Archive for February 14, 2019

FULL: US Vice Pres. Mike Pence Remarks at Warsaw Summit 

February 14, 2019

( Amazing speech using Jerusalem as the example of how all the Middle East can achieve peace. JW )

 

 

Pompeo wants to confront Iran, but how?

February 14, 2019

Source: Pompeo wants to confront Iran, but how? – Middle East – Jerusalem Post

BY SETH J. FRANTZMAN
 FEBRUARY 14, 2019 10:59
Pompeo wants to confront Iran, but how?

In Warsaw, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that peace and stability could not be achieved in the Middle East without confronting Iran.

The comments came during meetings at a US-backed conference in Warsaw designed to further Middle East security. Israel, the US and foreign ministers from up to 60 countries gathered in the Polish capital, but much of the focus has been on comments regarding Iran.

The meeting gathered together leading opponents of Iran’s role in the Middle East, including Israel, Arab countries and the US administration. Pompeo’s comments on February 14 underlined the Trump administration’s claims that it wants to confront Iran. He called Iran a malign influence in Lebanon, Yemen, Syria and Iraq, and said that Iran backs what he called the “three H’s:” the Houthis, Hamas and Hezbollah.

“These are real threats, you can’t get peace in the Middle East without pushing back against Iran,” he said.

However, the US administration has provided scant details on how it will confront Iran.

In August 2018, the State Department named Brian Hook as a special envoy to coordinate Iran policy. At the time, both National Security Advisor John Bolton and officials at the State Department and Pentagon had indicated the US would remain in eastern Syria. The administration said that Iran should leave Syria.

In November, the US said it would stay in Syria until Iranian “commanded forces” leave. However, US President Donald Trump reversed that policy in December 2018, deciding to withdraw from Syria. He indicated that the US would keep a close watch on Iran from Iraq.

Iraqi politicians have now objected to the US using Iraqi bases to confront or monitor Iran. This is because many parties in Iraq are either allied with Iran or closely connected to pro-Iran supporters. With Iraq and Syria seemingly out of the picture in terms of a policy of confronting Iran, the US is left with scant resources and places to push back against Iran. In Yemen, where a Saudi led alliance has been fighting Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, the US Congress is pushing back, pushing back against US backing for Saudi Arabia. The House of Representatives voted to end US military support for the Yemen war on Wednesday. At the same time Democrats in the Senate are trying to push through a similar stance.
With the Yemen war in red tape, the US still can support Israel against Hamas, but it’s unclear how the US will confront Hezbollah.

Hezbollah has representatives in Lebanon’s government and controls the powerful Health Ministry after a deal in late January. Hezbollah is at a peak of power in Lebanon. The US seeks to counter that by providing support for the Lebanese armed forces, including $16 million worth of precision rockets delivered this week. However, there is no evidence that the Lebanese army will ever confront Hezbollah, if anything it is a partner of Hezbollah. Lebanon didn’t even attend the Warsaw gathering and instead hosted Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif. Lebanon for all intents and purposes is in the Iranian camp, not the US camp.

The US policy to confront Iran therefore boils down to supporting Israel. Israel is more than capable of confronting Hamas, but Israel faces an uphill struggle in confronting Iranian support for Hezbollah and Iran’s role in Syria. Netanyahu said that Israel carried out a strike in Syria on Monday. Foreign reports said the strike targeted Iranian sites in southwestern Syria.
The Iranian entrenchment in Syria appears to be growing, instead of being reduced. This includes Iranian encroachment toward the Golan and Iran’s existing network of bases in Syria.

The US doesn’t seem to have any plan for confronting this challenge.

Reports indicate that the US might keep soldiers at a lonely desert base at Tanf in southern Syria near Jordan’s border. Some see that base as a way to interdict Iran’s “road to the sea,” a network of Iranian influence that stretches across Iraq into Syria and Lebanon. But it is not entirely clear that the Tanf base actually performs that function or that Iran cares about the presence of the base.

Similarly, the Arab states that ostensibly want to confront Iran don’t seem to have a plan in place for doing so.

Kuwait, Egypt, Bahrain, the UAE, Jordan and Saudi Arabia gathered at the Dead Sea in late January to talk regional security. Some of these countries are in Warsaw to discuss the same issues, but they don’t appear to be willing to formulate a plan for confronting Iran or working with Israel to do so.

That they share common interests with Israel regarding Iran’s threats is possible, but when it comes to confrontation and push back the US appears to lack substantive models and goals of how it envisions rolling back Iran in any of the countries Pompeo mentioned.

 

In Warsaw, Pence hails sight of Netanyahu ‘breaking bread’ with Arab leaders

February 14, 2019

Source: In Warsaw, Pence hails sight of Netanyahu ‘breaking bread’ with Arab leaders | The Times of Israel

US vice president says joint US-Polish hosted conference is a symbol of further cooperation and a brighter future for the troubled region

US Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a joint statement as part of a meeting with Poland's President Andrzej Duda at Belvedere palace in Warsaw, Poland, February 13, 2019.  (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

US Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a joint statement as part of a meeting with Poland’s President Andrzej Duda at Belvedere palace in Warsaw, Poland, February 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

WARSAW, Poland — US Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday hailed the symbolic importance of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “breaking bread” with Arab leaders at a Mideast conference in Warsaw, saying he hoped it heralded further cooperation to come.

The two-day conference, which was originally called with a focus on countering Iran but now carries the toned-down and vague goal of seeking stability in the Middle East, opened with a dinner at the Royal Castle in Warsaw’s old town.

“Tonight I believe we are beginning a new era, with Prime Minister Netanyahu from the State of Israel, with leaders from Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, all breaking bread together, and later in this conference sharing honest perspectives on the challenges facing the area,” Pence said, addressing the guests.

“Poland and the US welcome this outward symbol of this gathering, a symbol of cooperation and a hopeful sign of a brighter future that awaits nations across the Middle East,” Pence said.

“Let us recognize that we are stronger together than we would ever be apart,” he said.

The summit appears to be the first time an Israeli leader and senior Arab officials were attending an international conference centered on the Middle East since the Madrid peace conference in 1991, which set the stage for the landmark Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinians.

Netanyahu and the Arab officials also shared a stage during a group photo scheduled for meeting participants.

Palestinians have been heavily critical of the conference, with officials describing it as an effort by the US to advance anti-Palestinian positions.

Netanyahu expressed sentiments similar to Pence’s when he met earlier in the day with Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, telling him that the recent rapprochement between the two countries — including Netanyahu’s October 2018 visit to Muscat — was “changing the world.”

Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz, US Vice President Mike Pence, Poland’s President Andrzej Duda, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pose for a family photo at the conference on Peace and Security in the Middle east in Warsaw, on February 13, 2019. (Janek SKARZYNSKI/AFP)

“It’s paving the way for many others to do what you said — not to be stuck in the past but to seize the future,” he said.

Netanyahu said many Arab countries were following Oman’s lead in moving toward more open interaction with Israel, “including at this conference.”

“I want to thank you for this forward-looking, positive policy that can lead to peace and prosperity for all,” he said.

“Indeed, this is an an important, new vision for the future,” the Omani foreign minister responded in English. “People in the Middle East have suffered a lot, because they have [been stuck in] the past. This is a new era for the future, and for prosperity for all the nations.”

Wednesday’s meeting took place at the Warsaw Intercontinental hotel, where Netanyahu’s delegation is staying.

The prime minister’s surprising visit to Oman was the first time an Israeli leader publicly visited the Gulf state since 1996.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) with Sultan Qaboos bin Said of Oman in the Gulf state on October 26, 2018 (Courtesy)

Since then, Omani leaders have continued to advocate for the Arab world to normalize its relations with Israel.

Two days after Netanyahu’s trip to Muscat, which was celebrated on the front pages of several Omani newspapers, bin Alawi suggested at a conference in Bahrain that the time had come for Israel to be treated like any other state in the region. Remarkably, his colleagues from Manama and Riyadh did not disagree, even expressing tacit support for Oman’s efforts to help advance the peace process.

