RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - Speaking to reporters at the conclusion of a visit to Prince Sultan Airbase Thursday afternoon, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the maximum pressure campaign on Iran’s oil markets will increase.
“They’ve gone delivering 2.7 or 2.8 million barrels per day to a couple hundred thousand a day. We’re going to try and tighten that down further to deny the regime the capacity to underwrite Hezbollah, underwrite the Shia militias, underwrite Hamas and the PIJ [Palestinian Islamic Jihad] in the Gaza strip,” Pompeo said. “We’ve now got hundreds of thousands of refugees in Syria as a direct result of what the Iranian regime is doing. We’re going to deny them the resources to inflict this kind of harm throughout the Middle East.”
“We are draining their capacity to conduct strategic activity in the region and destabilize the Middle East. They’re having to make harder choices today,” he continued.
Pompeo’s visit to the Saudi base comes nearly two months after the killing of leading Iranian Revolutionary Guards Force General Qasem Soleimani. In early January and just hours after the Soleimani strike outside of the Baghdad airport, a number of F-15 fighter jets arrived in Saudi Arabia. Thousands of U.S. troops have been deployed to the base since July 2019.
“I think it [the strike] demonstrated resolve not only from the United States but all of the forces that are looking to push back against the Islamic Republic of Iran. He was actively plotting to kill Americans. He had killed Americans. It was an important strategic strike that was taken and I think you can see that it’s now provided the Iranians with deep understanding that our notion of deterrence is real,” Pompeo said.
After the missile and drone strikes on Abqaiq oil field in September, which were launched from Iran, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper announced the deployment of additional anti-missile Patriot battery systems. Pompeo toured them today during his visit and met with U.S. troops.
Additionally, in the past nine months Saudi Arabia has sustained 400 attacks from Iranian Houthi forces operating to the south in Yemen.
“A lot of people don’t understand there have been an awful lot of missiles strikes that have been supplied by the IRGC Quds Force launched from Yemen. Four hundred strikes as a matter of fact, about, on Saudi Arabia,” U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia John Abizaid said, seated next to Secretary Pompeo. “Our support has been defensive. They’ve [Saudis] never asked for offensive support. It’s always been defensive support and I think it was not only the right thing to do but the defensive posture is much improved not only for the United States but for Saudi.”