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Pompeo visits Iraq to reassure regional allies

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a surprise visit to Iraq yesterday as part of his eight-day tour of the Middle East.

Pompeo met with Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi and President Barham Salih, along with Iraq’s Foreign Minister and Parliamentary Speaker, in Baghdad. Pompeo and Abdul-Mahdi discussed plans to support Iraq’s stability and security as well as its future economic prospects, according to State Department deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino.

“The Secretary also discussed the recent territorial defeat of ISIS in Syria and the continuation of our cooperation with Iraqi Security Forces to ensure ISIS’s lasting defeat throughout the region,” Palladino said in a statement.

Pompeo later travelled to Irbil to meet with leaders of the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Pompeo reportedly tried to reassure KRG leaders amid concern over the US plan to withdraw its troops from Syria. Referring to US-backed Syrian Kurds in the fight against ISIS, Pompeo said: “It’s important that we do everything we can to make sure that those folks that fought with us are protected.”

Pompeo will arrive to Cairo today and is expected to deliver a major policy speech explaining the US commitment to peace, prosperity, stability, and security in the Middle East. Politico reports that Pompeo plans to renounce the Middle East policy of former President Barack Obama, including engagement with Iran and the Middle East vision that the former President set out in his 2009 Cairo speech.

Pompeo is also due to visit Bahrain, the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Kuwait. One senior State Department official said Pompeo’s regional tour will focus on two themes: First, that the “US is not leaving the Middle East,” despite what the official claimed were “false narratives surrounding the Syria decision”; and second, that “the Iranian regime is the dangerous actor in the region”.