Like President Donald Trump, the new US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo chose Saudi Arabia to be his first West Asia tour destination. Pompeo visited the Arab kingdom only days after he was approved for the post by the Senate to lead the country’s foreign policy apparatus. Together with the warm reception he was given by the Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and the Saudi ambassador to the US Khaled bin Salman, the brother of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, this issue reflects the degree of the visit’s importance for the two sides.
West Asia, experiencing its most unstable and sensitive period at the present time, has always occupied a special place in the US foreign policy as an international power with the biggest influence because of the region’s significant geopolitical characteristics. The Saudis’ approach traditionally has been to drag Washington to the region both to save Riyadh’s interests and also protect the Al Saud rule over the Arab Peninsula. That is what makes Pompeo’s view to the regional cases of great significance in the Saudis’ eyes.
Promoting Iranophobia for Saudi-Israeli diplomatic normalization
One crucial mission of the new Secretary of State was acceleration of efforts toward normalization of diplomatic relations between the Israeli regime and the Arab world. Pompeo traveled to occupied Palestinian territories and then Jordan after Saudi Arabia.
Over the past few decades, the Americans sought diligently to create a climate of Iranophobia across the region both to justify their military presence in the geopolitically and geoeconomically-important West Asia and replace Tehran with Tel Aviv as the main enemy of the Arab world to serve the allied Israelis’ interests. This agenda has met its new levels as Trump took the office at the White House last year. Many analysts suggest that bin Salman’s measures for the thaw with Tel Aviv are an outcome of a deal with the Americans: I recognize Israel and you help me ascend the throne.
From another perspective, intimidating the Arab rulers from Iran serves the US economically as it builds ground for Washington to seal huge military deals with the Arab monarchies as Trump approaches the foreign policy from a profiteering viewpoint.
This political pathway drew serious welcome of Saudi Arabia whose policy under King Salman’s rule grew belligerent towards Iran. Amid fierce contest over regional influence with Tehran, Riyadh urged the Western allies to put strains on the Islamic Republic.
Pompeo visited the oil-rich kingdom on day when the Yemeni Ansarullah movement fired missiles into the Saudi province of Jizan in retaliation to a last week air raid killing Saleh al-Sammad, president of Yemen’s Supreme Political Council, a transitional governing body. Playing into the hands of Saudis, the American delegation accused Iran of supplying rockets to Yemen and highlighted Trump administration’s resolve to confront Tehran in the region. In a joint press conference with al-Jubeir, Pompeo claimed that Iran “destabilizes” the region.
The Iranian nuclear deal, reached with the six world powers in 2015, was reportedly one among other cases of discussion between the US diplomat and Saudis. Trump is slated to have his say on whether he will continue in the agreement or withdraw from it on May 12. Pompeo staged the last debates with the key US allies, Saudi Arabia and the Israel regime, on the case. Al-Jubeir maintained that the kingdom backs Trump’s push to amend the nuclear accord.
US embassy relocation to Al-Quds
Last week, Trump announced that he will soon move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to al-Quds (Jerusalem), which he recognized in last December as the capital of the Israeli state. The measure brings to an end several-decade US mediation in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. The plan will officially terminate the two-state solution, a peace model eyeing Eastern al-Quds as a Palestinian state’s capital. Having in mind that the move could prove heavily detrimental to the US interests regionally with regard to the Muslim public sensitivity, Pompeo was tasked with getting Riyadh, Tel Aviv, and Aman on his side to prepare the situation for the relocation.
Blackmailing Saudi Arabia in Syria
Pompeo also had a mission to make the Arab allies pay for the US intervention and stay in Syria and also Washington’s general support for the Persian Gulf Arab regimes. Trump has recently announced that American forces will “very soon” leave northern Syria unless the Arab allies shoulder the costs of their presence in the war-ravaged nation. He also said that the Arab governments “wouldn’t last for a week” without the US support. The new Secretary of State also pressed the wealthy Saudis to bear the costs. In return, the media outlets quoted informed US officials, Pompeo assured the Saudi leaders that Washington was still committed to defending its regional allies.
The administration diplomats, the news reports added, said that Pompeo asked Saudi Arabia to show a commitment to do more to help stabilize the eastern Syria regions freshly liberated from ISIS terrorist group.
Saudi Arabia is now feeling the pinch as it has begun the costly projects eyed within the ambitious Vision 2030 and also low oil prices which means lower income. As a result, the regime has resorted to austerity measures, selling 5 percent of the state-owned oil giant Aramco, and even extorting huge money from the wealthy princes and businessmen under the anti-corruption campaign.
Seeing these financial difficulties, the Saudis seek to pass the US-demanded costs to other Arab states. During the press conference with Pompeo, al-Jubeir recognized Qatar as the main addressee of Trump’s pay-related words. But Doha immediately dismissed his claim.
Addressing Cooperation Council’s crisis
The rift inside (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council was another point of discussion during the trip. In last summer, Saudi-led Arab bloc– involving the UAE, Egypt, and Bahrain– imposed a blockade on Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism and also blaming it for friendly ties with Iran. Pompeo asked the Saudis to put an end to the divisions engulfing the six-nation council.