Jan 6, 2020

Saudi envoy arrives in Washington amid fear of U.S.-Iran war

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump take part in a welcome ceremony in Saudi Arabia accompanied Prince Khalid bin Salman in 2017. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

A senior Saudi envoy has arrived in Washington and will meet Monday with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and senior White House and Pentagon officials in an attempt to de-escalate the crisis in the Gulf.

Why it matters: Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman — a former ambassador to the U.S. — was urgently sent to Washington by his brother, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Saudi Arabia is deeply concerned it could become engulfed in uncontrolled escalation between the U.S. and Iran following President Trump's decision to kill Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani.

What they're saying: Saudi officials told the Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that the Saudi envoy will urge restraint while in Washington. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan expressed similar hopes of de-escalation on Monday.

The big picture: Countries around the world, and particularly in the region, want to prevent a spiral toward war over the killing of Soleimani. Iranian officials have said around a dozen countries approached Tehran to convey messages from the U.S. regarding the need to de-escalate.

Two key players in the de-escalation efforts are Oman, which has acted as a mediator between the U.S. and Iran for several years, and Qatar, which maintains close contacts both with the Iranians and with the Trump administration.

  • Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani visited Iran on Saturday and met President Hassan Rouhani.
  • Yesterday, the Qatari foreign minister had a phone call with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about de-escalation efforts.

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