However, in a damper on Netanyahu’s efforts, an Israeli TV station broadcast an unprecedented interview Wednesday with a senior Saudi prince who accused the prime minister of deceiving the Israeli public by claiming that Israeli ties with the wider Arab world could be warmed without the Palestinian issue being resolved.

“Israeli public opinion should not be deceived into believing that the Palestinian issue is a dead issue,” Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud told Channel 13 news in a lengthy interview in London.

“From the Israeli point of view, Mr. Netanyahu would like us to have a relationship, and then we can fix the Palestinian issue. From the Saudi point of view, it’s the other way around,” said the former Saudi intelligence chief and ex-ambassador to the US and UK.

Representatives of some 60 nations are set to attend the conference in Warsaw, including the foreign ministers of ten Arab countries.

Pompeo and Czaputowicz only mentioned Iran indirectly, carefully avoiding the impression that the summit’s focus is an effort to isolate the Islamic Republic.

Netanyahu, for his part, has said the conference will not focus on Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, since Pompeo and Pence do not deal with the administration’s much-anticipated peace proposal. Rather, Netanyahu told reporters Tuesday evening, the conference would have a clear emphasis on efforts to thwart Iranian aggression.

 

Rouhani claims Israel, US behind deadly suicide bombing in Iran

February 14, 2019

Source: Rouhani claims Israel, US behind deadly suicide bombing in Iran | The Times of Israel

( Say what you will, mullah.  It’s your own people who have had enough of your theocratic dictatorship. – JW )

Supreme Leader Khamenei says perpetrators of Wednesday attack that killed 27 Revolutionary Guards have links to foreign spy agencies

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks at a ceremony to mark the second anniversary of the death of former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, in Tehran, Iran, on January 10, 2019. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks at a ceremony to mark the second anniversary of the death of former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, in Tehran, Iran, on January 10, 2019. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Thursday blamed a suicide bombingthat killed 27 people in southeastern Iran on Israel and the Untied States, vowing revenge against Jaish al-Adl, the “mercenary group” that committed it.

“The crime will remain as a ‘dirty stain’ in the black record of the main supporters of terrorism in the White House, Tel Aviv and their regional agents,” he said, according to the Reuters news agency.

“We will certainly make this mercenary group pay for the blood of our martyrs,” the official IRNA news agency quoted the Iranian president as saying in response to Wednesday’s attack.

“The main root of terrorism in the region is America and Zionists, and some oil-producing countries in the region also financially support the terrorists,” he added.

Rouhani was speaking at Tehran’s Mehrabad Airport before leaving for the Russian resort of Sochi for a summit with his Russian and Turkish counterparts, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on the future of war-battered Syria.

Meanwhile, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei published a letter on his website, Khamenei.ir, claiming the perpetrators had links to spy organizations of countries in the region and beyond. The letter also sent condolences to the families of the victims.

Wednesday’s attack, which targeted a busload of Revolutionary Guards in the volatile southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan, was one of the deadliest on Iranian security forces in years.

The bomber struck as the troops were returning from a patrol mission on the border with Pakistan, where Baluchi separatist and jihadist groups have rear bases, the Guards said.

Sistan-Baluchistan is home to a large ethnic Baluchi community, who straddle the border and who, unlike most Iranians, who are Shiite Muslims, are mainly Sunni.

Warning to neighbors

Rouhani called on Iran’s neighbors to assume their “legal responsibilities” and not allow “terrorists” to use their soil to prepare attacks.

“If this continues and they cannot stop the terrorists, it is clear — based on international law — that we have certain rights and will act upon them in due time,” he said, without elaborating.

Illustrative photo of Iranian Revolutionary Guards (@MidEastNews_Eng via Twitter/File)

The attack came on the same day that the US gathered some 60 countries — including Israel — in Poland for a conference on the Middle East and Iran that they hoped would increase pressure on Tehran.

