No peace in Middle East without confronting Iran first, Pompeo says

Saul Bowman
February 15, 2019

Earlier on Thursday, in a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Pompeo said peace and stability in the Middle East could not be achieved without confronting Iran.

Many Arab states do not recognise Israel, and have not shared a diplomatic stage with the country since a Middle East peace conference in Madrid in 1991, but they have been driven together in a common fear of Iran.

Pence's remarks put the issue of Iran and its contested nuclear program back on the front burner as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and global leaders met to discuss a wide-range of challenges facing the Middle East.

Dubbing the meeting in Poland the "WarsawCircus", Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said it was "no coincidence that Iran is hit by terror on the very day" the talks began.

Both have highlighted the shared hostility towards Iran of Israel - which regards Iran as its biggest foe - and Saudi Arabia - which sees it as the main challenger to its influence in the Middle East.

Morawiecki said he will consider the meeting a success if it brings together governments "that do not agree on all things" and if it becomes a "place of open debate and exchange of arguments for peace for the region".

On Wednesday night in Warsaw, Netanyahu used a joint photo op with 10 Arab foreign ministers to urge Arab states to continue normalizing relations with Israel, hailing the opening event of the so-called "Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East" as a "historic turning point".

Netanyahu made his comments after a meeting with the Omani minister for foreign affairs, Yusuf bin Alawi, on the sidelines of a Middle East conference in Warsaw co-hosted by Poland and the United States.

Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump's son-in-law and adviser, is taking part in the Warsaw conference where he will speak behind closed doors on the contours of a US peace proposal to be presented after Israeli elections in April.

"The time has come for our European partners to stand with us and the Iranian people ... to stand with our allies and friends in the region", he said.

The call will be met sceptically by European Union leaders who feel they were not consulted on the United States decision to pull out of the Iran deal, or the planned withdrawal of 2,000 USA troops from Syria.

"None of the region's challenges will solve themselves", the USA top diplomat also said.

In a re-issued statement to the media, Netanyahu's office said the goal of the meetings in Poland was "to advance the common interest of combatting Iran".

During his briefing with the media, Netanyahu said that he believes that the Syrians knew full well when Israel attacked Iranian military bases in Tehran.

US Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday demanded that European Union allies follow Washington's lead in withdrawing from the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal and cease efforts he said are created to evade US sanctions.

Ahead of the session, Trump administration officials said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be one topic, but not the focus. Jared Kushner, Trump's adviser and son-in-law, attended the session with Pence and was scheduled to give a talk on the "deal of a century" peace plan he has been working on for nearly two years. Appearing next to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Pompeo says "pushing back" against Iran is central to dealing with all the region's other problems.

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