Apr 29, 2018
- US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is using the Middle East tour to call for concerted international action against Iran
- Senior US officials traveling with Pompeo blamed Iran for smuggling missiles to Houthi militais in Yemen
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman received on Sunday US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is using the Middle East leg of his first trip abroad as America’s top diplomat to call for concerted international action to punish Iran for its missile programs.
He’s also urging Saudi Arabia and its neighbors to resolve a long-festering dispute with Qatar that US officials say Iran is exploiting to boost its influence in the region, including in Yemen and Syria.
“I think they would all agree that it’s in everyone’s best interests that the Gulf states all figure out how to be together,” Pompeo told reporters as he traveled to Israel. “We’ve got a common challenge in Iran I think they all recognize that. We’re hopeful that they will in their own way figure out their dispute between them.”
The ex-CIA chief arrived in Riyadh a day earlier, shortly after Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen fired missiles at Saudi Arabia’s southern city of Jazan, killing one person and underscoring what US officials said is a growing threat emanating from Iran.
Senior US officials traveling with Pompeo blamed Iran for smuggling the missiles into Yemen. They said the incident highlighted the importance of the Trump administration’s push to counter Iran in the region. Iran has also provided crucial support to Syrian President Bashar Assad.
“Iran destabilizes this entire region,” Pompeo said in brief remarks to journalists with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir, taking no questions. Pompeo also stressed that Gulf unity was “essential.”
Al-Jubeir said the Kingdom “supports the policy of the Trump administration against Iran and to improve the terms of the nuclear agreement with Iran.”
Mediation efforts led by Kuwait and supported by the US, including former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who Trump fired last month, have proven unsuccessful.
Pompeo’s meetings in Saudi Arabia, to be followed by discussions in Israel and Jordan, come just weeks ahead of several key dates that could bring further volatility to the region.
Trump has set a May 12 deadline to decide whether to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal, something he appears likely to do despite heavy pressure to stay in from European and other parties.
Two days later, the US plans to open its new embassy in Jerusalem. That will mark a significant shift in decades of American policy toward Israel and the Palestinians, who also claim the holy city as their capital.