Source: Asharq AlAwsat
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was on Saturday deeply critical of Tehran, reiterating support for Saudi Arabia against Iranian-backed Houthi insurgents in Yemen.
“I reiterate US support for our partners’ right to defend themselves against Iranian-supplied Houthi attacks on their sovereign territory,” Mattis said at the annual Manama Dialogue security conference in Bahrain.
The US, he said, wants to continue to build the capacity of the Yemeni security forces who are battling the Houthis.
Mattis also talked about America’s shared interests with its Arab partners, adding that “our respect for the Saudi people is undiminished.”
More broadly, his speech focused on regional cooperation and the US commitment to the Middle East.
He repeated his frequent criticism of Iran’s “outlaw regime,” which has fueled insurgencies in Yemen and Iraq, backed the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad and fostered proxy terrorists across the region.
He also warned that Russia’s presence in the Middle East – where it is a major ally of Assad – could not be a replacement for the United States.
“Russia’s presence in the region cannot replace the long-standing, enduring, and transparent US commitment to the Middle East – one I reiterate today without reservation here,” Mattis said.