CAIRO, EGYPT - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Saudi King Salman Monday, before going for a "working lunch" with his son and heir, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, at a restaurant in the Red Sea resort town of Jeddah. The visit took place at a time of strong tensions with Iran and what analysts say is growing frustration in the region.
Saudi-owned al Arabiya TV showed Pompeo and his entourage meeting with the Saudi king at the summer royal palace in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah.
Immediately after that meeting, Pompeo met with his son Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. Correspondents traveling with Pompeo indicated that the Crown Prince appeared to make Pompeo wait for a short while, before meeting him.
Hilal Khashan, who teaches political science at the American University of Beirut, tells VOA that the Saudi reception for Pompeo appeared to be a sign of displeasure that President Trump had backed off on retaliating for Iran's downing of a U.S. drone in the Gulf of Hormuz, last week.
"When the Saudis make you wait and take you out for dinner at a restaurant, it means that they are lukewarm. Usually, they invite you to their palace for a sumptuous meal. Eating out at a restaurant is culturally unacceptable in Saudi Arabia, where they are supposed to prepare a lavish banquet for you at home."
Khashan said that he expected Pompeo would get a warmer reception in the United Arab Emirates, because the UAE is more realistic and understands that (President) Trump might not want to retaliate against Iran.
"I don't think they are as angry at the Saudis. The Emiratis accommodate the Americans (and) they accommodate the Iranians. They have their discussions with the Iranians, but that doesn't prevent them from forging excellent business relations with them. The Emiratis are good business people and they understand in real politics they don't win everything. They know that they US will not hit Iran, but they can cope with it," said Khashan.
Pompeo's visit came less than a day after Yemen's Houthis used Iranian-built drones to bomb Abha Airport in the south of Saudi Arabia. Saudi media reported that one man was killed and close to several dozen wounded at a McDonald's restaurant which had been hit by the drone. It was not clear if the attack was related to Pompeo's visit.
Saudi-coalition spokesman Turki al Maliki lashed out at the Houthis and Iran for hitting non-military targets and killing and wounding civilians on Saudi soil.
A senior state department official told journalists after Secretary Pompeo's meetings in Jeddah that the U.S. was hoping to counter Houthi and Iranian attacks against civilian targets inside Saudi Arabia, as well as shipping targets in the Gulf. He said a new U.S. program, dubbed "Sentinel" will involve keeping close tabs on Iranian activities and involved a number of U.S. allies, including Saudi Arabia.