ABU DHABI—As the Trump administration finishes its final weeks in office, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo opened up about his two-and-a-half years as America’s top diplomat, telling the Washington Free Beacon that the incoming Biden administration will inherit a fundamentally realigned globe.
During an interview with the Free Beacon in Abu Dhabi, where Pompeo was finishing the final stop in a 7-country, 10-day jaunt—likely his last major tour in office—Pompeo pulled the curtain back on his efforts to align the globe against adversarial regimes such as China and Iran.
Many of the Trump administration’s signature foreign policy achievements—from crushing the Iranian regime with sanctions to moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem—were met with fierce pushback from world leaders, as well as Democrats and sometimes Republicans in Congress. Pompeo was quickly billed by the American press as dangerous—criticism that Pompeo says is devoid of reality.
Take his latest trip, for instance: Pompeo stopped in France, Turkey, Israel, Georgia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. From these places he generated headlines for offending world leaders and leaning into a hardline pro-Israel, anti-Iran foreign policy that the Biden administration is more than likely to buck. Pompeo says, however, the policies laid down by the Trump administration—be it the administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital or its tight-knit relationship with Gulf Arab nations—will reverberate well into President-elect Joe Biden’s first term in office.
"These were just facts that everyone knew but refused to acknowledge and we ripped the band-aids, said these are the right things to do, and we got America and the Middle East in a better place," Pompeo said. "I think the American people get it. I think the people in Europe get it. I know the people throughout the Middle East get it, that this realism … rests on a set of foundations that are unassailable."
In France, Israel, and other Middle Eastern countries, Pompeo focused on Iran and its continued efforts to procure a nuclear weapon. Though the Biden administration is angling to reenter the landmark nuclear deal—paving the way for Tehran to revive its ailing economy—Gulf Arab partners are not likely to go along willingly. Pompeo spent much of his term solidifying ties with regional Arab players such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, who share the United States' hardline position on Iran.
"Iran is more isolated than it has ever been, [and] the Gulf states are now working together in ways that literally four years ago I don’t think anybody would have believed was possible," Pompeo said.
Trump administration policies toward Israel are also likely to remain in place. While in the Jewish state last week, Pompeo became the first U.S. official in history to visit a West Bank winery and the contested Golan Heights area, which Israel seized in 1967. Biden’s State Department will not easily overturn these policies.
These policies make sense to Israel and their Gulf partners, Pompeo said.
"It fits with their understanding of the risk to their people," Pompeo said. "So whether it’s in the Gulf states or Israel, I think they have come to appreciate that the policies that this administration put in place are the ones that are best for them, for their relationship and partnership with the United States of America."
"I’m confident more will follow," Pompeo said of other Arab nations likely to make peace with Israel.
The peace accords also are a sign of deeper U.S. ties with Israel’s traditional enemies, Pompeo said. The UAE, for example, is in line to receive more than $20 billion in U.S. weapons, including 50 F-35 Lighting II aircraft, MQ-9B drones, and advanced munitions systems—a massive military package that only would have been approved for Israel in years past.
While Pompeo was assailed in the media for stepping foot in disputed areas of Israel, peace talks with Arab nations continued. The BBC, for instance, wrote, "Trumplomacy: Mike Pompeo eyes history on Israel swansong trip." The article accused Pompeo of inflaming Palestinian leaders and positioning himself as a contender in the 2024 presidential election.
Asked about these critics, Pompeo described the reports as "longing for a time that is based on fantasy, when in fact, I think the world has moved away from that understanding that the lefties at the BBC hold so dearly."
Pompeo said he is not focusing on what is to come next year, but spending his final months in office ensuring President Donald Trump’s "America First" policies continue to challenge the conventional foreign policy establishment.
"We didn’t spend any time talking about what the—what might happen in January of next year," Pompeo said. "We spent a lot of time thinking about what we ought to do in November of this year and how we ought to continue—collectively, not just the United States, but continue collectively—to increase security in the region and get an even broader coalition."