Pompeo’s retreat into chaos
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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s remarks in Cairo last week constitute one of the most outrageous performances of a secretary of State in recent memory. The secretary urged us to “acknowledge the truth” by denouncing the previous administration’s Middle East policies under President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaTrump struggles to win over voters reaping economic boom Michelle Obama weighs in on Trump, 'Squad' feud: 'Not my America or your America. It's our America' Media cried wolf: Calling every Republican a racist lost its bite MORE and providing assurances that now, under the Trump administration, you can once again count on America as “a force for good in the Middle East.” What did he mean?

You can count on us, if you are Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) ordering the brutal murder and dismemberment of U.S. resident and internationally renowned journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Despite the assessment of his own intelligence community that MBS ordered Khashoggi’s assassination, President TrumpDonald John TrumpChelsea Clinton announces birth of third child Ukrainian officials and Giuliani are sharing back-channel campaign information: report Trump attacks 'the Squad' as 'racist group of troublemakers' MORE has allowed the Crown Prince to evade justice. This week, Secretary Pompeo said the administration expects Saudi Arabia to hold accountable “every single person” responsible for Khashoggi’s murder, as he smiled alongside the chief architect of the assassination plot. 

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You can count on us, if you are Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi waging an unprecedented crackdown on dissidents and committing myriad human rights abuses in the name of eliminating the threat of terrorism. Despite el-Sisi directing his security forces to mow down more than 800 protesters in one of the deadliest mass killings in modern times, President Trump granted General el-Sisi an official White House visit and praised him for doing “a fantastic job in a very difficult situation.” In Egypt this week, Secretary Pompeo applauded el-Sisi’s efforts to promote religious freedom, while his government continues to look the other way when violence occurs against religious minorities, particularly Coptic Christians.   

You can count on us, if you are Russia and Iran, vying for influence in Syria and propping up the murderous regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. President Trump abruptly announced in December that he was ordering the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops, abandoning our allies in the counter-ISIS coalition. Secretary Pompeo’s comment in Cairo that “if we commit American prestige to an action, our allies depend on us to follow through,” may be ringing a little hollow to Kurdish forces, who remain concerned that Turkey will, in Pompeo’s words, “slaughter the Kurds,” in the wake of America’s withdrawal. 

But, you cannot count on this administration if you are Loujain al-Hathloul, a Saudi human rights activist who has been imprisoned and tortured after advocating to lift the ban on women driving. You cannot count on this administration if you are Alaa Abdelfattah, an Egyptian journalist who was detained for his writing about human rights abuses by the police and security forces. You cannot count on this administration if you are the Kurdish population of a village in northern Syria, or other voices who are counting on America to stand on principle, especially when doing so is difficult.

That is why Congress needs to stand up for American values, where the Trump administration shrinks back. In December, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution blaming the Saudi Crown Prince for Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, and insisting that Saudi Arabia hold accountable anyone responsible for his death. The House must expand on that effort to insist that the administration hold MBS and other human rights abusers accountable with sanctions. Congress must ensure that the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria is executed in a way that does not destabilize the hard won territorial gains we and our allies have achieved, and that protects the safety of the Kurds and our other partners in the counter-ISIS coalition.

In his speech, Secretary Pompeo said “when America retreats, chaos often follows.” And we have seen no more disastrous retreat from the Middle East or from the world’s stage than that of the Trump administration. Perhaps this was Secretary Pompeo, bugle in hand, giving the people of the Middle East fair warning about the chaos to follow.

Connolly represents Virginia’s 11th District and is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee.