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Pompeo On His Way To Mideast Says Terrorism And Iran Largest Threats

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks with the press on as he flies to the Middle East on January 7, 2019. - Pompeo will tour Middle East capitals next week in an effort to shore up crucial alliances.

(AFP) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed Monday that the Islamic State group would not be allowed to regroup as he headed to the Middle East following President Donald Trump's surprise decision to pull US troops from Syria.

Leaving on a trip to eight Arab capitals, Pompeo told reporters he would show that "the United States is still committed to all the missions that we've signed up for with them over the past two years."

The trip comes weeks after Trump announced that the United States would quickly pull its 2,000 soldiers out of Syria, declaring that the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS or IS, had been defeated.

His advisers have since been walking back his timeline, with national security adviser John Bolton saying Monday in Jerusalem that the United States would verify that the group is truly defeated before withdrawing.

Highlighting that IS emerged during the tenure of Trump's predecessor Barack Obama, Pompeo said the campaign to destroy the movement's self-styled caliphate in war-battered Syria has been "enormously successful."

"And I am confident that we will continue to ensure that the kind of rise that ISIS had under the Obama administration doesn't occur again," he said on his plane as he started his longest trip since taking over as top US diplomat last year.

Coalition against Iran

Pompeo opens his trip in Jordan and will deliver an address on Middle East policy in Egypt, whose military ruler turned president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, has been a key partner of Trump.

Another major focus of the tour will be sustaining a regional coalition to counter Iran, the main enemy of US allies Saudi Arabia and Israel.

"This is a coalition that understands that the largest threats -- terrorism and the Islamic Republic of Iran -- are things that we ought to work on jointly and we will be marshaling all of the resources, theirs and ours, to achieve them," Pompeo said.

Last year, Trump pulled out of an international accord negotiated under Obama on ending Iran's nuclear program and has instead reimposed biting sanctions.

Pompeo repeatedly has called Iran "the world's largest state sponsor of terror," pointing to its targeting of domestic rivals in Europe and support of militant movements such as Lebanon's Hezbollah.