Saudi Arabia, UAE and US plan security forum to address Iran’s ‘malign activity’

A display featuring missiles and a portrait of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is seen in Tehran in September 2017. A new trilateral security forum will address Iran’s alleged malign activity in the Middle East. (Reuters)
Updated 21 March 2018
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Saudi Arabia, UAE and US plan security forum to address Iran’s ‘malign activity’

WASHINGTON: Saudi Arabia, the UAE and US are launching a trilateral security forum to address Iran’s “malign activity” in the Middle East and other strategic issues, a US senior administration official said.

The forum, to be held at the national security adviser level, will engage monthly on issues of strategic importance, including the US’ South Asia strategy, the unity of the Gulf Cooperation Council and the war in Yemen.

The US official added that Saudi Arabia’s security is a priority for the US, saying that over the past nine months, Congress has approved $54 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

The official said that the US administration will look to broker multibillion-dollar commercial deals with Saudi Arabia during the visit by Crown Prince Mohammed to the US.

Details of the forum emerged as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman began his multi-city tour of the US, where he met President Donald Trump on Tuesday.

Firas Maksad, director of the Arabia Foundation in Washington, said that the move shows that the US is looking to build closer ties with its allies in the Arabian Gulf.

“At a time of great change, both in Washington and in the Middle East, the announced trilateral security group signals US determination to coordinate more effectively with its closest Arab allies,” he told Arab News.

“This is especially timely given Trump's anticipated decision on the Iran nuclear deal in May, and ongoing efforts to counter that country's expansionism in various middle easter theaters. It is also an acknowledgment of the growing role of the Saudi Arabia and the UAE in the region, including on issues as far afield as Pakistan and Afghanistan,” added Maksad, who is also an adjunct professor at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs.


Iraq lays cornerstone to rebuild iconic Mosul mosque

Updated 21 min 30 sec ago
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Iraq lays cornerstone to rebuild iconic Mosul mosque

  • More than a year after Daesh lost control of Mosul, the iconic mosque still lies in ruins
  • In June 2014, it became infamous as the site where Baghdadi declared Daeh’s “caliphate” just days after the extremists seized Mosul in a lightning assault

MOSUL: Iraqis on Sunday laid the cornerstone in rebuilding Mosul’s Al-Nuri mosque and leaning minaret, national emblems destroyed last year in the ferocious battle against the Daesh group.
The famed 12th century mosque and minaret, dubbed Al-Hadba or “the hunchback,” hosted Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi’s only public appearance as Daesh chief, when he declared a self-styled “caliphate” after the extremists swept into Mosul in 2014.
The structures were ravaged three years later in the final, most brutal stages of the months-long fight to rid Iraq’s second city of Daesh.
On Sunday, dozens of government officials, religious figures, United Nations representatives and European ambassadors gathered in the large square in front of the battered mosque to see the foundation laid.
Abu Bakr Kenaan, the head of Sunni Muslim endowments in Nineveh province, set down the stone in a simple ceremony.
It bore a black Arabic inscription: “This cornerstone for the rebuilding and restoration of the Al-Hadba minaret and the Great Al-Nuri Mosque was laid on December 16, 2018.”
More than a year after Daesh lost control of Mosul, the iconic mosque still lies in ruins. The stone gate leading up to its courtyard and the greenish dome now covered in graffiti are virtually the only parts still erect.
All that is left of the minaret is part of its rectangular base, the rest of it sheared off by fighting.
Kenaan told AFP remnants of the minaret would be preserved, while other parts of the mosque would be built afresh, along with a museum about its history and adjacent homes.
The five-year project will be financed by a $50.4 million (44.6 million euro) donation from the United Arab Emirates.
The first year will focus on documenting and clearing the site, while the next four years will see the physical restoration, the UN’s heritage agency UNESCO has said.
The mosque’s destruction “was a moment of horror and despair,” said UNESCO Iraq representative Louise Haxthausen.
“Today as we lay the foundation stone of the Nuri mosque, we are starting a journey of physical reconstruction,” she told those gathered.
The mosque takes its name from Nureddin Al-Zinki, who ordered it built in 1172 after unifying Syria and parts of northern Iraq.
Its cylindrical minaret, which featured several levels of ornamental brickwork capped by a small white dome, started listing centuries ago.
It is featured on Iraq’s 10,000-dinar banknote and gave its name to countless restaurants, companies and even sports clubs.
But in June 2014, it became infamous as the site where Baghdadi declared Daeh’s “caliphate” just days after the extremists seized Mosul in a lightning assault.
That capture prompted three years of ferocious fighting to wrest back Mosul and other Iraqi cities overrun by Daesh.
In June 2017, as Iraqi forces closed in on a shrinking Daesh-held pocket in Mosul’s Old City, the extremists blew up both the Al-Nuri mosque and its leaning minaret.
Daesh itself blamed a US-led strike for the destruction.
When the rest of the Old City fell back under state control, Iraqi forces celebrated at the mosque, holding Daesh’s black flag upside down and tauntingly calling out, “Where is Baghdadi?“