New US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stressed the need for unity among Gulf allies during a visit to Riyadh on Sunday as Washington aimed to muster support for new sanctions against Iran.
Pompeo reassured Saudi Arabia that the United States would abandon the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, reached under President Donald Trump’s predecessor, unless talks with European partners yielded improvements to ensure the Islamic Republic never possessed nuclear weapons.
“Iran destabilises this entire region. It supports proxy militias and terrorist groups. It is an arms dealer to the Houthi rebels in Yemen. It supports the murderous Assad regime [in Syria] as well,” he said in joint remarks with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir.
“Gulf unity is necessary and we need to achieve it.” Pompeo also addressed the rift between Qatar and its neighbours, telling reporters after leaving Riyadh: “We are hopeful that they will, in their own way, figure out how to remove the dispute between them.”
Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, cut off travel and trade ties with Qatar last June, accusing it of supporting terrorism and arch-rival Iran on the other side of the Gulf.
Doha has denied the accusations and has said its three fellow Gulf countries aim to curtail its sovereignty. For its part, Iran denies supporting terrorism or having sought to develop nuclear weapons.
The United States, which has military bases in both Qatar and some of the countries lined up against it, is trying to mediate the Qatar feud. Trump publicly sided with the Saudis and Emiratis early in the crisis but is now pushing for a resolution to maintain a united front against Iran.
Senior State Department officials had said Pompeo, in discussions with Saudi leaders, would discuss Iran’s behaviour in the region and call for sanctions to curb its ballistic missile programme, a sentiment echoed by his Saudi counterpart.
Yemen’s armed Houthi movement has fired over 100 missiles into Saudi Arabia, the latest salvo killing a man on Saturday in the southern Saudi province of Jizan.
The US and the Saudi-led coalition that intervened in Yemen’s civil war in 2015 accuses Iran of providing the missiles to its Houthi allies, which Tehran denies.