What strengthening Saudi-Iraq relations means to the region

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Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, left, with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during his first official trip to Riyadh last month. (AFP)
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An Iraqi protester holds up an Iranian flag as another sets fire to it during demonstrations in Basra in 2018. (AFP)
Updated 07 May 2019

What strengthening Saudi-Iraq relations means to the region

  • A recent agreement between the two countries could help counter Iran’s actions
  • Co-operation between the two will bring more stability, experts say

DUBAI: Stronger relations between Saudi Arabia and Iraq will mean more stability in the region, particularly when it comes to stemming the influence of Iran, according to experts who commented on a recent agreement promoting co-operation between the two countries.
Exerting more influence in Iraq will prove crucial for the Kingdom, they explained, as Iran’s close relationship with the former causes concern among many neighboring countries. Security and intelligence are some of the areas in which Iraq and Saudi Arabia will cooperate in the near future, Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohamed Ali Alhakim was reported as saying.
The announcement came during a state visit last month by an Iraqi delegation to Saudi Arabia led by Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, who met King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The leaders signed 13 agreements in areas such as trade, energy and political cooperation.
According to experts, Saudi Arabia may have the best chance of bringing stability and security to Iraq. “These actions are based on an economic and security approach, having intelligence as a key element to project all potential scenarios, including countering Iran’s possible actions to alter this relation,” said Johan Obdola, president of the International Organization for Security and Intelligence.
“Iran will be facing, from the United States and Europe, the hardest actions, including additional sanctions. On the other hand, there is a momentum in Iraq, with an increasing interest from a vast majority of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds, to stop the influence of Iran in Iraq.”
Obdola said this will create an important opportunity for Saudi Arabia to establish a strong security and intelligence strategy with Iraq, along with economic investments, to stabilize it against the actions of Daesh.
“This toxic influence from Iran has reached a level of rejection within the Iraqi population,” he said. “With this announced security and intelligence cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Iraq, there is very much an opportunity to stabilize and reconstruct Iraq, strengthen military and intelligence capabilities, and get a better capacity to counter any actions from Iran in the region, and even abroad.”
Obdola expressed concern about Iran implementing new low-intensity actions against the Arab Gulf states, with even more serious security implications for the rest of the region and abroad.
“The Iranian regime’s actions in Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq show its confidence regarding a lack of direct retaliation from the international community,” he said. “This will change if Iran keeps (up) this disruptive behavior. Iran is still building military and terrorist capabilities, and networks in other regions around the world to create conditions which will impact the US and European forces established in Africa, including Central Africa.”
On Yemen, he said, the Houthis had frequently stated their tactics were modelled on those of the Viet Cong and resistance movements in Latin America, as well as Lebanon’s Shia Hezbollah, with which they have obvious kinship.
“Both Hezbollah and Iran have increased their provision of guns, missiles, military training and funds for the Houthi war effort since 2014, (pleased) to see their Saudi enemies expend soldiers and money on the Yemeni stalemate,” he said. “We must also be aware that there are old and new alliances in this scenario, including Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Iran, among other actors, who must be closely watched.”
Obdola spoke of Saudi Arabia’s strong military capacity and intelligence, supported by its allies in the GCC, and military cooperation with other nations. “However, Iran has global intelligence and terrorist networks which must be analyzed and approached by traditional and non-traditional intelligence strategies,” he said. “Iran’s military apparatus will not be used against Saudi Arabia — it is not projected, at least — and it could be a huge mistake if there is any intention to. Its actions are and will continue to be based on a more low-level, low-intensity, and irregular warfare, and as such, the intelligence strategy of Riyadh must be developed and implemented accordingly.”
According to Dr. Albadr Al-Shateri, politics professor at the National Defense College in Abu Dhabi, the Saudi Arabia-Iraq rapprochement was born out of domestic change within Iraq. He mentioned the demonstrations by the Shiite majority region of Basra, which have shown the extent of general Iraqi discontent with Iran’s hegemony over their country. “The assertiveness of Kurds, especially the uncompromised new president Barham Salih, and determination not to be a pawn (of) any geopolitical competition, led to Iraq’s willingness to get closer to the Saudi-led order,” he said. “Finally, Iran’s gradual weakening as a result of the US pressure and sanctions may have contributed to Baghdad’s hedging its bets.”
He said both Saudi Arabia and Iraq stood to benefit from cooperation in many fields, especially security in the post-Daesh Middle East. “As the terrorist group is splintering into smaller cells, monitoring and coordination by all countries are necessary to avoid a repetition of the Al-Qaeda post-Afghanistan situation,” he said. “Another issue of the smuggling of narcotics between the two countries is of increasing demand. The security cooperation between Saddam’s Iraq and Saudi Arabia, prior to the former’s invasion of Kuwait, could serve as a model of security cooperation between the two countries.”
Funding is also a key element of the cooperation. Raffaello Pantucci, director of International Security Studies at the Royal United Services Institute for Defense and Security Studies in London, foresees much financial support from the Kingdom for Iraq. “There could also be capacity-building and worrying about the regional threat — Saudis are worrying about groups emanating from Iraq, and about managing their relationship with Iran, as Iraq has a strong relationship with Iran.”
He said it would be complicated, with militias involved in the Iraqi government. “But Saudi Arabia has money, and they can use that to get themselves access and influence,” he said. “Saudis are trying to make sure they are buying themselves an influence in a neighboring country where Iran has a lot of influence — there is a big push happening in Iran, and a part of that is for Saudi Arabia to have an influence in Baghdad.”
Iraq is of great geostrategic importance for Iran, Obdola said. “So a multi-dimensional intelligence component, along with a strong military cooperation, are the most fundamentally important elements for any security cooperation to be effective,” he said.
“This is truly the key component here, having the facts of not only regional players in any scenario to be considered, but potentially more global actors who could, in any particular situation, be used against Saudi Arabia. If all intelligence and security scenarios are projected in a local, regional and even international arena, then Saudi Arabia will be successful in this needed security cooperation with Iraq.”