Iran quickly linked the attack to the Warsaw conference, where supporters of the formerly armed opposition People’s Mujahedeen plan a second day of protests on Thursday.

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

“Especially when cohorts of same terrorists cheer it from Warsaw streets & support it with twitter bots? US seems to always make the same wrong choices, but expect different results,” Zarif wrote on Twitter.

Wednesday’s bombing was claimed by the jihadist Jaish al-Adl (Army of Justice), which is blacklisted as a terrorist group by Iran, the SITE Intelligence Group reported.

The group was formed in 2012 as a successor to Sunni extremist group Jundallah (Soldiers of God), which waged a deadly insurgency against Iranian targets over the previous decade.

Sistan-Baluchistan has been hit by previous deadly attacks in recent months.

On January 29, three members of an Iranian bomb squad sent to the scene of an explosion in provincial capital Zahedan were wounded when a second device blew up as they were trying to defuse it.

And in early December, two people were killed and around 40 wounded in an attack in the strategic port city of Chabahar, on the province’s Arabian Sea coast, which Zarif blamed on “foreign-backed terrorists.”

In October, Jaish al-Adl claimed responsibility for abducting 12 Iranian security personnel near the border, five of whom were later released and flown home after Pakistani intervention.

Zarif visited Islamabad twice in a month for briefings on the progress of the efforts to secure the captured unit’s release.

 

Netanyahu’s staff scrambles after he speaks of ‘war against Iran’ 

February 14, 2019

Source: Netanyahu’s staff scrambles after he speaks of ‘war against Iran’ | The Times of Israel

Tehran’s FM, major media outlets report on apparent belligerent statement posted to social media; officials then update translation to say PM merely seeks to ‘combat Iran’

WARSAW, Poland — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu raised eyebrows on Wednesday when he spoke of a joint interest in “war” in the context of the struggle against Iran.

In a Hebrew-language video message recorded before he headed to the opening of a Middle East conference in Warsaw, the prime minister hailed the fact that an Israeli leader was about to sit down with senior officials from “leading Arab countries” in order to “advance the common interest of war against Iran.”

An official translation of the statement, provided by the Government Press Office, translated Hebrew phrase milhama b’Iran literally “war with Iran,” when it was not clear that Netanyahu had meant literal military action.

The prime minister’s social media accounts published the statement, leading numerous people, including Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, to point out its ostensible belligerency.

Javad Zarif

@JZarif

Numerous other users of social media, among them senior journalists, also wondered whether Netanyahu had just publicly called for open war with Iran.

The Associated Press

@AP

The Latest: Israel’s prime minister says he plans on working with Arab countries at a U.S.-backed Mideast conference in Warsaw to focus on the “common interest of war with Iran.” http://apne.ws/zRN0DUQ 

https://storage.googleapis.com/afs-prod/media/media:a2471c8c3bc740859ccfe7b0e96cc96c/400.jpeg

The Latest: Israeli leader hopes to rally Arabs against Iran

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The Latest on the international conference on the Middle East (all times local): 7:30 p.m. Israel’s prime minister says he plans on working with Arab countries at a U.S.-backed…

apnews.com

View image on Twitter

About one hour after the post went live, as Netanyahu was already sitting at a reception at Warsaw’s historic Royal Castle, his staff deleted the first tweet and replaced it with a softened version, reading: “What is important about this meeting — and it is not in secret, because there are many of those — is that this is an open meeting with representatives of leading Arab countries, that are sitting down together with Israel in order to advance the common interest of combating Iran.”

PM of Israel

@IsraeliPM

From here I am going to a meeting with 60 foreign ministers and envoys of countries from around the world against Iran.

PM of Israel

@IsraeliPM

What is important about this meeting – and it is not in secret, because there are many of those – is that this is an open meeting with representatives of leading Arab countries, that are sitting down together with Israel in order to advance the common interest of combating Iran.

Minutes later the GPO also reissued its translation of the statement with the gentler wording.

