US secretary of state Mike Pompeo has held talks with the Saudi king and crown prince about countering the military threat from Iran by building a broad, global coalition that includes Asian and European countries.
Mr Pompeo is likely to face a tough sell in Europe and Asia, particularly from those nations still committed to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran that President Donald Trump repudiated last year.
With tensions running high in the region after Iran shot down a US surveillance drone on June 20 and Mr Trump said he aborted a retaliatory strike, Iran’s naval commander warned that his forces will not hesitate to down more US drones that violate its airspace.
The US has been building up its military presence in the Persian Gulf.
Productive meeting with King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud today to discuss heightened tensions in the region and the need to promote maritime security in the Strait of Hormuz. Freedom of navigation is paramount. pic.twitter.com/efuZq5EOpK
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) June 24, 2019
The US announced additional sanctions Monday on Iran aimed at pressuring the Iranian leadership into talks.
The sanctions, re-imposed after Mr Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal, have crippled the Iranian economy and pushed up the cost of living.
Iran has decried US sanctions, which essentially bar it from selling its oil internationally, as “economic terrorism”.
Mr Pompeo, considered a hard-liner in Washington, referred to Iran as “the world’s largest state sponsor of terror” before he embarked on the hastily arranged Middle East stops on his way to India, Japan and South Korea.
He said he would be speaking with leaders in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates “about how to make sure that we are all strategically aligned, and how we can build out a global coalition … not only throughout the Gulf states, but in Asia and in Europe” that is prepared to push back against Iran.
But Germany, France and Britain, as well as Russia and China, remain part of the nuclear accord that lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for set limits on its uranium enrichment levels.
Mr Trump pulled the US out of the deal last year.
Germany, Britain and France have sent envoys to Tehran recently, signalling they remain committed to diplomacy and dialogue.
They cautioned against moves that can lead to conflict between the US and Iran.