US-UAE defence agreement comes into force
The United States and the United Arab Emirates announced Wednesday that mutual defence cooperation agreement had come into force, amid increasing tensions between Washington and Tehran.
"The DCA (Defense Cooperation Agreement) will enhance military coordination between the United States and the United Arab Emirates, further advancing an already robust military, political, and economic partnership at a critical time," a joint statement said.
"The United States and the United Arab Emirates share a deep interest in promoting prosperity and stability in the region.
"The DCA will advance that interest by fostering closer collaboration on defense and security matters and supporting efforts by both nations to maintain security in the Gulf region."
US national security advisor John Bolton was in Abu Dhabi Wednesday, meeting his Emirati counterpart, Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Bolton said Iran was almost certainly behind recent oil tanker attacks that sent Gulf tensions soaring.
This came on the eve of emergency Arab and Gulf summits called by Saudi Arabia to discuss the stand-off and ways to isolate Tehran. An Islamic summit is set for Friday.
Two Saudi oil tankers, among four vessels, were the targets of acts of sabotage off the UAE this month, and Iran-aligned Yemeni rebels have stepped up drone attacks on the kingdom -- one of which resulted in the temporary shutdown of a major oil pipeline.
Saudi Arabia and the US have accused Iran of being the mastermind behind the Yemeni rebels' attack on the pipeline, while an investigation has been launched into the attacks on ships off the UAE. US officials have blamed them on Iran and its proxy groups in the region.
On Friday, US President Donald Trump bypassed Congress to sell $8.1 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia and other Arab allies, citing the threat from Iran.
John Bolton warned Iran on Wednesday that any attacks in the Arabian Gulf will draw a "very strong response" from the US Bolton told journalists that there had been a previously unknown attempt to attack the Saudi oil port of Yanbu as well, which he also blamed on Iran.
"The point is to make it very clear to Iran and its surrogates that these kinds of action risk a very strong response from the United States," Bolton warned, without elaborating.
Bolton spoke before talks with Abu Dhabi's crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Bolton blamed Tehran for the recent incidents, saying it was "almost certainly" Iran that planted explosives on the four oil tankers off the UAE coast. He declined to offer any evidence for his claims.
"Who else would you think is doing it?" Bolton asked at one point when pressed. "Somebody from Nepal?"
Meanwhile, acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said some 900 troops coming to the Mideast to reinforce the tens of thousands already in the region would be placed in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Another 600 attached to a Patriot missile battery have had their deployment in the region extended.
"The Iranian threat to our forces in the region remains," Shanahan said.
Speaking in Abu Dhabi, Bolton linked the rocket fire in Baghdad, the alleged sabotage of the ships and the drone attack by Yemen's rebels, describing them as a response from Iran and its proxies.
"I think it's important that the leadership in Iran to know that we know," Bolton said. He then brought up what he said could be a considered a fourth, previously unknown attack.