Opinion

Saudi-US dialogue seeks to counter Iran threat

Saudi-US dialogue seeks to counter Iran threat

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan at the State Department, Washington, D.C., Oct. 14, 2020. (AP)

A few weeks before the US presidential election contest between Donald Trump and his Democratic rival Joe Biden, which will determine the country’s future foreign policy direction, the first sessions of the US-Saudi Strategic Dialogue took place. Last week’s sessions attested to the depth and importance of the relations between the two nations.
Normally, Saudi-US ties are not affected by the results of American elections, but making this visit at such an important time is a reminder of the role that the Kingdom plays with regard to US foreign policy. There is no doubt that today’s American voter will be aware of this visit and the media will write about it, discussing and analyzing its content. American decision-makers, in addition to politicians and those interested in this field, will not miss the follow-up to this dialogue, its output and its effects on the US’ decisions.
We saw the emphasis of the two countries’ senior ministers — US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan — in the joint press conference held in Washington last Wednesday. The press conference occurred after the strategic dialogue began. It dealt with the importance of the relations between Saudi Arabia and the US, which began 75 years ago with King Abdul Aziz and President Franklin Roosevelt aboard the USS Quincy in the Red Sea. Both men recognized the importance of strengthening bilateral relations to support regional and global peace and stability, as well as expanding cooperation between the two countries in all areas.
There is no doubt that US-Saudi bilateral cooperation takes place on several levels, including security, economics, and military. Thus, we saw the confirmation of both sides’ mutual commitment to confronting whatever threatens the region’s security. Threats destabilize the situation and target the security interests of the two countries. They are aware of Iran’s malign activities, as well as its development of a nuclear program and ballistic missiles. Both of these constitute a critical threat to the security and prosperity of the region and also to the security and interests of the US. In fact, the danger extends to the terrorist groups and militias that follow Tehran, and which Tehran has never been hesitant to help. It always supplies them with weapons, especially the Houthi militia, which was the first to possess ballistic missiles — most of them Iranian-made — and also drones that Iran uses to carry out its criminal acts through its agents in the region.
The importance of the dialogue was seen as it also coincided with the US’ maximum pressure campaign on Iran. The purpose of this campaign is to isolate Tehran economically and force it to change its behavior. It includes the imposition of sanctions on 18 Iranian banks, as well as on a number of officials and entities involved in the Iranian nuclear program.
The world must not forget the attacks and acts of sabotage carried out by Tehran in the region and around the world, especially the terrorist attacks on Saudi oil facilities last year, which negatively affected the global oil markets. There have also been warnings about the Safer oil tanker that has been stalled in the Red Sea since 2014. The Houthis have refused to allow UN experts to inspect the ship, which threatens an environmental disaster on the Yemeni coast, affecting all marine life in the region. It is important to discuss this urgent matter, find ways to prevent a catastrophe, and hold Tehran accountable.
Iran’s militias have carried out heinous acts, and thus it is not strange for the US to support the leadership role the Kingdom is playing in the region in order to confront and deter Iran’s destabilizing behavior. Iran continues to provide financial and logistical support to terrorist groups in Yemen, which has led to the Kingdom being targeted with more than 300 ballistic missiles and hundreds of drones. US-Saudi cooperation in curbing Iranian terrorism has saved the world from Tehran’s barbarism. The great danger is that Iran is the principal country that supports and funds terrorism all over the world, and it is a source of terrorism in thought and preparation.
The Iranian militias’ presence in and exploitation of several countries comes at the expense of the security and safety of the people in those countries. The Yemeni crisis is one example that must be resolved in order to end the bloodshed of the Yemeni people, who suffer daily from the hijacking of their state by the Houthis. This requires finding a political solution to end the deteriorating humanitarian situation there.

We saw the confirmation of both sides’ mutual commitment to confronting whatever threatens the region’s security.

Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri

The convergence of Saudi and US views on Iran is a source of comfort, especially since Riyadh and Washington are among those who refuse to lift the arms embargo on Tehran. Unfortunately, there are many other countries whose willingness to lift the arms embargo is foolish because that will unleash Iran, enabling it to expand its terrorism by importing more weapons. Tehran also talks about its attempts to sell the weapons it manufactures. Despite the presence of sanctions, Tehran will find a way to supply its militias in an overt manner, selling them arms and transferring expertise. This is what the US-Saudi cooperation aims to strike in particular. Washington and Riyadh have decades of experience in facing malicious projects and they have succeeded in curbing projects that are larger than Tehran’s — even the former Soviet project, particularly in the Middle East, as well as in regard to the oil market.
A constructive and fruitful deal between countries such as the US and Saudi Arabia would guarantee security and stability and frustrate the projects that Iran and its allies follow in order to achieve their goals. Iran will use its militias to inflict damage on both the US and its allies, such as Saudi Arabia, so cooperation and strength are needed at all levels. What is required is for the countries that seek peace and fight terrorism, such as Saudi Arabia and the US, to thwart all these projects and thwart everyone who seeks to make use of Iran’s brand of terrorism.

  • Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri is a political analyst and international relations scholar. Twitter: @drhamsher7
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view

US, Saudi Arabia strengthen links to fight common threats

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with his Saudi Arabian counterpart, Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, at the State Department in Washington. (AFP)
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Updated 21 October 2020

US, Saudi Arabia strengthen links to fight common threats

  • Historic Washington dialogues highlight ‘extensive security, economic ties’

NEW YORK: A US-Saudi Strategic Dialogue in Washington has highlighted both countries’ commitment to “countering and deterring the threat that Iranian malign activity poses to regional security and prosperity.”

The talks, co-chaired by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal Bin Farhan, also underscored “the extensive security, economic and cultural ties” between the two nations.

A joint statement yesterday came as Saudi Arabia and the US celebrated the 75th anniversary of a partnership established during the historic 1945 meeting between President Franklin D. Roosevelt and King Abdul Aziz aboard the USS Quincy.

In addition to the common Iranian threat, the dialogues held on Oct. 14 in Washington focused on range of issues and conflicts in the region.

In Yemen, the US acknowledged Riyadh’s leadership within the Saudi-led Coalition and the Kingdom’s “commitment to end the Yemeni conflict through political negotiations.”

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Mutual efforts to enhance security in Iraq were also discussed, with both sides highlighting the importance of their close partnership in combating terrorism in the country. The US sees the role of the Kingdom as key for regional and international stability.

The US also praised Saudi Arabia’s progress in implementing Vision 2030 and adopting wide economic and social reforms. Washington commended the Kingdom for its G20 leadership, and for its investment in global health and financial response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The joint statement also offered details of discussions between Pompeo and Prince Farhan on defense cooperation to deter regional threats, as well as security and intelligence cooperation in the fight against terrorist groups, “which have been instrumental in saving countless American and Saudi lives.”

Other subjects included infrastructure protection and public security, creating durable energy markets, and restoring international travel and transport as part of the economic recovery from the pandemic.

Talks explored coordination between Washington and Riyadh on issues of cybersecurity and “enhancing diplomatic, cultural and consular cooperation, including major construction projects to expand the US Embassy and consulates in the Kingdom.”

Expansion of the US platform for diplomatic engagement with Saudi Arabia “signifies our enduring commitment to achieving our mutual security and economic objectives,” the statement said.

The two countries announced the formation of bilateral working groups to pave the way for future dialogues.

These include security and intelligence partnerships, defense cooperation planning, shared economic and energy interests, bilateral education and culture cooperation, and cybersecurity cooperation.
 


Ministry campaign checks COVID-19 measures in Riyadh mosques

Updated 47 min 43 sec ago

Ministry campaign checks COVID-19 measures in Riyadh mosques

RIYADH: The Riyadh branch of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance on Friday organized an awareness and monitoring campaign to ensure mosques were implementing COVID-19 precautionary and preventive measures, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
The campaign was carried out in cooperation with the General Directorate of Health Affairs in Riyadh and a number of volunteer associations.
Healthcare volunteers and mosque supervisors took part in the campaign. Participants told worshippers to comply with social distancing measures, use their own prayer mats, and wear a face mask at all times.
They also organized the entry and exit of worshippers, in addition to distributing masks and prayer mats among them.
The director general of the ministry’s branch in Riyadh, Ahmed Al-Fares, said the campaign aimed to help raise awareness about COVID-19 prevention methods.
He added that the campaign was in line with the efforts of various state agencies to fight the pandemic and also promote a culture of volunteering among government bodies.

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Stitch in time: Saudi fashion dresses for the future

The Saudi Cup showcased traditional outfits, with the Ministry of Culture’s fashion commission encouraging a dress code that required racegoers to highlight their heritage. (Supplied)
Updated 32 min 46 sec ago

Stitch in time: Saudi fashion dresses for the future

  • Traditional wear gets a modern makeover as designers keep the past alive

JEDDAH: As Saudi Arabia sets out to introduce its culture, history and social life to a global audience, fashion is finding it has a key role to play in the Kingdom’s “brand strategy.”

Traditional wear proudly worn by both Saudis and expats at the recent Saudi Cup showed how age-old cultural styles could find new life in a contemporary setting.
While fashions can reflect a specific era, they also can act as a transition to the future, with fabrics, cuts, motifs and embroidery designs, and even colors and layers, keeping the story alive.
The Saudi Cup showcased traditional outfits, with the Ministry of Culture’s fashion commission encouraging a dress code that required racegoers to highlight their heritage, and designers to showcase their exclusive works, mixing the contemporary with the old.
Although Western outfits dominate the world fashion market, Saudi Arabia is choosing to stay connected with its traditional dress.
Saudi designers are constantly introducing new trends in the way outfits are made or worn, finding inspiration in age-old styles or seeking to bring the traditional clothing of a region into the present.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Although Western outfits dominate the world fashion market, Saudi Arabia is choosing to stay connected with its traditional dress.

• Saudi designers are constantly introducing new trends in the way outfits are made or worn, finding inspiration in age-old styles or seeking to bring the traditional clothing of a region into the present.

• Mohammed Khoja, a fashion designer who uses traditional approaches in his contemporary work, believes that his collections help shed light on cultural elements that appeal to both local and international audiences. 

• International events, from Eid celebrations at Saudi missions across the globe to overseas university students celebrating an occasion, allow Saudis to don traditional clothing to represent their homeland.

• Omaima Kindassa, a Saudi designer and owner of a contemporary heritage boutique, said that events such as the Saudi Cup allowed Saudis to represent their own region and culture, as well as show the Kingdom’s rich heritage and diverse culture to the world.

• Princess Nourah Al-Faisal, the designer behind Nuun Jewels, hoped to represent the historical beauty and color of traditional Saudi clothing in a way that encouraged people to embrace and celebrate their culture.

Mohammed Khoja, a fashion designer who uses traditional approaches in his contemporary work, said: “Since the beginning of my fashion design career, cultural elements have appealed to me. I am particularly driven by being able to contribute in documenting and potentially giving cultural elements more importance.”
Khoja believes that his collections help shed light on cultural elements that appeal to both local and international audiences.

Traditional wear proudly worn by both Saudis and expats showed how age-old cultural styles could find new life in a contemporary setting.

The same elements have also helped him identify with his own contemporary identity, he said.
Omaima Kindassa, a Saudi designer and owner of a contemporary heritage boutique, said that events such as the Saudi Cup allowed Saudis to represent their own region and culture, as well as show the Kingdom’s rich heritage and diverse culture to the world.
“I’ve been designing and modernizing traditional Saudi wear for 10 years,” Kindassa told Arab News. “Now many younger designers are pursuing that as well because they have fallen in love with our heritage.”
She added: “If the current generation were to wear traditional clothes, they would find them overbearing and heavy, especially accessory-embellished designs and those adorned by stones. Modernizing these outfits makes them relevant to today’s generation and ensures our tradition keeps pace with fashion.”

