U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States is seeking to "expel every last Iranian boot" from Syria despite Washington’s decision to withdraw troops from the war-ravaged country.
"It's time for old rivalries [in the Middle East] to end, for the sake of the greater good of the region," Pompeo said in a January 10 speech on Washington's broader Mideast objectives in the Egyptian capital, Cairo.
He also said that the United States "will use diplomacy and work with our partners to expel every last Iranian boot" from Syria and will bolster efforts "to bring peace and stability to the long-suffering Syrian people."
Pompeo was in Egypt as part of a nine-nation Middle East tour aimed at reassuring America's Arab partners that Washington is not abandoning the region despite U.S. plans to withdraw troops from Syria.
Iran, along with Russia, has given President Bashar al-Assad's government crucial support throughout the Syrian conflict, which began with a government crackdown on protesters in March 2011. The conflict has left more than 400,000 people dead, displaced millions, and devastated many historic sites across the country.
Troop Withdrawal 'To Go Ahead'
In his speech titled A Force for Good: America Reinvigorated in the Middle East at the American University in Cairo, Pompeo said the United States was a "force for good" in the Middle East region and remained committed to the "complete dismantling" of the threat from the extremist group Islamic State (IS) despite its decision to withdraw troops from Syria.
"When America retreats, chaos follows," Pompeo added.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif mocked Pompeo's comments by writing on Twitter: "Whenever/wherever US interferes, chaos, repression and resentment follow."
Pompeo also took aim at former President Barack Obama without naming him. He accused President Donald Trump’s predecessor of sowing chaos in the Middle East, and said he "grossly underestimated the tenacity and viciousness of radical Islamism.”
Earlier in the day, the secretary of state said that the U.S. troop withdrawal announced by Trump last month will go ahead despite widespread criticism.
"President Trump's decision to withdraw our troops has been made. We will do that," Pompeo told a joint press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry.
While confirming the decision to withdraw troops from Syria, Pompeo said Washington would continue to finish the battle against the IS group, adding that the United States will remain a steadfast partner in the Middle East.
Pompeo arrived in Egypt on January 10 after visits to Jordan and Iraq.
Pompeo said on Twitter following talks with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi that "the U.S. stands firmly with Egypt in its commitments to protecting religious freedom and in the fight against terrorism that threatens all of our friends in the Middle East."
From Egypt, he plans to continue on to Gulf Arab states.