U.S. Defense Secretary Visits Saudi Arabia, Iraq

Reuters24.07.2015 KSA
U.S. Defense Secretary Visits Saudi Arabia, Iraq

U.S. Defense Secretary Visits Saudi Arabia, Iraq

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Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz received U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter in Jeddah on Wednesday, who is on a regional tour aimed at reassuring Washington's allies over a nuclear deal with Iran.

Carter held talks with King Salman (photo) in which he conveyed the greetings of U.S. President Barack Obama and “reviewed relations between the Kingdom and the United States,” according to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

Carter “stressed the United States of America's keenness on enhancing peace and stability in the region,” SPA added.

The meeting was attended by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif, Deputy Premier and Interior Minister, and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, who is Defense Minister and second-in-line to the throne.

The Red Sea city of Jeddah is where the Kingdom's rulers base themselves during the hot summer months.

Saudi Arabia, a regional rival of Iran, worries Tehran could still be able to develop an atomic bomb despite the limitations on its nuclear program agreed to this month under the deal with Washington and five other major powers.

Riyadh and its Gulf neighbors believe the pact will only embolden Tehran's leaders, whom they accuse of “interference” in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

In an effort to calm these worries, Carter proposes to intensify military cooperation with Washington's traditional allies in the Middle East.

On Thursday, Carter made a surprise visit to Baghdad for talks with Iraqi leaders who are trying to reclaim momentum in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) after ceding the city of Ramadi in May.

Carter, on his first visit to Iraq since becoming defense secretary in February, said he aimed to form “my own on the ground assessment of the campaign’ after speaking with U.S. Commanders and Iraqi officials, according to Reuters news agency.

Carter is not expected to announce any major change in U.S. strategy or increase in U.S. troop levels.

The approximately 3,360 troops now in Iraq are largely involved in training Iraqi troops, advising Iraqi Commanders on battle plans, and providing security for U.S. personnel and facilities.

The U.S., joined by several coalition partners, also is conducting airstrikes daily to chip away at the Islamic State's grip on large parts of Iraq.

On Tuesday Carter visited Israel for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who has predicted the Iran nuclear agreement will lead to a regional nuclear arms race.

Netanyahu also fears the deal will help fund Iranian “aggression”.

Source: AFP; Reuters; SPA

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