US officials head to Mideast for talks on Syria, Iran

Orient Net 2019-01-05 07:18:00

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton are hoping their trips to the Middle East can help shore up support from America's partners amid increasing tensions in the region, AP reported.

In his first Mideast visit since President Donald Trump's recent announcement that he intends to withdraw US forces from Syria, Pompeo will stop in eight countries, starting with Jordan on Wednesday, the State Department said. Bolton planned to depart Friday for Israel and Turkey, his spokesman said.

The Syria decision, which led to the resignations of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and the US special envoy for the anti-Islamic State coalition, Brett McGurk, is expected to dominate the officials' agenda, along with the Trump administration's hard line on Iran, and the situation in Iraq.

A State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity to preview Pompeo's trip, said the secretary's aim was to counter "false narratives" that the US is abandoning the Middle East and to make the point that Iran continues to be a threat. "We are not going anywhere," the official said.

In addition to Jordan, Pompeo plans stops in Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Kuwait. The US hopes each country will play a significant role in a planned regional strategic partnership being called an "Arab NATO."

Bolton also will focus on Syria and "how the US will work with allies and partners to prevent the resurgence of ISIS, stand fast with those who fought with us against ISIS, and counter Iranian malign behavior in the region," according to National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis.

Bolton was scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before being joined in Turkey by Jeffrey and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford.