When U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis greeted Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister at the Pentagon last month, the first thing he did was joke about the time “the Iranians tried to murder you.”
Mattis’ reference to a foiled 2011 plot, denied by Iran, was a telling sign of how much more aligned President Donald Trump’s administration is with Gulf allies about what they perceive to be the Iranian threat, a shift that seems to be setting the stage for greater U.S. involvement in Yemen, in particular.
After long seeking to distance itself from Yemen’s brutal civil war, the United States under Trump now appears increasingly to see the conflict through the Gulf’s prism of Iranian meddling, even as Washington prioritizes a parallel fight against al Qaeda.
Detailed discussions are under way within the Trump administration that would offer greater aid to Gulf allies fighting Iran-aligned Houthi rebels. Officials say that could included expanded sharing of U.S. intelligence.
In Saudi Arabia last week, Mattis compared Tehran’s backing for the Houthis to its support for Shi’ite ally Lebanese Hezbollah, a view long espoused by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states who see links between the two groups.
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