Kerry appears ill at ease in Riyadh where he sought to assure Gulf allies

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In a visit intended to reassure America’s ally Saudi Arabia over Iran’s continued “interference” in the Middle East, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry instead appeared uneasy and defensive, reports said.

Kerry met in Riyadh on Jan. 23 with Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) foreign ministers.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir on Jan. 23. /AP
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir on Jan. 23. /AP

“Overall I think the United States is very aware of the danger of Iran’s mischief and nefarious activities… I don’t believe the United States is under any illusion as to what type of government Iran is,” Jubeir said.

Kerry responded by saying “the United States remains concerned about ‘some’ of the activities that Iran is engaged in in other countries,” citing Teheran’s “support for terrorist groups like Hizbullah.”

Earlier, a senior State Department official told reporters the U.S. understands Saudi anger over the recent attacks on its diplomatic facilities in Iran but that “lessening tensions is an important objective.”

Saudi Arabia and several of its allies cut diplomatic ties with Iran after Iranian protesters attacked Riyadh’s embassy in Teheran and a consulate in Mashhad city.

Last week, Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei criticized the attacks on the Saudi facilities, but critics dismissed the comments as bluster, pointing out that “such protests in authoritarian-ruled Iran could only occur with government assent, if not direct encouragement.”

Saudi Arabia and other GCC nations have been vocal about the lack of engagement in the region by the Obama administration, particularly when it comes to Iran’s “interference” in Yemen, Syria and Lebanon.

Kerry said “we have made it clear that we stand with our friends in Saudi Arabia” on Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition is engaged in war with Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

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