemen, Khashoggi
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Monday with Saudi Arabia’s leaders, bearing a message of support for a close Trump administration ally at a time when the relationship is under pressure at home and abroad.
Mr. Pompeo met separately with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the royal court in the kingdom’s capital, telling reporters afterward that he raised at least two difficult issues—the war in Yemen and the 2018 killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul.
On those issues and on allegations of Saudi human-rights abuses, Mr. Pompeo stressed the friendly nature of ties between Washington and Riyadh.
“The Saudis are friends, and when friends have conversations, you tell them what your expectations are,” he said.
Mr. Pompeo’s stop in Riyadh came near the end of a multination Middle East trip and took place as U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are calling for a re-evaluation of the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia, including its support for the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen.
But Mr. Pompeo, smiling in brief public appearances with the Saudi leaders and other officials, adhered closely to the administration’s stance regarding Saudi Arabia since the Oct. 2 killing of Mr. Khashoggi. He pressed for accountability, but avoided personally blaming Prince Mohammed, who U.S. intelligence officials have concluded likely gave the order for the killing.
Mr. Pompeo and other officials consistently have emphasized the enduring nature of the U.S.-Saudi relationship and its vital role in countering Iran, a main thrust of Mr. Pompeo’s trip, which has included stops in Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Oman.
In Saudi Arabia, Mr. Pompeo said he broached the issue of human rights, but didn’t specifically address allegations that a Saudi crackdown on dissent has included acts of torture against jailed women’s-rights activists, including lashings and electric shocks.
On Yemen, the U.S. mission to the kingdom said on Twitter that Mr. Pompeo and the crown prince discussed the conflict and “agreed on need for continued de-escalation and adherence to Sweden agreements, especially cease-fire and redeployment in #Hudaydah,” referring to the Red Sea port city that is the gateway for the vast majority of the country’s food and aid.
The administration has accelerated its efforts to secure a peace agreement in Yemen, for a conflict that has killed tens of thousand of people and caused a humanitarian crisis.
Saudi Arabia and its allies have been battling Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who Riyadh sees as proxies of their rival Iran, and they have used U.S.-made bombs and intelligence assistance in their bid to defeat the group.
“We discussed with Pompeo the joint effort in fighting Iran’s expansionist policies that harm regional and international security,” former Saudi foreign minister Adel Al Jubeir said, according to the Saudi state-owned Ekhbariya news channel.
The officials discussed the crises in Yemen and Syria, the situation in the Red Sea region, and efforts to fight terrorism and extremism, Mr. Jubeir said, according to the channel.
Mr. Pomeo also addressed a pair of Twitter messages sent Sunday by President Trump in which he vowed to devastate Turkey’s economy if it targets Kurdish populations in northern Syria as the U.S. withdraws its forces. Mr. Trump called for a 20-mile safe zone between the Turkish border and U.S.-allied fighters, and also called upon America’s Kurdish allies not to provoke Turkey.
“The president’s aim there, I think, is the one that we’ve been talking about for some time. Which is that we want to make sure that the folks who fought with us to take down the caliphate and ISIS have security, and also that terrorists acting out of Syria aren’t able to attack Turkey,” Mr. Pompeo said, referring to Islamic State by an acronym.
The exact method of achieving these “twin aims” has yet to be determined, the secretary said. “If we can get a space—call it a buffer zone; others might have a different name for it—if we can get the space and the security arrangements right, this will be a good thing for everyone in the region.”
Mr. Pompeo planned to return to the U.S. earlier than planned to attend a family funeral, the State Department said on Monday. After departing Saudi Arabia, the secretary was traveling to Oman for meetings with leaders there, but planned to forgo a scheduled stop in Kuwait.
The secretary’s swing through the Middle East was aimed at reassuring partners and promoting a new regional alliance. Mr. Pompeo arrived in Riyadh from Doha, where the U.S. and Qatar held their second strategic dialogue.
During his remarks in Doha, the secretary pledged to continue trying to broker an agreement between Qatar and the four states—Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt—that have isolated the country over allegations of support for terrorism.
