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WASHINGTON: The United States, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are launching a trilateral security forum to counter Iran’s growing influence in the greater Middle Eastern region, US officials said.

In a joint statement issued on Wednesday, US President Donald Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman also blamed Iran for assisting the Houthi militia in Yemen and the American leader vowed to back the Saudi position in this dispute.

A senior Trump administration official told journalists in Washington that the proposed trilateral security forum will engage monthly on issues of strategic importance. In a conversation with the Washington correspondent of the Saudi newspaper Arab News, the official said the forum will also help implement the US strategy for South Asia, which seeks to end the war in Afghanistan by defeating the Taliban.

The Trump administration also wants Pakistan to help implement this strategy by squeezing the Taliban from both sides of the Pak-Afghan border.

The proposed trilateral forum, however, will focus on countering the Iranian influence in the region, will back the Saudi-led war in Yemen and will also promote unity within the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Arab News reported.

In their joint statement, President Trump and Prince Mohammed, also underlined the issues they discussed in their meeting at the White House on Tuesday.

The leaders discussed joint efforts to finalize new commercial deals that would support more than 120,000 American jobs and contribute to the success of Saudi Arabia’s economic reform agenda.

The Crown Prince thanked President Trump “for American leadership in defeating ISIS and countering Iran’s destructive actions across the Middle East,” the statement said.

On Yemen, President Trump and the Crown Prince discussed the threat the Houthis pose to the region, assisted by the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, it added.

Published in Dawn, March 22nd, 2018