With the Trump Administration still in the process of formulating its Middle-East policy, the US Defence Secretary James Mattis’ five-day tour of the Middle East helped clarify the US stance on ongoing conflicts in the region. Iran still seems to be at the centre of the consternation of US officials, and visiting both Saudi Arabia and Israel with statements against Iran tells us that the progress made in foreign relations with Iran during the Obama regime might be quickly undone.

There is still uncertainty surrounding the question of whether the US will seek to back out of the Obama nuclear deal with Iran. This is one of the most major issues confronting the bilateral relations between the two countries, and President Trump has often called out this agreement for being against the interests of the US and not strict enough to get Iran to give up hopes of manufacturing a nuclear warhead of its own. The Trump Administration has often hinted that it is mulling scrapping the deal altogether, but given the new government’s lack of clarity on so many issues, we will just have to wait and see whether the President makes good on his wish.

During his visit, the Secretary of State welcomed the Saudi-led efforts to checkmate Iran, and renewed its commitment of helping Saudi Arabia establish control in the region. The US has also expressed support for the Saudi-led anti-terror coalition, which gives yet more credence to the widely popular belief of the organisation being used as a means to isolate Iran. Clamping down upon “mischievous” Iran seems to be one of the priorities of the Trump Administration, which does not spell peace for the region, but more strife and conflict.

While Mattis has declared that the way forward in the Yemen conflict is a political solution brokered by UN intervention, the gushing support for Saudi Arabia on this visit compared to the aggressive rhetoric against Iran implies that the US is not only looking to involve itself politically, but in a more direct manner as well. Obviously military intervention with US army presence is no longer on the cards, but additional bombing escapades in the Middle East might just be under consideration.

Even if scrapping a deal is not on the horizon (which is highly unlikely) it is clear that the US has stepped up its rhetoric against Iran ever since the confirmation of Mr Trump as President. Support for the Saudi-led coalition makes it sound even more like an anti-Iran alliance, and if that is the case, Pakistan should steer well clear of it. However, with our former COAS currently bound for Saudi Arabia to take up his new post as head of the alliance, it seems that the Pakistani state has relented to the pressure and provided support for an organisation that potentially threatens regional stability.