Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be "singularly focused" on rallying Middle East leaders to help the United States counter Iran's global support for terrorism and military intervention during a weeklong jaunt across the region, the Secretary of State told the Washington Free Beacon aboard his plane en route to his first stop in Jordan.
Pompeo said that while the issue of the Trump administration's decision to withdraw American forces from Syria will likely be an agenda issue, his high-level meetings with Arab leaders will mostly focus on building a coalition to counter the Iranian regime, which continues to launch terror strikes against Israel and other U.S. allies in the region.
"We took over from an administration that let Iran loose," Pompeo said in response to questions from the Free Beacon, referring to the Obama administration's efforts to appease Tehran in a bid to ink the landmark nuclear deal. "That is a big effort to push back against."
Pompeo also confirmed to the Free Beacon that he will be delivering major speech while in Cairo, Egypt, but declined to get into specifics about the contents of his address. It is expected that Iran's continued support for terrorism will receive top billing.
Responding to critics of the administration's surprise decision to withdraw U.S. forces from the fight against ISIS in Syria, Pompeo disclosed that the United States has now "taken down" about 99 percent of the terror group's capacity.
"We've taken down 99 percent of the caliphate. Ninety-nine percent of the caliphate. That should be the first sentence in every story. Right? Everybody agree?" Pompeo asked reporters aboard his plane. "Anybody dispute the facts? This has been an enormously successful campaign."
Not a single reporter in attendance disputed Pompeo's figures.
Regional allies, including Israel and Saudi Arabia, have been assured that the United States is not vacating the region, a chief fear of many Republicans in Congress and national security insiders, according to Pompeo
"I am confident we will continue to ensure that the kind of rise ISIS had under the Obama administration doesn't occur again," Pompeo said, adding that the Islamic State's caliphate will never again be what it once was when it extended across a large swath of the Middle East.
Again pushing back against criticism that the administration's policy is reckless and comes at a critical turning point in the region—as Russia and Iran make great strides to win over the region's countries by force and otherwise—Pompeo said he will be reassuring Arab allies that America is not retreating in the face of these threats.
The secretary will "make sure everybody's clear about the fact that the United States is still committed to all the missions that we had signed up for with them over the last two years," he said, noting that this is his first trip to the region in several weeks.
Pompeo declined to comment on a potential timeline for the Syria withdrawal, saying "everyone understands what the United States is doing."
"We will accomplish our mission. I'm very confident of that," he said.
Addressing U.S. sanctions against Iran, which went back into mostly full effect in November, Pompeo referred reporters to the current exchange rate for the Iranian rial, which has suffered massively in recent weeks.
"I've heard lots of talk about the fact that U.S. sanctions alone don't work," he said. "We should all go see what the value of the rial is, see if there's any truth to that."
It is also likely that the peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians will come up in discussions between Pompeo and Arab officials.
While the Trump administration has long been rumored to have completed its own plan for peace, it still remains unclear when or if it will be presented.
"We will absolutely talk about" the peace process, Pompeo said. "We'll talk about how it is we can achieve that part of our mission statement as well. We probably won't get into a great deal of detail the too and fro, but we will absolute make that a part of our conversation" to promote stability across the region.