Pompeo says US-Saudi partnership vital for Mideast stability
WASHINGTON - US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended Washington’s ties with Riyadh, saying that Saudi Arabia is too important an ally to lose.
“The kingdom is a powerful force for stability in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia is working to secure Iraq’s fragile democracy and keep Baghdad tethered to the West’s interests, not Tehran’s,” wrote Pompeo in an opinion article published in the Wall Street Journal.
“Riyadh is helping manage the flood of refugees fleeing Syria’s civil war by working with host countries, cooperating closely with Egypt, and establishing stronger ties with Israel,” he added.
“Saudi Arabia has also contributed millions of dollars to the US-led effort to fight Islamic State and other terrorist organizations. Saudi oil production and economic stability are keys to regional prosperity and global energy security.”
Pompeo said it would be “a grave mistake” to degrade US-Saudi ties following the murder of Saudi journalists Jamal Khashoggi in his country’s consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
“The US doesn’t condone the Khashoggi killing, which is fundamentally inconsistent with American values—something I have told the Saudi leadership privately as well as publicly,” said Pompeo.
“Abandoning or downgrading the US-Saudi alliance,” said Pompeo, would “do nothing to push Riyadh in a better direction at home.”
Pompeo defended Saudi Arabia’s war on the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, adding that the US involvement had helped reduce civilian casualties there.
“The Trump administration has taken many steps to mitigate Yemen’s suffering from war, disease and famine. We have exerted effort to improve Saudi targeting to minimize civilian casualties, and we have galvanized humanitarian assistance through our own generous example,” said Pompeo.
“The US is pleased to announce it is providing nearly $131 million in additional food assistance for Yemen, bringing total humanitarian aid to more than $697 million over the past 14 months. The funds are being provided to the World Food Program and other organizations working to feed the Yemeni people,” he added.
“Without US efforts, the death toll in Yemen would be far higher.”