 

‘Confronting Iran’ key to peace in Middle East, Pompeo tells Netanyahu

February 14, 2019

Source: ‘Confronting Iran’ key to peace in Middle East, Pompeo tells Netanyahu | The Times of Israel

Leaders meet at Warsaw conference, hailed by PM as a ‘historical turning point’ due to his participation alongside many senior Arab officials

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meet at the conference on Peace and Security in the Middle east in Warsaw, on February 14, 2019.  (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meet at the conference on Peace and Security in the Middle east in Warsaw, on February 14, 2019. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

WARSAW, Poland — “Confronting Iran” is an essential requirement for achieving peace in the Middle East, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday on the sidelines of an international conference dealing with the region.

“You can’t achieve peace and stability in the Middle East without confronting Iran, it’s just not possible,” he told reporters ahead of a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Islamic Republic is a malign influence in Lebanon, in Yemen, in Syria and in Iraq, the US top diplomat went on.

“The three H’s — the Houthis, Hamas and Hezbollah — these are real threats, and there are others as well. But you can’t get peace in the Middle East without pushing back against Iran,” he said.

Pompeo ignored reporters’ questions about the administration’s planned release of a proposal for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

Netanyahu used the photo op to call on 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,” because he was in the same room as the foreign ministers of 10 Arab countries.

“Yesterday was a historic turning point. In a room of some 60 foreign ministers and representatives of dozen of governments, an Israeli prime minister and the foreign ministers of leading Arab countries stood together and spoke with unusual force, clarity and unity against the common threat of the Iranian regime,” Netanyahu said.

“I think this marks a change, an important understanding of what threatens our future, what we have to do to secure it, and the possibilities of cooperation that extend beyond security to every realm of life for the peoples of the Middle East.”

The summit appears to be the first time an Israeli leader and senior Arab officials attended an international gathering centered on the Middle East since the 1991 Madrid peace conference, which set the stage for the landmark Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinians.

After the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates addressed the summit’s opening ceremony, held in Warsaw’s historic Royal Castle, Netanyahu spoke as well.

The speeches were not made available to the public.

US peace envoy Jason Greenblatt hailed the event, tweeting: “Clearly Iran’s aggression in the region has brought Israel & the Arab world closer together. We must continue this important conversation. Maybe next time Israel will be on the podium at the same time.”

At the opening session Thursday morning at Warsaw’s PGE Narodowy Stadium, Pompeo, too, noted the significance of the event the previous night.

“Arab and Israeli leaders were in the same region, sharing a meal” and discussing issues of common concern, he said.

The two-day conference, which was originally called with a focus on countering Iran but now carries the toned-down and vague goal of seeking stability in the Middle East, opened Wednesday with a dinner at the Royal Castle in Warsaw’s old town.

US Vice President Mike Pence addressed the guests: “Tonight I believe we are beginning a new era, with Prime Minister Netanyahu from the State of Israel, with leaders from Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, all breaking bread together, and later in this conference sharing honest perspectives on the challenges facing the area.”

Palestinians have been heavily critical of the conference, with officials describing it as an effort by the US to advance anti-Palestinian positions.

Netanyahu expressed sentiments similar to Pence’s when he met earlier in the day with Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, telling him that the recent rapprochement between the two countries — including his October 2018 visit to Muscat — was “changing the world.”

“It’s paving the way for many others to do what you said — not to be stuck in the past but to seize the future,” he said.

Netanyahu said many Arab countries were following Oman’s lead in moving toward more open interaction with Israel, “including at this conference.”

Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz, US Vice President Mike Pence, Poland’s President Andrzej Duda, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pose for a family photo at the conference on Peace and Security in the Middle east in Warsaw, on February 13, 2019. (Janek SKARZYNSKI/AFP)

However, in a damper on Netanyahu’s efforts, an Israeli TV station broadcast an unprecedented interview Wednesday with a senior Saudi prince who accused the prime of being deceitful in claiming that Israeli ties with the wider Arab world can be warmed without the Palestinian issue being solved.

“Israeli public opinion should not be deceived into believing that the Palestinian issue is a dead issue,” Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud told Channel 13 news in a lengthy interview in London.

