Wednesday 17 October 2018

Pompeo offers strong support for Israel over Iran threats

The US Secretary of State said Iran ‘destablises’ the Middle East.

Mike Pompeo during a press conference with Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (Amr Nabil/AP)
Mike Pompeo during a press conference with Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (Amr Nabil/AP)

By Matthew Lee and Josef Federman, Associated Press

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo 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.

Mr Pompeo arrived in Israel to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday, after a stop in Saudi Arabia.

Both countries are fierce rivals of Iran, and have welcomed the Trump administration’s hard line toward the Tehran government.

“Iran destabilises this entire region,” Mr Pompeo said before he flew to Tel Aviv.

Ahead of their meeting, Mr Netanyahu called the US Secretary of State a “true friend” of Israel and said their talks would focus on Iran’s “growing aggression” in the region and the international nuclear deal with Iran.

President Donald Trump is set to decide by May 12 whether to remain in the deal.

Israel considers Iran to be its greatest threat and has been an outspoken critic of the 2015 nuclear deal.

In Saudi Arabia, Mr Pompeo urged the Saudis and their neighbours to resolve a festering dispute with Qatar that US officials say Iran is exploiting to boost its influence in the region, including in Yemen and Syria.

Mr Pompeo met Saudi King Salman, whose country, along with Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, is embroiled in a row with Qatar that has hobbled Gulf Arab unity and frustrated the US as it seeks to blunt growing Iranian assertiveness.

“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,” Mr Pompeo told reporters. “We’ve got a common challenge in Iran, I think they all recognise that. We’re hopeful that they will in their own way figure out their dispute between them.”

The ex-CIA chief’s meetings in Saudi Arabia and Israel, to be followed by discussions in 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, marking a significant shift in decades of American policy toward Israel and the Palestinians.

The embassy move is deeply opposed by the Palestinians, who on May 15 will mark the anniversary of what they term the “nakba,” or catastrophe, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were driven from their homes during the 1948 war that attended Israel’s creation.

Mr Pompeo also is taking a leading role in President Trump’s preparations for an expected summit in May or early June with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

He told reporters he did not think a US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal would complicate negotiations.

“I don’t think Kim Jung Un is staring at the Iran deal and saying, ‘Oh goodness, if they get out of that deal, I won’t talk to the Americans any more’. There are higher priorities, things he is more concerned about than whether the Americans stay (in the accord),” he said.

Press Association

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