Pompeo visits Saudi Arabia in first of 5-nation swing

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Saudi Arabia Monday to meet with King Salman and discuss confronting Iran in the first of a five-nation tour by the United States’ chief diplomat.

Saudi King Salman speaks Monday with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Pompeo’s visit comes at a time of heightened tensions and an Iranian shootdown last week of a U.S. military drone. President Donald Trump has threatened new sanctions on Iran in response, after canceled military strikes three days ago.

“Productive meeting with King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud today to discuss heightened tensions in the region and the need to promote maritime security in the Strait of Hormuz,” Pompeo said in a Twitter post Monday. “Freedom of navigation is tantamount.”

The State Department said Pompeo will also meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, who the CIA has blamed for the death last fall of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. A United Nations investigation last week held he and other Saudi officials responsible.

U.S. officials have also blamed Iran for attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman in recent months. Pompeo said surveillance video showed the Iranian military retrieving one mine that didn’t explode. Iran, in turn, issued blanket denials for any involvement in the attacks.

Monday’s visit came one day after the White House rolled out the economic portion of its Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, which included a $50 billion stimulus package. Presidential adviser Jared Kushner said the package is key to the peace plan, with funds going to the Palestinian territories, Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan.

Pompeo will also travel to the United Arab Emirates, India, Japan and South Korea during this week’s diplomatic swing, which runs through Sunday.

ByClyde Hughes