21:03 GMT26 February 2020
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    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - The United States will boost its efforts to counter both, Russia and China in the Middle East next year, US Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker told reporters on Monday.

    "While we've had successes over the past year as a result of the administration policies, we of course recognise that challenges remain. These include Iran's persistent malign influence in the region and globally", Schenker said. "I know that in 2020, we'll also be seeing an increase in US efforts to counter Russian meddling and Chinese extortion in the region".

    In October, US Special Representative Brian Hook said in congressional testimony that the United States is hopeful China and Russia will support rather than veto extending the arms embargo on Iran at the UN Security Council.

    Hook also said that he and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have discussed with Russia and China the prospects of promoting a more peaceful and stable Middle East, including the threats like the drone attack on Saudi oil facilities.

    Tensions increased between the two states after two major state-owned Saudi Aramco's oil fields were attacked by autonomous weaponised drones on 14 September, cutting down almost in half the Kingdom's oil production. While the Yemeni Houthi rebels have taken the responsibility for the attack, Washington has blamed Tehran. Iran has denied any involvement in the attack.

    The United Nations was also "unable to independently corroborate" whether drones used in the September attack on Saudi oil facilities "are of Iranian origin", UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said earlier in the month.

    Recently, the United States has authorised an additional deployment of US forces and other military assets near oil fields in the Middle East, which the current US administration characterises as deterring the Iranian threat.

    Washington has repeatedly claimed that Tehran is pursuing "aggressive policies" destabilising the Middle East region. It has also called on other states to strengthen sanctions on Iran.

    Saudi Arabia, sanctions, US State Department, China, Russia, troops, Iran, Middle East, United States
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