UPDATED 1:07 PM PT — Monday, June 24, 2019
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to Saudi Arabia to discuss forming a “global coalition” with European and Middle Eastern allies to crack down on the Iranian regime.
During the first leg of his visit he met with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who have thrown their support behind the White House’s high pressure campaign against Tehran. In a recent tweet, Pompeo said he also discussed maritime security with the pair.
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
He appeared to be referencing reports that Iran was behind the recent attacks on two oil tankers in the Straight of Hormuz. For years the U.S. military has served as a guard dog to protect the valuable trade route, which is something President Trump has expressed frustration over. Lawmakers, including Pompeo, have called for foreign allies to do more to protect their own interests in the waterway.
U.S. especial envoy to Iran Brian Hook touched on the matter during a recent interview.
“Iran has been engaging in these attacks that affect many countries around the world…this is not limited to the United States and Saudi and UAE — I think what’s required is an international response,” said Hook. “There’s an opportunity for counties to play a role contributing maritime security, so that we can deter any future attacks by Iran on oil tankers.”
Tension between Tehran and the White House hit a fever pitch following those attacks. Over the weekend, reports emerged the White House launched cyber strikes against the Iranian military after the country shot down a U.S. drone, but Tehran claimed the attacks were unsuccessful.
In the meantime, the administration is moving forward with another round of tariffs designed to cripple the country’s economy. Iran’s foreign minister said he was in talks with leaders from several countries, including China, India and Russia to establish trade “backchannels” in the hopes of side-stepping those sanctions.
As the back and forth continues, the president has signaled he’s open to negotiate an easing of financial penalties under the condition Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon. However, Iran’s recent actions suggest they will remain defiant toward the White House, leaving the door open to a possible military confrontation.