RIYADH: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived today in Saudi Arabia in a hastily arranged visit amid mounting tensions between Washington and Tehran.
Pompeo, considered a hard-liner in the Trump administration, is expected to meet with Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Saudi city of Jiddah, before heading to Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, another close U.S. ally and partner.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are alarmed by Iran’s military reach and are working to limit its influence in the region.
The downing of the drone, valued at more than $100 million, saw the United States pull back from the brink of a military strike on Iran after President Donald Trump last week called off strikes in retaliation.
Iran’s naval commander, Rear Adm. Hossein Khanzadi, threatened Washington, saying that Tehran is capable of shooting down other American spy drones that violate Iranian airspace.
Tensions have been mounting since Trump last year withdrew the U.S. from a global nuclear deal with Iran and began pressuring Tehran with economic sanctions.
A fresh round of Iran sanctions is to be announced Monday in a bid to force the Iranian leadership into talks. Iran has decried the U.S. sanctions, which essentially bar Iran from selling its oil internationally, as “economic terrorism.”
Before his departure to the kingdom, Pompeo said he wants to build a global coalition against Iran.
“We’ll be talking with them about how to make sure that we are all strategically aligned, and how we can build out a global coalition, a coalition not only throughout the Gulf states, but in Asia and in Europe, that understands this challenge as it is prepared to push back against the world’s largest state sponsor of terror,” Pompeo said about Iran.
But even as Pompeo delivered his tough talk, he echoed Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in saying the U.S. is prepared to negotiate with Iran, without preconditions, in a bid to ease tensions.
“They know precisely how to find us,” Pompeo said.
Pompeo, who addressed reporters from the tarmac before he boarded his airplane in Washington, declared the goal of his talks with the Saudi kingdom and the UAE is to deny Iran “the resources to foment terror, to build out their nuclear weapon system, to build out their missile program.”