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Mattis in Mideast: Where “There’s Trouble in the Region, You Find Iran”

Secretary of Defense James Mattis on Wednesday identified Iran as the main source of instability in the Middle East, shortly after speaking with Saudi Arabian officials during his ongoing tour of the region.

Earlier in the day, Mattis held meetings with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud and Mohammed bin Salman, the country’s deputy crown prince and defense minister, which he said “could not have gone better.”

“Everywhere you look, if there’s trouble in the region, you find Iran,” the defense secretary told reporters. “So right now, what we’re seeing is the nations in the region and others elsewhere trying to checkmate Iran and the amount of disruption, the amount of instability they can cause.”

Mattis specifically faulted Iran for its support of Yemen’s Houthi rebels, saying, “We’ll have to overcome Iran’s efforts to destabilize yet another country and create another militia in their image of Lebanese Hezbollah.”

Saudi Arabia is spearheading the fight against the Houthis, and has led coalition airstrikes against them for the past two years. However, it has not yet succeeded in removing them from Yemen’s capital. According to Mattis, the United States is pushing for a United Nations-brokered end to the conflict.

The Pentagon first announced Mattis’ trip last week, saying the defense chief would be discussing ways to “defeat extremist terror organizations.” His tour will also include stops in Israel and Djibouti.

In a similar vein, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Iran “a leading state sponsor of terror” in a letter to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan on Tuesday.

[Photo: Department of Defense / Brigitte N. Brantley ]