Saudi foreign minister says Iran needs to face 'stringent set of punishments'
Pompeo says Iran 'biggest sponsor of terrorism in the world'
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has taken a firm stance against Saudi Arabia’s regional rival, saying the US will “not neglect the vast scope of Iran’s terrorism”.
During his trip to Riyadh, Mr Pompeo said that “unlike the previous administration”, Washington will stand by Saudi Arabia against Iran’s growing influence in the region.
“It is indeed the greatest sponsor of terrorism in the world, and we are determined to make sure it never possesses a nuclear weapon,” he said in a joint press briefing on Sunday.
Speaking after his Saudi counterpart, Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir, Mr Pompeo said that the nuclear deal with Iran was among many grievances the US planned to address.
“Iran destabilises this entire region and it supports proxy militias and terrorist groups, it is an arms dealer to the Houthi rebels in Yemen, conducts cyber-attack campaigns and it supports the murderous Assad regime as well,” he said.
Mr Pompeo reiterated the US stance on Iran when he travelled on to Israel, where the tough line was welcomed.
Israel considers Iran its greatest threat and has been leading calls for the international community to revise its 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Mr Pompeo repeated US President Donald Trump’s take on the deal, saying, “if we can’t fix it, he is going to withdraw”.
“We remain deeply concerned about Iran’s dangerous escalation of threats to Israel and the region and Iran’s ambition to dominate the Middle East remains,” Mr Pompeo said after meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“The United States is with Israel in this fight.”
Mr Pompeo did not attempt to contact the Palestinian leadership during his visit, a Palestinian official told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
Mr Al Jubeir said Saudi Arabia supported Mr Trump’s Iran policy and efforts to improve the nuclear deal.
Mr Al Jubeir said the two agreed on details regarding the deal, particularly that Iran should never be allowed to enrich uranium.
The deal allows Iran to enrich uranium for use in civilian nuclear power plants.
In March, Iran said it could begin producing more highly enriched uranium within two days if the US pulled out of the nuclear deal.
“The Iranian problem should be dealt with by a more stringent set of punishments for the country, for its ballistic provisions and its negative influence in the region,” Mr Al Jubeir said.
Mr Pompeo also met King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Sunday, three days after the former CIA director was sworn in to his new role.
He said they followed up on agreements made during Prince Mohammed’s three-week trip to the US last month.
Mr Pompeo and Mr Al Jubeir also highlighted Yemen as a key issue. Saudi Arabia intervened in the war, as part of an Arab Coalition, in May 2015 to support the internationally recognised government of Abdrabu Mansur Hadi against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.
“While we will continue to support Saudi Arabia with its defence needs and support its right to defend its own borders, a political solution is the only way to advance long-term stability in Yemen and put an end to the humanitarian situation, I know we agree on that,” said Mr Pompeo.
Saudi Arabia has also been embroiled in a diplomatic crisis with Qatar that has split the GCC since June 5, 2017.
The only mention Mr Pompeo made of the Qatar boycott by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt was to stress that "Gulf unity is necessary, and we need to achieve it”.