New top US diplomat faces key challenges

World Today

BELGIUM-NATO-POLITICS-DIPLOMACYUS Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo gives a press conference during a NATO Foreign ministers’ meeting at the NATO headquarters in Brussels on April 27, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / JOHN THYS)

Just one day after being sworn-in as US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo is making his first trip to the Middle East. Some key events in the coming weeks could push the region closer to the edge.

CGTN’s Toby Muse reports.

On Saturday, newly installed U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Saudi Arabia, as he embarked on his first tour of the Middle East as the US’s leading diplomat. He met with Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister and the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Pompeo is due to travel to Israel and Jordan for further talks aimed at strengthening alliances in the region.

Pompeo, a former director of the CIA, has a number of challenges ahead in his new role. The first is whether the US will remain in the Iran nuclear deal ahead of the May 12 deadline for Washington to renew sanctions relief on Tehran. Pompeo will be discussing ways to change the Iran deal to the US’s liking as he tours the Middle East. But he’s also been clear that if President Donald Trump doesn’t get the changes he wants, he’ll withdraw from the deal.

“Absent a substantial fix, absent overcoming the shortcomings, the flaws of the deal, he is unlikely to stay in that deal past this May,” said Pompeo.

Iran is just one of his challenges. Also in May, two days after the Iran decision, the US will move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, likely angering Palestinians and others across the Middle East.

Pompeo also takes over a demoralized State Department. His predecessor Rex Tillerson oversaw a major reduction in staff. The American Foreign Service Association says 60-percent of the State Department’s top-ranking career diplomats resigned during Tillerson’s tenure and new applications to join the foreign service were halved. Pompeo has said that he wants to strengthen the state department.

And finally, Pompeo will have to give an answer to American allies calling for greater clarity on the U.S. policy to Syria. Trump has said that he wants the U.S. out of the country as soon as ISIL is destroyed.