RIYADH: Saudi Arabia was not consulted by its ally Washington over a US drone strike that killed a top Iranian general, an official said on Sunday, as the kingdom sought to defuse soaring regional tensions.
Saudi Arabia is vulnerable to possible Iranian reprisals after Tehran vowed “revenge” following the strike on Friday that killed powerful commander Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad.
“The kingdom of Saudi Arabia was not consulted regarding the US strike,” a Saudi official said, requesting anonymity.
“In light of the rapid developments, the kingdom stresses the importance of exercising restraint to guard against all acts that may lead to escalation, with severe consequences,” the official added.
Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry made a similar call for restraint at the weekend and King Salman emphasised the need for measures to defuse tensions in a phone call on Saturday with Iraqi President Barham Saleh.
In a separate phone call with Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman stressed “the need to make efforts to calm the situation and de-escalate tensions”, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.
The crown prince has instructed Prince Khalid bin Salman, his younger brother and deputy defence minister, to travel to Washington and London in the next few days to urge restraint, the pan-Arab Asharq al-Awsat newspaper reported.
Prince Khalid will meet White House and US defence officials, the paper said, citing unnamed sources.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, both allies of Washington, are also vulnerable to Iranian counter strikes.
The American embassy in Riyadh on Sunday warned its citizens living close to military bases and oil and gas installations in the kingdom of a “heightened risk of missile and drone attacks”.
Saudi Arabian military commanders recently met with counterparts from “friendly countries” to formulate a new strategy to tackle the Yemeni rebels, particularly those “opposing” a political solution, according to Asharq al-Awsat.
Riyadh has said it will host a separate meeting of foreign ministers of Arab and African coastal states on Monday.
Published in Dawn, January 6th, 2020