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Feb 13-14, 2019: Iran the focus of Middle East ministerial meeting organized by United States

POLAND - The Middle East Summit in Warsaw, announced in January by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, provides the United States with another megaphone for its anti-Iran message and an opportunity to explain mixed signals from Washington. Poland will co-host the ministerial-level meeting.

He toured several Middle East countries in January to call for increasing pressure on Iran and for unity among the Gulf neighbors embroiled in a dispute with Qatar.

Pompeo told a Cairo audience that the United States will work to expel “every last Iranian boot” from Syria. He also said that while Iran-backed Hezbollah is a major presence in Lebanon, the United States will not accept this as the status quo. His statement follows an announcement in December from President Donald Trump that all U.S. troops, believed to number around 2,000, would be withdrawn from Syria. The president argued that the Islamic State had been defeated and that the troops could therefore come home. The withdrawal is reported to have started.

The Trump announcement raised eyebrows because the unilateral withdrawal would appear to create more space for Iranian boots on Syrian soil, tempt Islamic State militants back into the country and leave Syrian Kurdish allies vulnerable to attack from Turkey. Like Russia, Tehran is heavily invested in Syria and provides significant strategic support for President Bashar al-Assad in the country’s civil war.

Pompeo is expected to tell partners at the February summit that the United States won't abandon the region, a message he broadcast during his January tour, but the president’s announcement sends a different signal.

#22962 Published: 01/13/2019

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