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Pompeo starts Middle East tour in Kuwait

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Kuwait last night on the first leg of a regional tour that will include Israel and Lebanon.

Pompeo will lead the US delegation at the third US-Kuwait Strategic Dialogue. Kuwaiti Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Al Jarallah said Pompeo’s visit will be a “significant occasion and [a] chance for signing several deals between both friendly countries”. State Department Spokesperson Robert Palladino said there are many areas of growing US-Kuwait bilateral co-operation: “Including defence, counterterrorism, cyber security, strengthening trade and investment ties and education.”

The US State Department confirmed yesterday that Pompeo will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he visits Israel, but he will not meet with any of Netanyahu’s election rivals. Pompeo said: “I’m going to Israel because of the important relationship we have. Our relationship is between the United States and Israel the same way that theirs is between Israel and the United States. Leaders will change in both countries over time. That relationship matters, no matter who the leaders are.”

Pompeo will also participate in a meeting with Israeli, Cypriot, and Greek leaders to discuss Eastern Mediterranean energy and security issues.

The State Department said Pompeo’s visit to Lebanon will focus on: “Talking with the Lebanese government about how we can help them disconnect from the threat that Iran and Hezbollah present to them. Financial, economic, all the assistance we have provided to the Lebanese Armed Forces, talk to them about those serious issues.”

According to the New York Times, Pompeo has recommended designating Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organisation. If carried out, it would be the first time the US designated a unit of another countries armed forces as a terrorist group. However, the paper added: “American military and intelligence officials said the increasing pressure on Iraq risks infuriating its Parliament, including politicians linked to Iran, which could limit the movements of the 5,200 US troops based in Iraq.”