A top military general from Saudi Arabia says Riyadh has secured a commitment from the Trump administration to significantly increase U.S. intelligence sharing and defense cooperation against Iran-backed proxy militias and other Iranian meddling across the the Middle East.
Brig. Gen. Ahmed al-Asiri made the claim to a small group of reporters in Washington Friday, asserting that Defense Secretary James Mattis and other administration officials, who met with a Saudi delegation at the Pentagon this week, had vowed to “increase the cooperation” on a range of fronts to counter Iran.
The general, who is an adviser to Saudi Arabia’s defense minister and spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition currently battling Iran-backed rebels in Yemen, said the commitment would restore ties between Washington and Riyadh following a “hiccup” in the relations that occurred during the final months of the Obama administration.
His comments came on a week that saw President Trump host Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the White House and roughly two weeks after the State Department approved a major weapons sale to Riyadh that President Obama had blocked last year over human rights concerns in the Yemen campaign.
The Saudis launched their military intervention in Yemen in 2015 with backing from a coalition of predominantly Arab powers, including the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and others.
While Riyadh’s stated goal was to restore Yemen’s government, which had been ousted by rebels, the conflict has morphed over the past two years into what analysts describe as a proxy war between the Middle East’s leading Sunni Muslim monarchy and its main regional rival, the Shiite powerhouse of Iran.