In his first visit to the Persian Gulf region after the assassination of the top Iranian General Qssem Soleimani in early January, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Saudi Arabia on Wednesday. Pompeo met with the Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz and the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The top US diplomat visit to the region comes while over the past few months on the one hand the regional states, even Saudi Arabia, showed willingness to de-escalate tensions with Tehran and on the other hand the Americans over the past few days launched a largely propagandistic campaign claiming that they intercepted a Yemen-bound arms shipment sent from Iran.
But what are the real goals behind the visit?
Keeping the anti-Iranian campaign warm
Definitely, the most important aim of Pompeo’s visit is to keep the antipathy to Iran warm, mainly by fueling Iranophobia and persuading Riyadh leaders to continue their anti-Iranian policy. A recent report published by the State Department that highlights the American-Saudi relations and Washington’s support against alleged Tehran threats bears witness to this fact.
Just before Pompeo’s visit, the State Department published a report on relations with the Arab kingdom. It said that the Americans along with their Saudi allies will keep being coordinated in the region “especially in the face of Iranian aggression.”
On December 9, a Trump administration official called Saudi Arabia a “significant US partner” against Iran and praised the Arab monarchy for its help to push back against the Islamic Republic.
“The U.S.-Saudi partnership is a critical bulwark for peace and stability in the Middle East, especially in the face of Iranian aggression in Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria. Saudi Arabia helps to ensure the stability of global energy markets and participates in multi-nation task forces working to protect freedom of navigation across critical Gulf trade routes,” the recent State Department statement read.
Upon his arrival to Riyadh, Pompeo said that the US needed the Saudi company to face the Iranian behavior in the region, promising that the US administration is committed to the protection of the Saudi security. These remarks demonstrate that he based his recent visit on a campaign of Iranophobia and pressuring the Saudi rulers to continue their antipathy to Iran.
Setting up roadblocks to Iranian-Arab de-escalation
Amid efforts to press the Saudis to continue their anti-Iranian policy, Pompeo tried to block the simmering efforts led by some Arab sides to de-escalate tensions with the Islamic Republic. In fact, after several years of comprehensive anti-Iranian policy and unsuccessfully pushing for a NATO-style Arab military force, Arab countries, mainly those leading this campaign, have come up with the notion that they have taken a risky path in dealing with Iran and this will yield no results for them. Now they begin to believe that the best way is de-escalation and normalization with the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The Iranian peace initiative, Hormuz Peace Endeavor (HOPE), in October last year was unveiled by Tehran to the Arab neighbors, suggesting dialogue to end the regional tensions. The initiative drew severe concerns of the Trump administration as it at the same time drew welcome from some Arab states. Since then, the Americans started efforts to block any efforts to ease the Iranian-Arab tensions. They at the same time pursue Arab-Israeli diplomatic normalization by giving a leading role to the Saudis.
Keeping to “milk” Saudi Arabia
The Americans seem to have other objectives behind Riyadh visit. They try to keep milking the oil-wealthy kingdom financially as they did over the past years, mainly since Trump assumed the power in 2017. President Trump very seriously keeps his eyes on the Saudi petrodollars and does not hide his intention to milk the kingdom even further. In his election campaign Trump called Saudi Arabia a “milk cow” that should be milked and slaughtered after its milk runs out.
While the US moves closer and closer to its November election, Trump attempts to attract as much possible as the Saudi petrodollars to the American economy to keep the economy in a convenient course. The fact is that any new economic recession can turn the economy into Trump’s Achilles heel in the presidential race against the Democrats. So, Another Pompeo mission is to persuade the Saudis to keep buying arms from American weapons manufacturers. He even can go farther asking the Saudis to arrange cash flow to the Trump election campaign.
-Pompeo visited Saudi Arabia