US Central Command Commander General Erik Kurilla stressed his country’s commitment to consolidating cooperation and coordination between the US Central Command and all its partners in the region, to combat the joint Iranian-Houthi threats.
In an exclusive interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Kurilla said the US will continue anti-smuggling operations with the Royal Saudi Naval Forces to stop shipping advanced conventional munitions by sea in support of Houthi operations.
It has finally succeeded in preventing the entry of explosive materials into the region from Iran, he added, stressing the inevitability of military cooperation between Riyadh and Washington, to enhance the security and stability of the region.
He noted that the US forces intercepted on Nov. 8 a stateless dhow in the Gulf of Oman coming from Iran, which was smuggling a huge amount of explosive materials to Yemen, including 360,000 pounds of urea fertilizer, which is used in explosives, and ammonium chlorate, used as fuel for ballistic missiles.
On the Saudi-American military cooperation strategy, Kurilla said that the Saudi armed forces are among the most reliable and capable partners of the Central Command. The military cooperation between them is critical to enhancing security and stability in the region. This is a strategic cooperation that serves all nations and the entire Middle East.
In response to comments that US military cooperation was not sufficient to deter the Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen, Kurilla stressed that integrated air and missile defense and the disruption of advanced conventional weapons produced in Iran, including those supplied to the Houthis, were among the functional priorities for the US and its military partners.
This is why events are so important, such as the meeting of the Joint Military Planning Committee on Nov. 16 hosted by the Chief of the Royal Saudi Staff, Lieutenant-General Fayyad bin Hamed al-Ruwaili… These opportunities enhance bilateral military cooperation between the United States and Saudi Arabia, as well as security and stability in the region, he emphasized.
On the US-Saudi plan to deal with drones targeted against Saudi Arabia from Yemen, Kurilla underlined that CENTCOM supports the Kingdom in defending its lands and people from cross-border Houthi attacks.
It remains committed to deepening cooperation and coordination between US Central Command and all partners in the region to combat this common drone threat, he stated.
He acknowledged that Iran posed a threat to international peace and security in general, and the region in particular, noting that Tehran was the main destabilizing player throughout the Arab world.
“We continue to see Iran as the biggest threat to regional security and stability. The regime provides weapons, money, support, and direction to proxies across the region who engage in terrorist acts, and undermine local governments, in order to advance Iranian interests, all of which come against the stability and security of the region,” Kurilla noted.
He added: “We are currently working to continuously enhance monitoring of threat flows in the region, and remain in constant contact with our partners. When needed, we will not hesitate to take action to defend our forces or our partners... The commitment of the Central Command to the region is firm.”