Who’s Who: May Mohammed Al-Rashed, College of Nursing dean at King Saud University

Updated 27 February 2021

Who’s Who: May Mohammed Al-Rashed, College of Nursing dean at King Saud University

The service of May Mohammed Al-Rashed, who has been dean of the College of Nursing at King Saud University (KSU) since 2018, was recently extended for two more years.

Al-Rashed received a bachelor’s degree in clinical laboratory sciences from the College of Applied Medical Sciences (CAMS) in 1996 from KSU.

Six years later, she was awarded a master’s degree in clinical laboratory sciences, majoring in biochemistry, from the same college.

In 2014, she obtained her Ph.D. in molecular genetics from University College London (UCL), UK.

Al-Rashed has served as deputy of the clinical laboratory sciences department at CAMS. She has also been an assistant professor at the clinical laboratory sciences department in CAMS. From 2008 to 2009, she was the deputy of the dental health department at CAMS.

Prior to that, Al-Rashed worked as a lecturer in the clinical laboratory sciences department at CAMS, where she taught clinical biochemistry, the inborn error of metabolism, clinical enzymology, scientific writing and research methodology, from 2002 to 208.

For five years beginning in 1997, she served as a medical technologist in the clinical laboratory sciences department at CAMS; teaching practical laboratory skills and techniques, preparing reagents and design experiments for basic and advanced biochemistry courses.

Between 1996 and 1997, she served her internship at the Riyadh-based King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center (KFSH&RC).

She is an expert in molecular genetics techniques including DNA extraction, PCR, cloning, DNA sequencing, homozygosity mapping and next-generation sequencing.

KSU and Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property sign exchange deal

Updated 27 February 2021

KSU and Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property sign exchange deal

RIYADH: King Saud University (KSU) and the Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property (SAIP) have signed a memorandum of cooperation and mutual understanding to support the academic alliance to carry out research and development in the fields of intellectual property, information management, and data exchange so that the research serves as the reference and legal umbrella for all future projects the two parties seek to implement, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Saturday.

The MoC was co-signed by KSU President Dr. Badran bin Abdulrahman Al-Omar and SAIP CEO Dr. Abdulaziz bin Mohammed Al-Suwailem.

The signing of the MoC comes based on the principle of joint and continuous cooperation between KSU and the government sector in the Kingdom. This move also reflects belief in the importance of intellectual property rights for enabling universities and scientific research institutions to protect and enforce these rights.

