Yemen rebel attack on Saudi airport kills 1

Abha Regional Airport

Abha Regional Airport

An Iran-orchestrated attack conducted Sunday against Saudi Arabia's Abha airport directly threatens Americans living in the country and marks the second time in less than two weeks that Tehran's terror forces have used drones to attack American allies, according to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

In addition to being a close regional partner, Saudi Arabia was also the world's top buyer of US weapons, a fact that Trump has often highlighted in defending his administration's close ties to the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia and the US accused Iran of being behind attacks on tankers near the Persian Gulf in recent weeks, while the UAE has been urging diplomacy to avert a wider conflict. "Freedom of navigation is paramount".

The top U.S. diplomat was due to fly later on Monday to the United Arab Emirates. He said a coalition of nations would provide both material and financial contributions, but did not name the countries.

Over the past month, the Iran-backed rebels have increased their missile and drone attacks on Saudi cities.

On Saturday, a member of the Iranian parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, warned the UAE against the consequences of its military cooperation with the United States against Iran, saying that the USA drone operations to spy on Iran amounted to "a joint aggression of Iranian territory by Abu Dhabi and Washington".

The official said Pompeo and the US Navy is building a "Sentinel" programme for "proactive deterrence" in the Gulf.

The attack on Abha airport, which the coalition said left a McDonalds outlet at the site littered with shattered glass and damaged 18 vehicles, comes amid spiralling regional tensions with Iran.

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The U.S. announced additional sanctions Monday on Iran aimed at pressuring the Iranian leadership into talks.

Jordan's Ministry of Affairs said that any attack on Saudi security was an assault on the security of the region.

The United States has protected the strait for decades with its naval Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain.

The US official said the deterrents include cameras, binoculars and ships, including from the US.

It was not clear what role Saudi Arabia and the UAE would play in the coalition. Pompeo is due to meet with Abu Dhabi's crown prince. The Trump administration has vowed to combine a "maximum pressure" campaign of economic sanctions with a buildup of American forces in the region, following the United States withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

Pompeo's trip comes despite growing controversy inside the United States over the Trump administration's cosy relationship with Mohammed bin Salman after US-based dissident writer Jamal Khashoggi was killed and dismembered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul past year.

"It did not" come up, the official said. Saudi Arabia has repeatedly denied the involvement of the crown prince.

Khashoggi was killed in October 2018 after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

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