The schism threatens to derail U.S. plans to form a Middle East Strategic Alliance envisioned as a counterpart to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Asked about his hosts’ reaction to his comments in Doha, Mr. Pompeo said the Saudis also hope to heal the rift with Qatar.
“We can certainly provide assistance and support, but at the end of the day those countries have to get it back together,” Mr. Pompeo said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plans to scale back or discontinue its work to prevent infectious-disease epidemics and other health threats in 39 foreign countries because it expects funding for the work to end, the agency told employees... The CDC currently works in 49 countries as part of an initiative called the global health security agenda, to prevent, detect and respond to dangerous infectious disease threats. It helps expand surveillance for new viruses and drug-resistant bacteria, modernize laboratories to detect dangerous pathogensand train workers who respond to epidemics... The package included $582 million in funds to work with countries around the world after the Ebola crisis in 2014 and 2015. But that funding runs out at the end of fiscal 2019... Public health leaders had said they hoped dollars for the work would eventually be added into the CDC’s core budget, after the epidemic delivered a wake-up call about the world’s lack of preparedness for deadly epidemics... if its funding situation remains the same, it will have to narrow activities to 10 “priority countries” starting in October 2019.. The 10 countries where global health security activities will remain are India, Thailand, Vietnam, Kenya, Uganda, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Jordan and Guatemala.. Other countries where the agency currently conducts global health security agenda activities include Democratic Republic of the Congo, one of the world’s main hot spots for emerging infectious diseases and the site of the first Ebola outbreak in history; Pakistan; Indonesia; Haiti; and China.. Those countries next on the priority list, after the top 10, are China, the DRC, Ethiopia, Indonesia and Sierra Leone
Erik Prince joined SiriusXM host Alex Marlow on Friday’s Breitbart News Daily to talk about the Iran nuclear deal, chances that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps will be designated a terrorist organization
.. Prince said failing to apply such a designation to the IRGC would be “ludicrous.”
“These guys have been killing Americans, specifically, since soon after they were formed in the early 1980s,” he pointed out.
- “The Marine barracks in Beirut, 243 Americans in 1983; kidnapped, tortured, videotaped it,
- the CIA station chief in Beirut in the 1980s;
- blew up the U.S. embassy there,
- Khobar Towers, and then even
- the last ten years that the U.S. was in Iraq.”
.. All of the explosive formed penetrators, it’s a very very nasty roadside bomb,” he elaborated on Iraq. “It’s not an improvised explosive. It’s very much a manufactured explosive, designed to cut through even the very expensive armor on an Abrams tank. Literally, the IRGC is responsible for killing and maiming hundreds, if not thousands, of American soldiers in Iraq.”
.. “And we still don’t designate these guys a terrorist organization. Why? Because they’re worried that this terrorist organization might actually reciprocate and carry out a terrorist attack against America. It’s ludicrous,” he said.
.. “As part of this nuclear deal, they were supposed to make all nuclear facilities open to inspection. They’re cheating on that. They are continuing to develop their ballistic missile technology.”
“You also have to realize that Iran and North Korea, when it comes to nuclear weapons development, are totally in sync and in parallel,” he added. “When the North Koreans crank off a nuke underground, the Iranians are there observing it, and they’ve provided considerable funding for it.”
.. as recently as October 1, 12 days ago, an American soldier was killed in Iraq by an explosive formed penetrator. They have been sticking it to us since 1979 and will continue to do so. What’s announced today will not really reject the Iranian nuclear deal. It will dump it back on Congress, which really won’t do anything on it,” he predicted.
.. “What Congress should have done – what Senator Corker should have forced – is that when the Obama administration pushed the Iran nuclear deal, they should have forced a vote in the Senate,” he said. “If we’re going to treat it like a treaty, vote it up or down like a treaty.
.. If the president went with his initial instincts on this stuff, he’d be hitting it out of the park,” said Prince, who had proposed a plan to President Trump for using private security forces instead of more military personnel in Afghanistan. “Some of these very Establishment foreign policy advisers are giving advice indiscernible from what they’d be giving Hillary Clinton. It’s taken him off track.”
