Mattis said the US remains watchful in assessing Iran’s regional belligerence and influence and its support of terrorism.
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis met with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud and Mohammed bin Salman, the deputy crown prince and defense minister, in Riyadh on Wednesday to discuss the kingdom’s role in regional security and in countering Iranian regional influence.
Mattis told reporters after the meetings that the discussions were candid and highly productive and “could not have gone better.”
He praised Saudi Arabia as “one of our best counter-terrorism partners.”
“It’s very clear that Saudi Arabia is stepping up to its regional leadership role … at a key time in terms of trying to restore stability in this key region in the world,” he said.
In response to a reporter’s question, Mattis said the US remains watchful in assessing Iran’s regional belligerence and influence, including its support for the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon and its “thousands of fighters” in Syria helping President Bashar Assad stay in power.
“Everywhere you look, if there’s trouble in the region, you find Iran,” Mattis said. “The nations in the region and others elsewhere are trying to checkmate Iran and the amount of disruption, the amount of instability they can cause.”
Relating to Iran’s backing of the Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen, Mattis said some Iranian weapons shipments bound for them were intercepted by the French, Australian and US navies.
“We will have to overcome Iran’s efforts to destabilize yet another country and create another militia in their image of Lebanese Hezbollah,” Mattis stated.
Mattis is on a week-long trip to several of America’s key Middle East allies, including Saudi Arabia and Egypt. He is expected to arrive in Israel on Thursday to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman.
Mattis is slated to speak with senior Israeli officials about Iran, Syria, and the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) terror group.
Liberman and Mattis met last month in Washington, D.C., where, Liberman told his counterpart, the US needs to play a more “active” role in the Middle East.
By: Aryeh Savir, World Israel News Staff