Mattis starts regional tour in Saudi Arabia

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is in Saudi Arabia, his first stop on a sweeping tour across the Middle East and the Horn of Africa to discuss America’s role in regional security. In his talks with King Salman, he will report on President Trump’s wish to further strengthen strategic relations with the Saudis, who have been supporting the fight against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. Mattis said the US has seen “Iranian supplied missiles being fired by the Houthis into Saudi Arabia.” The defense secretary’s next stop is Djibouti where the US Navy maintains a big base, followed by Cairo, to discuss US input in the fight against ISIS (see DEBKAfile Exclusive Report), then Israel and Qatar.

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