By Ben Flanagan
March 21, 2018
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.