US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter landed in Saudi Arabia’s Riyadh airport on Wednesday after his visit to Israel ended.
This is Carter’s second stop of his Middle East tour aimed at keeping US allies reassured over the effectiveness of the recently completed nuclear deal with Iran and six world powers.
Carter flew to Jordan from Tel Aviv to hold talks with Saudi King Salman in Jeddah, where he is staying during to escape the summer heat. In the mid-afternoon of the same day, he will prepare for his next stop in Amman, Jordan.
King Salman's son, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is also the Saudi defense minister, met with Carter for an hour.
Carter and Saudi officials will discuss training special forces, cyber security, anti-missile defense and freedom of navigation in the strategic Red Sea and Gulf waterways, an American defense official said.
Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia is a traditional rival of the Shiite-dominated Iran. The kingdom is equally worried Tehran could still be able to develop an atomic bomb despite the limitations imposed by the deal.
Riyadh and its Gulf neighbours are also constantly denouncing Tehran’s "interference" in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.
Saudi Arabia has been the leader of a military campaign that battles Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen since last March, in efforts to reinstate President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, who is in self-imposed exile in Riyadh.
During Carter’s visit to Israel, he was warmly welcomed by his Israeli counterpart on Monday. The Pentagon chief met with Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon at Israel’s defence headquarters before meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who strongly criticised the Iran deal, on Tuesday.
Yaalon thanked Carter for his country’s contributions to Israeli security and military excellence and said Israel appreciates its friendship with the US.
Netanyahu described the nuclear agreement with Iran as a "historic mistake" which would open the way for the country to produce nuclear weapons.
Carter said that the option of military action to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons still exists, despite the nuclear agreement sealed with the country last week. Carter’s comments were likely made in an effort to calm Israel, the main US ally in the Middle East.
While Israel and the Gulf countries addressed the dangers they see imposed by Iranian influence, Carter had other concerns to be discussed on his agenda, including the war against ISIS that controls large swathes of land acorss Iraq and Syria, in addition to consistently committing unspeakable atrocities in many countries including Egypt, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
"We will continue to work with Israel and other partners in this region to counter the danger from Iran, even as we do the same with respect to ISIL [ISIS]," Carter said, when he spoke on Tuesday in Jordan.
Carter addressed military personnel who are part of the US-led coalition battling the armed insurgency since last year. Saudi Arabia and Jordan both belong to that coalition.