Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretery of State Mike Pompeo .
(photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo plans to push back against Iran’s “maligned” regional interests by visiting Israel, Kuwait and Lebanon this week.
“In each of those places, [we have] a different mission set, but the common thing in each of those places is helping those countries bolster their efforts to push back against the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Pompeo told Fox and Friends on Friday as he described his March 19-23 visit to the Middle East.
In a briefing with reporters in Washington, a senior State Department official said, “Obviously we have an overarching regional and trans-regional objective of constraining, throttling back, ultimately rolling back the malign adventures, influence, presence of Iran’s forces.”
The official added that this included their “proxy and associated forces throughout the region,” such as in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
While in Jerusalem, Pompeo is expected to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in spite of the close proximity of his visit to Israel’s April 9 election.
Former US president Barack Obama had refused to meet with Netanyahu prior to the 2015 election so that he would not be seen as interfering with the Israeli election.The Trump administration
has not held that same view point, with US President Donald Trump also set to meet with Netanyahu in Washington at the end of the month.
The senior officials dismissed questions on the topic from reporters during the briefing.
“The secretary will reaffirm both privately and publicly during that visit our unwavering commitment to Israel’s security and its right to self-defense,” the senior State Department official told reporters.
Pompeo and Netanyahu will also discuss antisemitism.
Brian Kilmeade of Fox and Friends asked the secretary of state on Friday, “Do you worry how much the anti-Israeli, antisemitic language coming out – mostly on the Democratic side – in Congress hurts long-term the Israeli-American relations?”
Pompeo responded: “I do.”
He continued: “I’m worried about it for multiple reasons, not just the relationship between these two democracies, but I worry about it because it undermines... the protection of the dignity and rights and the religious freedom of every human being.”
While in Israel, Pompeo is expected to join a meeting with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to discuss the EastMed Project, through which Israel will pipe natural gas to Europe.
In Kuwait, Pompeo will co-chair the annual US-Kuwait Strategic Dialogue, which was held in Washington last year. The talks will focus on defense, cybertechnology, cybersecurity, and cultural, trade and investment issues. He will also discuss with officials in Beirut the impact of Iran’s “illicit activities” and “threatening behaviors,” the senior official said.
Pompeo will also talk about US support for the Lebanese Armed Forces, the Lebanese people and Lebanon’s legitimate state institutions, the State Department said.
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