GCC unity “critical” for stability in region – US defense chief

US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis affirmed Sunday that the Gulf’s “cohesion is critical… to maintaining stability in the region.” Speaking to reporters en route to Oman, Mattis said he wants to hear what the sultan (Qaboos of Oman) says can be done about that situation, as well as the situation on his border in Yemen, with the various factions that are fighting there, and certainly the civil war.

He added that Sultan Qaboos “has for a long time endorsed trying to get… the violence, turned off. He’s a very strategic leader… and he recognizes the advantage that violent extremists… gain from that sort of disarray inside of Yemen.” He affirmed that “they have been on the record that they want to see this civil war stopped for obvious reasons. They have been an enormous help, going all the way back to right after 9/11 and the counter-terrorism war.” “They have security concerns that we share. I’m going there to listen, like I started off with, and find out how they assess any trafficking that’s going on at all. What is their assessment? What is their view of routes and that sort of thing?,” he remarked.

He noted “so I’ll be going in to talk to the sultan, who obviously has a keen role in all of this, because he’s got a border with this country. And so I need to go in and find out how they assess it.” “We’ll also be looking at ways that we further strengthen our mil-to-mil relationship. We have a very good professional relationship with the sultan’s armed forces. It goes back a long time,” he remarked.

He indicated then he will head for Bahrain where he will be meeting with King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, where “there, too, we reinforce a very strong defense partnership. Bahrain has for decades batted way above its weight in terms of providing support to the US” He said that “it’s a very strong defense relationship with a vital regional ally. The basing is essential for our access and US military operations in the Middle East. And they’ve been an excellent host for the US Navy’s 5th Fleet.” The defense chief noted that the visit “is also an opportunity where I’ll get to hear from the sailors and the Marines stationed in Manama, and I like staying in touch with those folks and hearing their view of what’s going on, our forces that are deployed out here.”

Source: Kuwait News Agency