.. Prince described Iran as “a society that puts a thousand stitches into a square inch in a Persian rug.”
“They understand methodical. They are very patient, and very deliberate, and they continue to move the ball in their direction, as this so-called nuclear deal did.
.. “As part of the Obama nuclear deal with Iran, there are supposed to be complete inspections, but secret nuclear sites scattered about the country – it’s a very large country, a lot of remote, rugged terrain – certainly those aren’t being inspected,” he said.
.. “If we make deals with people who are actively trying to kill us, who continue to call the United States the Great Satan, that hasn’t changed. They continue to kill Americans, as recently as October 1. They are not our friends, far from it. If we’re not careful, they will continue to eat our lunch, one bite at a time,” he warned.
.. but will not “sanction the entire IRGC as a terrorist organization.”
“Those are the guys that are driving this nuclear program,” he said. “If you sanction the entire IRGC, you can then go after all of their front companies and money-making apparatus, which trades through the world, through West Africa, money laundering for the drug cartels to front businesses in Europe and elsewhere in the Middle East. You can start to crimp off their financing.”
.. “If you don’t do that, if you don’t call a terrorist a terrorist, you can’t really take action against them,”
.. Prince humorously identified it as the “bureaucratic SITS method: Show Interest, Then Stall.”
.. “They are desperately trying to secure the Shia Crescent that goes from Iran all the way to Lebanon, where they can continue to arm Hezbollah, their surrogate there, with larger and larger rockets to dominate Israel, and Jordan for that matter. They’re continuing to advance in their dominance in Yemen and elsewhere.”
.. “We don’t have a beef with the Iranian people, believe me,” Prince added. “The Iranian people want to be Western. They want to have freedom, and drink beer, and listen to rock and roll. They are effectively led by a government that looks more and more like the SS in Nazi Germany – an Iranian Shia fascist government that is far from elected, that imposes itself on every aspect of the Iranian citizen’s life, to the detriment of what should be a very proud and very prosperous country.”
.. Turning to Afghanistan, Prince said President Trump’s decision to send another 4,000 U.S. troops is “unlikely to move the needle.”
.. “When Secretary Mattis traveled to Afghanistan just a couple of weeks ago for an update, he landed in Kabul, and he has to get on a helicopter to fly one mile across the town to where the U.S. base is. He can’t get in a vehicle to drive, just like any person from the U.S. Embassy operating there has to take a helicopter from the Kabul airport into downtown, because it’s not safe to drive,” he observed.
.. “And within two hours of Secretary Mattis landing, 40 rockets hit Kabul airport, in a five-hour firefight to try to secure the airport again,” he added. “This is not what winning looks like.”
.. “I was there on the ball when the president said in his inaugural speech, ‘We’re going to drive Islamic terrorism off the face of the Earth.’ I don’t think he intended that means the terrorists are driving captured U.S. vehicles across the Afghan terrain,” said Prince.
the very day that two of Ivanka Trump’s and Jared Kushner’s children were serenading the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, at Mar-a-Lago, the People’s Republic of China approved new trademarks allowing Ivanka to peddle jewelry, bags and spa services to a nation of 1.4 billion where she is a role model for aspirational oligarchs.
.. a culture of self-enrichment and self-dealing in which corporate C.E.O.s, lobbyists and foreign officials seeking the first family’s favor hold parties at Mar-a-Lago and at the Trump International Hotel in Washington
.. Mr. Trump struggled for years to close deals across the Middle East; now that he’s president, doors are opening. His family is seeking or holds trademarks in Egypt, Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, where the president’s sons just opened a golf course in Dubai, and in Jordan, whose King Abdullah II just visited the White House to discuss joint efforts against ISIS.
.. That leaves Jason Chaffetz, the Utah Republican who is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which has the legal authority and the resources to investigate and hold the administration to account. Anyone familiar with Mr. Chaffetz’s record of partisan, ineffectual witch-hunting won’t be surprised to learn that he’s done nothing.
.. But that’s hardly a match for an administration filled with people who seem determined to wring every last dollar and ounce of trust from the American people.