Mattis: US must overcome destabilizing Iranian influence in Yemen

Mattis: US must overcome destabilizing Iranian influence in Yemen
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Defense Secretary James Mattis on Wednesday said overcoming Iran's destabilizing influence in the Middle East is critical for ending the civil war in Yemen.

"We will have to overcome Iran's efforts to destabilize yet another country and create another militia in their image of Lebanese Hezbollah, but the bottom line is we are on the right path for it," Mattis told reporters in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, after meeting senior Saudi officials.

The comments come as the Trump administration considers increasing support to the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen.

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The United Nations estimates that more than 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen’s civil war, which began in March 2015 and involves government troops backed by the Saudi-led coalition and Houthi rebels supported by Iran. Millions of Yemenis face potential famine. 

The United States has supported the campaign by selling the Saudis billions of dollars of weapons, providing intelligence and helping with logistics such as air refueling.

Mattis said that U.N.-brokered negotiations to resolve the conflict in Yemen are needed.

U.S. officials speaking on condition of anonymity told Reuters the topic came up in their meetings with Saudi King Salman and Deputy Crown Prince and Minister of Defense Mohammed bin Salman, among other officials. 

In the meetings, officials discussed what additional assistance the United States could provide to the Saudi-led coalition, including potential intelligence support, but not U.S. troops. 

Officials also told Reuters that it did not appear that the Houthis would come to the negotiating table and that there would need to be more military pressure on the group.

Despite the Trump administration's tougher stance, the State Department on Tuesday informed Congress that Iran is in compliance with the nuclear deal reached by President Obama and that the United States will continue to ease sanctions under the agreement.