Under this MoC, the two parties will cooperate in studies and research specialized in intellectual property policies and systems in accordance with the best practices and regional and global methodologies, the scientific and practical applications of the results of these studies, exchanging advice and experiences in the field of emerging technologies and the applications of digital environment and artificial intelligence, training and developing human resources in this promising field, and contributing to the investment in and the employment of intellectual property rights to achieve economic and social development in the Kingdom.

In addition, the two parties, under the MoC, will prepare and design academic and training curricula in the fields of intellectual property in order to enrich the local and Arab knowledge content on intellectual property issues.

KSU is a local and regional pioneer in the field of intellectual property rights, in general, and patents, in particular, owing to the role of the Entrepreneurship Institute, which is supervised by Dr. Ibrahim Mohammed Al-Harkan. KSU has over 1,450 patents and is among the best 100 universities in the world for the seventh year in a row, the last of which was 2020, in terms of the number of patents granted.

KSU is the largest depositary of patents – compared with the universities of the world – for the Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property, with over 450 patents. This highlights the accuracy of the scientific methodology adopted by the KSU administration to care for the fields of intellectual property for the university’s employees and develop it at the scientific and practical levels in accordance with the best international practices.


Arab region, Pakistan voice support for Saudi Arabia over US Khashoggi report

Updated 27 February 2021

Arab region, Pakistan voice support for Saudi Arabia over US Khashoggi report

  • The Secretary-General of the OIC said it rejects “the incorrect conclusions contained” in the US report
  • Arab Parliament stresses pivotal role that the Kingdom plays in consolidating security in the Arab region

LONDON: Arab countries and organizations expressed their support on Saturday for a statement released by Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry. The statement concerned the report provided to the US Congress on the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
In a statement, Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry rejected anything that affects the sovereignty of Saudi Arabia.
Bahrain’s Shoura Council affirmed “the prominent and pivotal role played by Saudi Arabia, under the leadership of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to lay down the foundations of regional and global security and peace.”
The council also praised diplomatic efforts exerted by Saudi Arabia through its foreign diplomacy in the region and the world, Bahrain News Agency (BNA) reported.

The UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation expressed its confidence in and support for the Saudi judiciary, as well as the Kingdom’s commitment to enforcing the law with transparency and integrity and to holding those responsible for the murder to account.

The Ministry affirmed the UAE’s solidarity with Saudi Arabia in its efforts to maintain stability and security in the region and the key role it plays in maintaining moderation in the Arab world.

The UAE rejects any attempts to exploit the Jamal Khashoggi case or interfere in Saudi internal affairs, the ministry said.

Kuwait’s foreign ministry expressed its support for Saudi Arabia’s statement and stressed the important role played by the Kingdom in supporting moderation regionally and internationally and in denouncing extremism.

The ministry said that it categorically rejects any attempts to affect the Kingdom’s sovereignty.

Oman’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also expressed the Sultanate's solidarity with the Kingdom, saying it appreciated the efforts and actions of the competent judicial authorities in the Kingdom regarding the case and its outcome.

The Muslim World League (MWL) also affirmed its full support for Saudi Arabia’s statement.

MWL secretary-general Dr. Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa said the league rejects the conclusions of the report and affirmed the confidence of the Muslim world, led by Saudi Arabia, in all measures taken by the Kingdom.

Al-Issa added that the league rejects any interference that affects the Kingdom’s sovereignty. 

The Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) said it categorically rejects “the incorrect conclusions contained” in the US report which is “devoid of any conclusive evidence.”

The organization rejected attempts to infringe the Kingdom’s sovereignty, insult its leadership and compromise the independence of its judiciary.

It expressed support for all judicial measures that were taken against the perpetrators of the murder who were brought to justice, and the sentences that were issued.

The Arab Parliament affirmed its support for the Saudi statement and expressed its categorical rejection of any infringement of the sovereignty of the Kingdom and the independence of its judiciary.

The parliament stressed the pivotal role that the Kingdom plays in consolidating security and stability in the Arab region and the Middle East and its policy of supporting international peace.

The Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Dr. Nayef Falah Mubarak Al-Hajjraf, affirmed his appreciation for the pivotal role the Kingdom plays in enhancing regional and international security and peace, and its great role in combating terrorism and supporting the efforts of the international community in this regard.

