MANAMA, Bahrain—The Trump administration, via Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, is beginning to build a coalition of Arab allies that will help the United States expel "every last Iranian boot" from Syria and ensure the Islamic Republic's march across the Middle East is stopped in its tracks, according to U.S. officials.
Pompeo arrived in Bahrain early Friday to hold the first of a series of meetings with Arab leaders in key gulf nations, including the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Oman. During this leg of Pompeo's weeklong trek across the region, the secretary of state will continue his behind-the-scenes efforts to rally Arab nations to confront Iran, according to updated information provided to the Washington Free Beacon by the State Department.
During private meetings with Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa in his palace, Pompeo sought to obtain the country's support for a growing U.S.-Arab coalition aimed at "countering the Iranian regime's dangerous activities," according to the State Department, which previewed the second-half of Pompeo's trip to reporters here Friday afternoon.
The Trump administration is singularly focused on the Iranian threat and has blasted the rogue regime's malign activities in meetings and appearances both public and private since Pompeo arrived in the Middle East earlier this week.
U.S. officials accompanying Pompeo worked overtime to ensure Iran remained the center of attention during his visit amid much regional unease over the administration's decision to withdraw all 2,000 American forces from Syria, where the fight against ISIS is ongoing.
Questions about the administration's decision were given short shrift by Pompeo, who appeared more eager to discuss his effort to build a region-wide Arab coalition to counter the Islamic Republic.
That agenda was driven home on Friday in Bahrain, as Pompeo met with the country's leaders and received a classified briefing from U.S. Central Command, which has a headquarters in Manama.
Pompeo found a receptive audience during his meetings, as Bahrain has emerged as a leading critic of the Iranian regime and has been working closely with U.S. military and diplomatic envoys to counter the regime.
"Bahrain is a staunch supporter of countering Iran's malign efforts and works in close coordination with the United States to expose and counter Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) proxies. Bahrain continues efforts to investigate and counter Iranian sanctions evasion and combat illicit maritime activity," the State Department said.
As Pompeo continues on to Abu Dhabi, he will continue work to convince allies of the need to galvanize more fiercely against Iran. To this end, the State Department issued a fact-sheet describing the administration's policy as one that "expels every last Iranian boot from" war-torn Syria.
"The secretary will underscore to our Gulf partners the key roles they play in resolving the most critical issues facing the region including: the humanitarian crisis instigated by the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen; [and] the critical need for a peaceful diplomatic solution to the Syrian crisis in a manner that honors the will of the Syrian people and expels every last Iranian boot from the country," according to the State Department.
Similarly, in meetings with Bahraini officials, Pompeo urged the creation of a "Middle East Strategic Alliance, anchored by a united Gulf Cooperation Council, to stand against the Iranian regime's malign influence and advance the prosperity, security, and stability of the region," according to a State Department spokesperson.
While it remains unclear just how convincing Pompeo will be, his laser-like focus on the Iranian threat signals that the Trump administration—despite the Syria withdrawal—has no intention of letting Tehran run rampant across the region. However, it also has become clear during the trip that Trump has instructed his secretary of state to push Arab allies to take a greater lead in this effort, as well as in the fight against radical jihadi militant groups, many of which are sponsored by Tehran.
"A united Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is the backbone for regional peace, prosperity, security, and stability, and is essential to countering the single greatest threat to regional stability: the Iranian regime," the State Department said. "The secretary will work with leaders from the GCC, as well as Egypt and Jordan, to stop the Iranian regime's destructive behavior throughout the region and advance the proposed Middle East Strategic Alliance."