In Mideast, Mike Pompeo seeks global coalition against Iran but also holds door open for Tehran talks

The Japan Times

WASHINGTON - Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday he wants to build a global coalition against Iran during urgent consultations in the Middle East, following a week of crisis that saw the United States pull back from the brink of a military strike on Iran. Pompeo said his first stop is Saudi Arabia, followed by the United Arab Emirates. Both U.S. allies work to counter Iran's influence in the region. "We'll be talking with them about how to make sure that we are all strategically aligned, and how we can build out a global coalition, a coalition not only throughout the Gulf states, but in Asia and in Europe, that understands this challenge as it is prepared to push back against the world's largest state sponsor of terror," he said about Iran. But even as Pompeo delivered his tough talk, he echoed President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in saying the U.S. is prepared to negotiate with Iran, without preconditions, in a bid to ease tensions that have been mounting ever since Trump withdrew the U.S. from a global nuclear deal with Iran and began pressuring Tehran with economic sanctions.


Mike Pompeo in Mideast seeks to build coalition against Iran but faces hard sell

The Japan Times

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held talks Monday 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. 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 U.S. surveillance drone on June 20 and Trump said he aborted a retaliatory strike, Iran's naval commander warned that his forces won't hesitate to down more U.S. drones that violate its airspace. The U.S. has been building up its military presence in the Persian Gulf. The U.S. announced additional sanctions Monday on Iran aimed at pressuring the Iranian leadership into talks.


Saudi crown prince accuses rival Iran of tanker attacks

The Japan Times

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in remarks published Sunday that the kingdom will not hesitate to confront threats to its security and joined the U.S. in accusing its bitter rival, Iran, of being behind the attacks on two vessels traveling near the Strait of Hormuz, a vital trade route for Arabian energy exports in Asia. The U.S. has blamed Iran for the suspected attacks on two oil tankers, denouncing what it called a campaign of "escalating tensions." The U.S. alleges Iran used limpet mines to target the tankers, pointing to black-and-white footage it captured that American officials describe as Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops removing an unexploded mine from the Japanese-operated tanker Kokuka Courageous. The Japanese tanker's crew members described "flying objects" as having targeted the vessel, seemingly contradicting the assertion that limpet mines were used. In an interview with the Arabic-language newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, Prince Mohammed said Iran disrespected the visit to Tehran by the Japanese prime minister last week and responded to his diplomatic efforts to reduce regional tensions by attacking the two tankers.


Saudi, UAE officials call for regime change in Iran at US summit

Al Jazeera

The foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, the ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to Washington, and the director of Israel's Mossad spy agency have joined ranks in pushing for regime change in Iran. Speaking alongside US National Security Adviser John Bolton and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir called for the overthrow of the Iranian government, saying the Islamic Republic was unlikely to change on its own volition. "Unless the pressure internally is extremely intense, I don't believe they will open up," Jubeir said at the United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) conference in New York City, which was attended by states that opposed the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. "How can we negotiate with a state that wants to kill us," Jubeir said in remarks carried by UAE newspaper The National. Saudi and Emirati officials welcomed Washington's decision to abandon the 2015 Iran deal - known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) - under which Iran agreed to curb its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief, it reported.


Drone war takes flight, raising stakes in Iran-U.S. tensions as Israel wades in

The Japan Times

NEW YORK – From the vast deserts of Saudi Arabia to the crowded neighborhoods of Beirut, a drone war has taken flight across the wider Middle East, raising the stakes in the ongoing tensions between the U.S. and Iran. In the year since President Donald Trump withdrew America from Iran's nuclear deal, there's been an increasing tempo of attacks and alleged threats from unmanned aircraft flown by Tehran's and Washington's allies in the region. The appeal of the aircraft -- they risk no pilots and can be small enough to evade air-defense systems -- fueled their rapid use amid the maximum pressure campaigns of Iran and the U.S. As these strikes become more frequent, the risk of unwanted escalation becomes greater. The U.S. military nearly launched airstrikes against Iran after a U.S. military surveillance drone was shot down in June. Meanwhile, Israeli fighter jets attack targets in Syria on an almost weekly basis, including on Saturday night.