Saudi Arabia sought assurances on Wednesday that the United States stands firmly against Iranian “interference” in the Middle East during a visit by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.
Carter held talks in Jeddah with Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, second deputy premier and minister of defense, and said Iran’s “potential for aggression” was a shared concern.
During their meeting, the US official conveyed to the king the greetings of US President Barack Obama; for his part, the king sent his greetings to Obama.
Carter told reporters aboard his plane that both the king and the defense minister reiterated their support of the Iranian nuclear deal.
“The only reservations we discussed were ones that we thoroughly share, mainly that we attend to verification of the agreement as it is implemented,” Carter said after the four-hour visit, according to AFP.
Carter sought to emphasize US and Saudi concern about Iran, citing “malign activities in the region and potential for aggression.” He singled Iran out along with Islamic State militants — who Tehran is currently fighting — as the top two shared challenges facing both nations and noted concerns in Yemen.
“The Iranian influence with the Houthis is real,” Carter said, according to another report by the Associated Press.
Under a so-called “snapback” mechanism, sanctions can be reinstated if world powers feel Iran has not met its commitments under the Vienna agreement.
There are worries the Iran deal could spark a nuclear race in the Middle East.
Carter told reporters that the king will visit the US to meet Obama later this year. “We talked about the need that both the Saudis and we share for a political settlement in Yemen. That is the way to peace, to restore the humanitarian situation there,” he said.
Carter said military cooperation including the training of Saudi special forces, cyber security and missile defense systems also came up for discussion in the Kingdom.
He returned Wednesday afternoon to Jordan, another member of the anti-Daesh coalition, for discussions with the Jordanian military.
Anwar Eshki, chairman of the Jeddah-based Center for Strategic and Legal Studies, said he believed Carter would try to “reassure the Gulf countries, and the Kingdom especially, that the US will not allow Iran to carry out activities that will destabilize the Middle East.”
He said Saudi Arabia would talk about boosting its defenses and “how to confront Iran” if destabilizing actions increase as a result of the nuclear deal.
Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir last week warned Iran not to use the economic benefits of the nuclear agreement to fund “adventures in the region.” If it does, “we’re committed to confront it resolutely,” said Al-Jubeir.