Source: The new Yorker
By Robin Wright
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo opened a speech in Cairo on Thursday by referring to the Bible that he keeps in his small, wood-panelled office on the seventh floor of the State Department. “This trip is especially meaningful to me as an evangelical Christian,” he began, in a predominantly Muslim country that accounts for almost a quarter of the population in the Arab world. Only ten per cent of Egypt’s hundred million people are Christian. “I keep a Bible open on my desk to remind me of God and His Word, and The Truth.” (The State Department transcript provided this capitalization.)
The main message of Pompeo’s speech in Egypt—which was the major event of a nine-nation tour of the Middle East—was that the Obama Administration had made the devil’s choices in the world’s most volatile region. In 2009, President Barack Obama gave a speech in the same city, in which he spoke of a “new beginning” for U.S. policy. Without using Obama’s name, Pompeo charged that the former President was responsible for the region’s woes. “Our leaders gravely misread our history, and your historical moment,” in ways that “adversely affected” hundreds of millions of people in Egypt and across the region, he said. “In falsely seeing ourselves as a force for what ails the Middle East, we were timid about asserting ourselves when the times—and our partners—demanded it.” Under the Trump Administration, Pompeo claimed, America has “rediscovered its voice” and will now be “a force for good” in the Middle East. “The age of self-inflicted American shame is over, and so are the policies that produced so much unneeded suffering,” he said. “Now comes the real new beginning.”
Yet Pompeo’s speech coincides with chaos and contradictions in U.S. policy, reflected in the gyrating pronouncements that the Trump Administration has made about Syria in the past month and its split, last year, with its allies over the nuclear deal with Iran. In recent weeks, the Administration has also defied global fury to facilitate the rehabilitation of Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, whom U.S. intelligence agencies and a unanimous Senate resolution hold accountable for the grisly murder of the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, in Istanbul, in October.