A top Saudi military general says the Trump Administration has vowed it will significantly increase US intelligence support and defense cooperation with Riyadh against “Iran-backed” Houthis in Yemen.
Brig. Gen. Ahmed al-Asiri, who serves as an adviser to the kingdom's defense minister and a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen, told reporters on Friday that Trump Administration officials had promised a Saudi delegation in Washington to increase cooperation in order to counter Iran.
Asiri pointed out that the move would help restore the relationship between the two countries that was shattered during Barack Obama's presidency, apparently implying the nuclear deal with Iran and US blocking arms deals with Riyadh over concerns of human rights violations.
Earlier in March, the State Department approved the resumption of weapons sales to Riyadh, thus signaling that the new US Administration would seek closer ties with the kingdom. Asiri's comments came in a week that saw President Trump host Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the White House.
Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih, who was part of the delegation, said on Thursday that the visit solidified the importance of the US-Saudi relationship, and that the two nations are fully aligned in confronting "Iranian aggression."
"There is alignment on all of the major issues between the two governments, and it's been, I think, further helped by the personal bond that was created between his royal highness, the deputy crown prince, and President Trump," he told reporters.
Saudi Arabia launched a military intervention in Yemen in 2015 with backing from a coalition of predominantly Arab nations, including the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and others. Riyadh's aim is reportedly to restore the government in the country, but experts say it has developed into a proxy war between the Sunni Muslim monarchy and Shiite Iran.
The UN has said that the Saudi-led coalition was responsible for nearly two thirds of almost 4,000 civilian Yemeni deaths between March 2015 and August 2016. Asiri denied that the bombings have resulted in human rights abuses and stressed that the US is not involved in the Saudi-led campaign.
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