Even though Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton are on a scheduled trip to the Middle East, Iraq was not on the scheduled list of stops. But this morning news broke that Pompeo and his wife were spotted at a Baghdad airport.
Channel News Asia is reporting that Secretary of State Pompeo met with Iraq’s Speaker of Parliament Mohammed al-Halbousi in Baghdad on Wednesday, according to Iraqi state-run television. Pompeo was in Jordan yesterday and is scheduled to be in Cairo, Egypt, by the end of business today to continue attempting to smooth things over with U.S. allies in the region.
The Washington Post says that calls to the State Department to inquire details about Pompeo’s unexpected stop in Iraq were not answered at the time of this posting.
Iraqi officials were angered when Donald Trump made another unannounced stop in Iraq over Christmas with first lady Melania, to announce that the United States could use its bases in Iraq as a platform for continued Syrian operations when troops exit that country. Local politicians were reportedly angered that they had no advance notice of the visit or of the change of plans with the operations in Syria.
— AFP news agency (@AFP) January 9, 2019
Photos of Mike Pompeo’s meeting yesterday with King Abdullah II of Jordan and Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi showed the secretary of state laughing and joking that President Trump’s prime-time speech should spark a number of headlines, saying that he would “make a lot of news.”
Pompeo and Bolton are on a tour of Middle Eastern cities with the Syrian matter on the top of their list of talking points. The intention of the trip was to smooth over ruffled feathers about the announcement that troops would be leaving Syria and to clarify Trump’s stance on the unexpected exit plan.
Before leaving Washington, Pompeo said that he was headed to the region to alleviate confusion on the Syrian matter.
“There’s been a lot of noise about this withdrawal from Syria, and we want to make sure they understand completely what that means.”
But on the first day of the tour, John Bolton’s trip to Jerusalem hit a snag when he announced that the United States withdrawal from Syria was conditional upon an agreement with Turkey. Bolton said that Trump will ask Turkey not to “slaughter the Kurds” after troops leave the region, angering Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.