DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived Monday in Saudi Arabia in a hastily arranged visit amid mounting tensions between Washington and Tehran as Iran's navy chief warned Iranian forces wouldn't hesitate to shoot down more U.S. surveillance drones from their skies.
The downing of the drone, valued at more than $100 million, saw the United States pull back from the brink of a military strike on Iran after President Donald Trump last week called off strikes in retaliation.
Iran's naval commander, Rear Adm. Hossein Khanzadi, threatened Washington, saying that Tehran is capable of shooting down other American spy drones that violate Iranian airspace.
"We confidently say that the crushing response can always be repeated, and the enemy knows it," Khanzadi was quoted as saying by the semi-official Tasnim news agency during a meeting with a group of defense officials.
Tensions have been mounting since Trump last year withdrew the U.S. from a global nuclear deal with Iran and began pressuring Tehran with economic sanctions. A fresh round of Iran sanctions is to be announced Monday in a bid to force the Iranian leadership into talks. Iran has decried the U.S. sanctions, which essentially bar Iran from selling its oil internationally, as "economic terrorism."
Pompeo, considered a hard-liner in the Trump administration, is expected to meet with Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Saudi city of Jiddah, before heading to Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, another close U.S. ally and partner.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are alarmed by Iran's military reach and are working to limit its influence in the region.
On the eve of Pompeo's visit to the kingdom, Yemen's Iranian-allied rebels attacked a Saudi airport near the Saudi-Yemen border, killing a Syrian resident and wounding 21 other civilians, the Saudi military said.
The Houthi rebels claimed they used bomb-laden drones in the attack on the Abha airport, the second in less than two weeks.
Saudi Arabia has been at war with the rebel Houthis in Yemen for more than four years. The Houthis say the attacks targeting the kingdom are a response to relentless Saudi airstrikes on Yemen that have killed thousands.
Before his departure to the kingdom, Pompeo said he wants to build a global coalition against Iran.
"We'll be talking with them about how to make sure that we are all strategically aligned, and how we can build out a global coalition, a coalition not only throughout the Gulf states, but in Asia and in Europe, that understands this challenge as it is prepared to push back against the world's largest state sponsor of terror," Pompeo said about Iran.