Pompeo in Saudi Arabia to talk about Iran
Riyadh wants the US to take a tougher stance towards Tehran, experts say
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrives in Riyadh on Wednesday amid escalating tensions in the Middle East.
Agenda items include tensions with Iran, the administration’s peace plan for the Middle East, ongoing war in Yemen, and human rights.
Pompeo’s visit comes at a time when both countries are restructuring their approach to unresolved regional issues and their bilateral relations..
The United States and Saudi Arabia have long shared concerns over Iran’s nuclear ambitions and destabilizing activities in the Middle East..
But experts say Saudi Arabia is asking the US to take a tougher stance.
According to Riyadh, Iran’s attack on Saudi oil facilities last September caused only a restrained reaction from Washington..
This is just one of the issues that the representatives of Saudi Arabia want to raise in negotiations with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, said Middle East expert Bader al-Saif..
“The attacks have raised alarm on the Saudi side,” said Bader al-Saif, who represents Kuwait University. “They realized that they needed to act on their own in order to maintain their safety. I think Pompeo’s visit will go in this direction. “.
January assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in US missile strike raised the stakes on conflict in the region.
According to al-Saif, the Saudi side made it clear that they want to have a say in any decisions that the United States will make..
“The United States understands that it cannot move forward against Iran without the assistance of Saudi Arabia,” he stressed. “They are the regional hegemon and should be treated as equals.”.
War in Yemen between Iranian-backed Houthi rebels and Saudi Arabian-backed government forces remains a source of friction with Washington.
Congress calls on Trump administration not to provide military assistance to Saudi Arabia in efforts to reduce violence in Yemen.
Congress also opposed aid to Saudi Arabia following the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Turkey..
However, the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia is unlikely to be a major obstacle in its relationship with the administration of President Donald Trump..
“Human rights have never been a priority in US-Saudi Arabia relations under the current administration,” said Yasmin Farouk, a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. – This is not a priority for the Trump administration and the region as a whole. This applies not only to Saudi Arabia “.
More than 500 days have passed since Khashoggi’s death, but the Saudi authorities have not released the details of the investigation and subsequent trial..
Professor al-Saif warns against applying “Western standards” when assessing the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia.
“They have their own understanding of human rights and they will stick to it,” he stressed. – The situation is not unique to Saudi Arabia. We have heard that the same is happening in Russia and China and other non-Western countries. “.
The US administration also expects Saudi Arabia to support its plan for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which the Palestinians strongly reject..
It is not yet clear what kind of support Saudi Arabia can offer to convince the Palestinians to come to an agreement..