The United States will not provide any funds for the reconstruction of Syria unless Syria removes all Iranian forces and their proxies from its borders, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday.
Speaking at the annual dinner of the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA), Pompeo said that Iran has seen instability caused by the Syrian civil war “as a golden opportunity to tip the scales” in the Middle East, and has been trying to establish an “entrenched position near the Golan Heights,” with the goal of “ultimately establishing a second front, from which proxies like Hezbollah can terrorize the Israeli people.”
“Iran and its proxies must not be allowed to maintain a foothold in Syria,” said Pompeo. “The onus for expelling Iran from the country falls on the Syrian government, which bears responsibility for its presence there.”
“If Syria doesn’t ensure the total withdrawal of Iranian-backed troops, it will not receive one single dollar from the United States for reconstruction.”
The Trump administration’s top diplomat contrasted the record in the Middle East of this administration with that of the previous one.
“In the previous eight years we had an administration that showed more respect to the leaders of Iran [than] to the people of Israel,” said Pompeo. “President Obama thought if he made dangerous concessions, removed economic sanctions, and flew a planeful of cash to Tehran, he could somehow hug Iran’s leaders into behaving well and rejoining the community of nations.”
But those leaders, said Pompeo, “are murderers, and funders of terrorism, who lead chants, today, still, of ‘Death to America.’”
In the Middle East, a region known for chaos and instability, “there is only one consistently pro-American, free-enterprise, democratic nation,” said Pompeo. “It’s the people of the state of Israel. And this administration understands that deeply.”
“Israel is everything we want the entire Middles East to look like going forward: it is democratic and prosperous, it desires peace, and it is a home to a free press and a thriving free-market economy. Compare that to Iran, whose corrupt leaders assault the human rights of their own people, finance terrorism [and] undermine U.S. interests in every corner of the Middle East. Rarely in world affairs is the contrast between two sides so stark.”
“The U.S.-Israel relationship is stronger today than it has been, ever,” said the U.S. Secretary of State. “And that’s good for both countries.”
Pompeo noted that since the Taylor Force Act has cut funding for the Palestinian Authority as long as it makes payments to families of those who commit terror acts against Israel, the PA’s “behavior has not changed materially.”
And as the Trump administration is crafting a peace plan between Israel and the Palestinians, Pompeo squarely put the onus on the latter, saying that the administration has told the Palestinians, “We very much want you to have a space, you need to govern, you need to decide you want peace as well.”
“We are very hopeful that one day the Palestinian people will have the same kinds of things … that the people of Israel have. A real economy. Real governance. All the things that we want for every citizen of the world. And whether it’s the Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip or the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, we’ve not been able to make that happen yet. But this administration has taken a fundamentally different view of how it is we can ultimately achieve that end objective.”