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Riyadh playing strongman threatens dream of 'Middle East NATO'

Tacit US backing taken as license to ignore tensions over military alliance

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U.S. President Donald Trump, center, praised Saudi Arabia's efforts to combat terrorism during a visit to the country in May.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Saudi Arabia seeks to lead a NATO-style security alliance in the Middle East to combat extremist groups like the Islamic State, an idea supported by U.S. President Donald Trump. But many fear that this effort to stabilize the region may instead invite greater turmoil as Riyadh takes an increasingly heavy-handed approach to diplomacy.

Saudi Arabia intends to create a mobile anti-terrorism force under the umbrella of the Islamic Military Alliance, a coalition formed under its auspices in 2015. This force, to be drawn from the ranks of about 40 member nations' militaries, could be dispatched to countries such as Libya and Yemen where civil war has provided fertile ground for terrorist groups to take root.

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