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

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.


Lebanon not expecting new aid pledges at Paris meeting

Updated 10 December 2019

Lebanon not expecting new aid pledges at Paris meeting

  • The political impasse returned to square one on Sunday when a tentative agreement on a new PM unraveled
  • Lebanon has also been in a political impasse since Saad Al-Hariri quit as prime minister on Oct. 29

BEIRUT/PARIS: Lebanon does not expect new aid pledges at conference which France is hosting on Wednesday to press for the quick formation of a new government that can tackle an acute financial crisis.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian urged Lebanon to create a new government swiftly or risk the crisis worsening and threatening the country’s stability.
The economic crisis is the worst since the 1975-90 civil war: a liquidity crunch has led banks to enforce capital controls and the Lebanese pound to slump by one third.
Lebanon has also been in a political impasse since Saad Al-Hariri quit as prime minister on Oct. 29, prompted by protests against the ruling elite, with no agreement on a new government.
Nadim Munla, senior adviser to Hariri, who is running the government as caretaker, told Reuters the Paris meeting would probably signal a readiness to offer support once a government is formed that commits to reforms.
“They will recognize that there is a short-term problem and that if and when a government (is formed) that basically responds to the aspirations of people, most probably the international community will be ready to step in and provide support to Lebanon, or additional support,” he said.
“It is not a pledging conference.”
Lebanon won pledges of over $11 billion at a conference last year conditional on reforms that it has failed to implement. The economic crisis is rooted in years of corruption and waste that have generated one of the world’s heaviest public debt burdens.
The political impasse returned to square one on Sunday when a tentative agreement on a new prime minister unraveled.
Hariri is now seen as the only candidate for the post.
He has said he would only lead a cabinet of specialist ministers, believing this is the way to address the economic crisis, attract aid, and satisfy protesters who have been in the streets since Oct. 17 seeking the removal of a political class blamed for corruption and misrule.
But Hezbollah and its allies including President Michel Aoun say the government must include politicians.
“Let’s see the coming few days and if there will be an agreement among the political parties on a formation ... otherwise we might take longer,” Munla said. Hariri would be willing to have politicians in cabinet but they should not be “the regular known faces of previous governments.”