Al-Hajraf said the report is nothing more than an opinion that is devoid of any conclusive evidence. He expressed his support for any measures that the Kingdom takes in order to preserve its rights and support its role in promoting a culture of moderation.

Yemen also rejected everything that might affect the sovereignty of the Kingdom and the independence of its judiciary.

Pakistan's foreign ministry said it had noted that the Saudi government termed Khashoggi’s murder as an “abhorrent crime” and a “flagrant violation of the Kingdom’s laws and values.”
“The Saudi government has further underlined that it took all possible measures within its legal system to ensure that the individuals responsible were properly investigated, convicted and sentenced and that justice was served. Pakistan recognizes Saudi efforts in this regard and expresses solidarity with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the ministry said in a statement. 
“Pakistan underscores adherence to the rule of law, respect for national sovereignty, and protection and promotion of human rights by all states, in accordance with their respective constitutional frameworks and international obligations,” it added.


COVID-19 cases force closure of 10 mosques

Updated 27 February 2021

COVID-19 cases force closure of 10 mosques

  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 368,011
  • Ministry reports 338 new cases, 320 recoveries, 5 deaths

JEDDAH: Saudi health officials have sought to reassure people over the interval between COVID-19 vaccinations as the Kingdom steps up its inoculation program with an increase in the number of vaccine centers.
Responding to questions on social media about the time period between the respective shots, the ministry said that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has three to six weeks between jabs, while the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot has eight to 12 weeks. More than 630,000 people have been vaccinated so far.
The Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance on Saturday temporarily shut down 10 mosques in five regions after 12 cases of coronavirus were confirmed among worshippers.
Virus cases have led to 168 mosques being shut temporarily in the past 20 days, with 153 reopening after precautionary measures were completed.
A total of 338 new cases of COVID-19 were recorded in Saudi Arabia on Saturday, meaning 377,061 people have now contracted the disease.


377,061 Total cases

368,011 Recoveries

6,488 Deaths

There were 2,562 active cases, 475 of them critical.
The ministry recorded 320 new recoveries, taking the total to 368,011 while five new deaths were reported, raising the toll to 6,488.
Saudi Arabia’s recovery rate stands at 97.59 percent.
Almost 13.5 million PCR tests have been conducted in the Kingdom since the beginning of the pandemic, with 39,707 carried out in the past 24 hours.


US not aiming ‘to rupture relationship’ with Kingdom: Politico

Updated 27 February 2021

US not aiming ‘to rupture relationship’ with Kingdom: Politico

  • Saudis show wide support at home for MBS, describe CIA report as speculative

RIYADH: US President Joe Biden and his administration may be seeking a recalibration of its relationship with Saudi Arabia, but is adamant not to rupture the relationship with the Kingdom, a senior US official said.

Speaking to Politico, the official said that there are “important interests” the US shares with Saudi Arabia. The administration views the Kingdom as an important partner in the Middle East, and it has promised to keep supporting the country as it defends itself against attacks blamed on Iran.

The official’s comments came after a classified CIA report was released on the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, who was killed by a group of rogue Saudi agents in Istanbul in 2018.

Despite a lot of hype that preceded the release of the report, many observers have described it as too analytical and lacking evidence.

“No smoking gun,” CNN’s International Diplomatic Editor Nic Robertson said.

Israeli journalist and commentator Barak Ravid wrote on Twitter: “US intelligence report on Khashoggi, which is 100% analysis and 0% information, raises real concerns about the quality of access US intelligence agencies have in Saudi Arabia.”

Meanwhile, in the Kingdom, Saudis took to social media to show support for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who underwent a successful surgical procedure on Wednesday morning to treat appendicitis.

Saudi journalist Abdulrahman Al-Rashed tweeted there was nothing new in the declassified CIA report. He described those who were betting on Biden to damage the relationship with Saudi Arabia as “ignorant of how the world operates.”

Saudi columnist Salman Al-Dossari tweeted that the Biden administration should be praised for publishing the CIA report, saying that the findings support Saudi court rulings.

Last September, Saudi Arabia’s Public Prosecution announced the final sentences for the eight people convicted of the Khashoggi murder.

Five of them received 20-year jail sentences for their involvement in the killing. Another was sentenced to 10 years while two others received seven years. Commenting on the verdict, the Khashoggi family called the judgment “fair and dissuasive.”