Netanyahu, Pompeo Meet in Tel Aviv to Discuss Iran Threat

YERUSHALAYIM (AP) -
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the Kirya government complex in Tel Aviv, Sunday. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at military headquarters in Tel Aviv Sunday afternoon.

Pompeo is using the Middle East leg of his first official trip abroad to punish Iran for its missile programs.

Ahead of Pompeo’s arrival, Netanyahu said the talks would focus on “Iran’s growing aggression” in the region and the upcoming U.S. decision on the 2015 international nuclear deal with Iran.

He called Pompeo, who advocates a hard line against Iran, a “true friend” of Israel.

Pompeo arrived Sunday afternoon after talks in Saudi Arabia.

At their meeting, Netanyahu congratulated Secretary of State Pompeo upon taking office: “We are very proud of the fact that this is your first visit as Secretary of State.” Pompeo replied, “You’re an incredibly important partner, [and] occupy a special place in my heart too.”

Israel considers archenemy Iran to be its greatest threat, citing Iran’s support for terror groups, its hostile rhetoric and its development of long-range missiles.

Israel has been an outspoken critic of the nuclear deal, saying it does not do enough to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear-weapons capability. It has urged the international community to revise the deal or scrap it altogether.

Israel has also expressed growing concerns about Iran’s involvement in the civil war in neighboring Syria. It says it will not allow Iran to establish a permanent presence in Syria, fearing the Iranians will launch attacks from close proximity.

Pompeo on Sunday met with Saudi King Salman, whose country, along with Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, is embroiled in a row with Qatar that had hobbled Gulf Arab unity and frustrated the U.S. as it seeks to blunt growing Iranian assertiveness.

“I think they would all agree that it’s in everyone’s best interests that the Gulf states all figure out how to be together,” Pompeo told reporters as he traveled to Israel. “We’ve got a common challenge in Iran I think they all recognize that. We’re hopeful that they will in their own way figure out their dispute between them.”

The ex-CIA chief arrived in Riyadh a day earlier, shortly after Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen fired missiles at Saudi Arabia’s southern city of Jizan, killing one person and underscoring what U.S. officials said is a growing threat emanating from Iran.

Senior U.S. officials traveling with Pompeo blamed Iran for smuggling the missiles into Yemen. They said the incident highlighted the importance of the Trump administration’s push to counter Iran in the region. Iran has also provided crucial support to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

“Iran destabilizes this entire region,” Pompeo said in brief remarks to journalists with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir.

He is due in Jordan later Sunday.