“From the Israeli point of view, Mr. Netanyahu would like us to have a relationship, and then we can fix the Palestinian issue. From the Saudi point of view, it’s the other way around,” said the former Saudi intelligence chief and ex-ambassador to the US and UK.

 

Pence urges EU to pull out of nuclear deal, says Iran planning ‘new Holocaust’

February 14, 2019

Source: Pence urges EU to pull out of nuclear deal, says Iran planning ‘new Holocaust’ | The Times of Israel

( God bless VP Pence.  A truly good man”… – JW }

VP Pence’s historic address to the Knesset.

At Warsaw conference, US vice president calls Tehran the ‘greatest threat’ to peace and stability in Middle East

United States Vice President Mike Pence speaks at a conference on Peace and Security in the Middle East in Warsaw, Poland, February 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

United States Vice President Mike Pence speaks at a conference on Peace and Security in the Middle East in Warsaw, Poland, February 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

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 designed to evade US sanctions.

Speaking at a Middle East conference in Poland, Pence accused Iran of being the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism, adding that it was the “greatest threat to peace and security in the Middle East,” and accused the clerical regime of plotting a “new Holocaust” with its regional ambitions.

He lamented that Britain, France and Germany created a special financial mechanism that Washington believes is aimed at “breaking” tough US sanctions on Iran. Those sanctions were eased by former US president Barack Obama’s administration under the terms of the nuclear deal but were reimposed after US President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement last year.

Pence said the EU had “led the effort to create mechanisms to break up our sanctions… against Iran’s murderous revolutionary regime.”

“It is an ill-advised step that will only strengthen Iran, weaken the EU and create still more distance between Europe and the United States,” he added, according to a transcript by the Reuters news agency.

US and European divisions over Iran led France and Germany to opt against sending their top diplomats to the Warsaw conference.

United States Vice President Mike Pence, left, speaks to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a conference on Peace and Security in the Middle East in Warsaw, Poland, February 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

As Iran’s clerical state marks 40 years since the overthrow of the pro-US shah, Pence vowed maximum pressure while not explicitly urging regime change.

“As Iran’s economy continues to plummet, as the people of Iran take to the streets, freedom-loving nations must stand together and hold the Iranian regime accountable for the evil and violence it has inflicted on its people, on the region and the wider world,” he said.

US sanctions “will get tougher still” unless Iran “changes its dangerous and destabilizing behavior,” Pence said.

Earlier at the same conference, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that “confronting Iran” was an essential requirement for achieving peace in the Middle East.

“You can’t achieve peace and stability in the Middle East without confronting Iran, it’s just not possible,” he told reporters ahead of a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Islamic Republic is a malign influence in Lebanon, in Yemen, in Syria and in Iraq, the US top diplomat went on.

“The three H’s — the Houthis, Hamas and Hezbollah — these are real threats, and there are others as well. But you can’t get peace in the Middle East without pushing back against Iran,” Pompeo said.

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.”

“Yesterday was a historic turning point. In a room of some 60 foreign ministers and representatives of dozen of governments, an Israeli prime minister and the foreign ministers of leading Arab countries stood together and spoke with unusual force, clarity and unity against the common threat of the Iranian regime,” Netanyahu said.

The summit appears to be the first time an Israeli leader and senior Arab officials attended an international gathering centered on the Middle East since the 1991 Madrid peace conference, which set the stage for the landmark Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinians.

The two-day conference, which was originally called with a focus on countering Iran but now carries the toned-down and vague goal of seeking stability in the Middle East, opened Wednesday with a dinner at the Royal Castle in Warsaw’s old town.

Pence addressed the guests: “Tonight I believe we are beginning a new era, with Prime Minister Netanyahu from the State of Israel, with leaders from Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, all breaking bread together, and later in this conference sharing honest perspectives on the challenges facing the area.”

Palestinians have been heavily critical of the conference, with officials describing it as an effort by the US to advance anti-Palestinian positions.

Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.