State Secretary Mike Pompeo confronts two crises that are likely to define his legacy as he begins an overseas journey of negotiations on Iran and will end up focusing on North Korea.
Although Pompeo was optimistic about the resumption of negotiations with North Korea, which has an arsenal of nuclear weapons, his rhetoric continued to shrink and abrasive against Iran, which, however, still has no nuclear weapons.
Brilliant fear of a military confrontation between the United States and Iran has changed the character and timing of Pompeo's turn. It should have made him talk to India and then to President Trump at the end of the week in Japan and South Korea.
But stop in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates was added at the last minute after Trump said he had canceled a military strike on Iran to avoid loss of life. The point of having Pompeo in Jeddah and Abu Dhabi during a whirlwind day is to discuss a coalition building strategy with two of Iran's most keen opponents.
Pompeo, who last year issued a list of 12 broad demands for change in Iran, shows no sign of softening his outreach to the Islamic Republic. He began to travel around in Tehran and revealed his explanation of why he made an American drone last week as "childish" and not worthy of faith.
He concretely knocked down reports, as he said, originating from Iran, which suggested the US was withdrawing its troops from the region and creating peace recordings for Iran through Oman, a golf state. He called the reports "clean and blatant disinformation", which apparently suggests that the administration is trying to defend its credibility.
Several false stories come, says Pompeo, as the United States continues to press Iran to change its policies. "It is very likely that Iran will continue to present things that are fake, fraudulent, false," he said.
Pompeo said his talks with the Saudi Arabian and UAE rulers will focus on encouraging other countries to a coalition "Willing to push back to the world's largest terrorist state sponsor."
The Trump administration is expected to impose more sanctions on Iran on Monday and added a series of measures that have hampered foreign investment and oil sales and curled the Iranian economy. The administration's decision to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran and greatly increase sanctions over the past year has led to tensions in the cloud as Tehran reacts to what it sees as American aggression.
After the United States, the Islamic Revolutionary Corps designated a foreign terrorist organization and lowered Iran's oil revenues, Iran began retaliation. They were calibrated to be strong enough to get Washington's attention and possibly a relaxation of sanctions, but not as strong as demanding a US military response.
Pompeo refused to identify what the new sanctions would be, except to characterize them as "significant."
He said his goal is to "deny Iran the resources to evoke terror, to build their nuclear weapons system out of their missile program. We will deny them the resources they need to do it. "
Like Trump, Pompeo said the US is ready to negotiate. Despite his demands last year, the secretary now says that the offer comes "without preconditions." But the dilemma of the administration is that the non-predictive approach resembles an Obama administration approach that resulted in the trump nuclear power lambasted throughout the campaign and ultimately withdrew.
Contrary to his remarks about Iran, Pompeo was optimistic about the prospects of resuming negotiations with North Korea.
Although the talks have reached a dead end since Trump left a summit with leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi in February, Pompeo confirmed that Trump had sent a written reply to a letter, Kim sent Trump recently.
"I hope this will provide a good basis for us to begin continuing these important discussions with the North Koreans in order to denuclear the peninsula," Pompeo said.
Meanwhile, attacks by an Iranian-ally rebel group in Yemen Sunday Airport in Saudi Arabia, killed a person and added to regional tensions.
A Saudi statement said that the rebellion group Houthis carried out a "terrorist attack" aimed at Abha International Airport, near the Saudi border with Yemen. The statement did not give details of the nature of the attack, but the Houthi media said it was done by a drone. "Thousands of civilian passengers of different nationalities pass daily," said Saudi Arabia airport. The victim was a Syrian citizen, said it, adding that seven people were injured.
The attack was at least the third performed by Houthis at the airport in recent weeks. A Houthi missile attack earlier this month injured more than two dozen people at the airport, located about 65 miles from Yemen's northern border.
Saudi Arabia has led an Arab coalition fight against Houthis in Yemen for the past four years, and coalition offenses have killed thousands of Yemeni civilians, according to human rights monitors. The woodcutters have made cross-border attacks throughout the war, but they seem to have become more intense in recent weeks.
Kareem Fahim in Istanbul contributed to this report.