US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Bahrain on Friday, the first leg of a tour of Gulf countries which Washington says are “critical” to confronting Iran and extremist groups.
“These Gulf partnerships are critical to achieving shared regional objectives - defeating ISIS, countering extremist groups, protecting global energy supplies and rolling back Iranian aggression,” a State Department spokesman said.
Pompeo met King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa in Bahrain’s capital Manama.
Bahrain, a key US ally in the Gulf, hosts the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet with around 7,800 US military personnel deployed in the country, as well as a British naval base.
Countering Iran’s malign efforts
“Bahrain is a staunch supporter of countering Iran’s malign efforts” in the region, the State Department spokesman said.
“Bahrain continues efforts to investigate and counter Iranian sanctions evasion and combat illicit maritime activity,” he added.
Pompeo’s visit is part of a regional tour aimed at reassuring US allies after President Donald Trump’s shock decision to withdraw all US troops from Syria.
The US top diplomat flew in to Manama from Cairo and has already visited Amman, Baghdad and the Iraqi Kurdish regional capital of Arbil.
He will also visit the other five members of the Gulf Cooperation Council - the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia.
The State Department said Pompeo would also work with regional leaders to advance a proposed Middle East Strategic Alliance - a NATO-style security pact.