Washington: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is touring the Middle East and Asia looking to build a global coalition against Iran, following a week of crisis that saw the United States pull back from the brink of a military strike on Iran.
Pompeo spoke as he left Washington for Saudi Arabia, then United Arab Emirates. The Sunni Arab allies are alarmed by Shiite Iran’s increasing assertiveness and are working to limit its influence in the region. His stops in Jeddah and Abu Dhabi were hastily arranged late last week as additions to a trip to India from where he will join President Donald Trump in Japan and South Korea. But they were not announced until immediately before his departure in a sign of fast-moving and unpredictable developments.
“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 US is prepared to negotiate with Iran, without preconditions, in a bid to ease tensions. Those tensions have been mounting since Trump last year withdrew the US from a global nuclear deal with Iran and began pressuring Tehran with economic sanctions. A fresh round of Iran sanctions is to be announced on Monday in a bid to force the Iranian leadership into talks.