The Saudi Cup showcased traditional outfits, with the Ministry of Culture’s fashion commission encouraging a dress code that required racegoers to highlight their heritage, and designers to showcase their exclusive works, mixing the contemporary with the old. (Supplied)

Kindassa specializes in traditional wear from the Kingdom’s regions but also modern clothing “that tell tales of the long past.”
“Each region offers its own rich heritage through its designs, from the geometric elegant shapes, the vibrant colors, the embroidery — it looks like a painting to admire,” she said.
International events, from Eid celebrations at Saudi missions across the globe to overseas university students celebrating an occasion, allow Saudis to don traditional clothing to represent their homeland.
Princess Nourah Al-Faisal, the designer behind Nuun Jewels, told Arab News that the Saudi Cup was a “great opportunity to present the variety, regionality and beauty that is Saudi culture.”


She was brought in as a consultant for the project, a link between the Saudi Cup and the Ministry of Culture, “to curate the event in terms of looks and feel.”
Princess Nourah said the idea to promote traditional Saudi fashion was not hers, but came from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The princess hoped to represent the historical beauty and color of traditional Saudi clothing in a way that encouraged people to embrace and celebrate their culture. She also wanted people to take ownership of their heritage, and see designers and communities using it as inspiration for future designs.
“So not just reproducing traditional cultural dress, but also taking it as a point of reference and moving forward into the future, recreating it, developing it and having fun with it by creating something completely new,” she said.
Impressed with the outcome, she hopes to build on this momentum where people celebrate culture every day.
“There are a number of entities within Saudi Arabia, organizations that are all about preserving our heritage; things like regional embroidery, jewelry, costumes, and really making sure that they’re archiving it, whether through photographs or through the actual pieces. I think that is something that we have been working on as a nation either in the private sector or the public sector for a while,” she said.

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Who’s Who: Muhammad Ali Albakri, IATA senior vice president for customer, financial and digital services

Updated 06 March 2021

Who’s Who: Muhammad Ali Albakri, IATA senior vice president for customer, financial and digital services

Muhammad Ali Albakri has been appointed senior vice president for customer, financial and digital services at the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Since January 2017, Albakri held the role of regional vice president for the Africa and Middle East region.

Succeeding Aleks Popovich, Albakri is now responsible for IATA’s financial settlement products and services. He will be expected to process more than $450 billion of industry every year.
His responsibilities also include strengthening IATA’s client and customer activities, along with the company’s digital transformation initiatives for the benefit of the aviation industry.
IATA’s Director General and CEO Alexandre de Juniac said Popovich left behind a great team with a clear focus on customer service that will continue to drive critical changes under Albakri’s capable leadership.
The company’s website described Albakri as “an agent of change,” who will transform the MENA team to better serve member needs and pioneer the work of IATA’s digital transformation advisory council.
“Albakri is well prepared to guide the development of IATA’s commercial offerings, settlement services and digital leadership,” de Juniac said in a statement. “In normal times, these are critical functions, even more so in the middle of an industry crisis.”
Albakri previously worked for Saudia, the Kingdom’s national flag carrier, and served as its vice president of information technology. From 2009 to 2016, he was in charge of strengthening the company’s technology infrastructure and modernizing its financial practices. Albakri earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in information sciences from the University of Pittsburgh.


Cinemas, gyms and restaurants to reopen in Saudi Arabia

Updated 47 min 56 sec ago

Cinemas, gyms and restaurants to reopen in Saudi Arabia

  • All events and parties will continue to be suspended until further notice
  • Social gatherings remain restricted to a maximum of 20 people

RIYADH: Cinemas, gyms and sports centers will be allowed to reopen in Saudi Arabia from Sunday.
Indoor dining can also resume in restaurants and cafes along with other recreational activities, the interior ministry said on Friday.
However, all events and parties will continue to be suspended until further notice. This includes weddings, corporate meetings, events in banquet halls and social events.
Social gatherings remain restricted to a maximum of 20 people.
The Kingdom suspended recreational events on Feb. 3 to halt the spread of COVID-19. The suspension was extended on Feb. 14 for 20 days.
The ministry urged people to adhere to measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and said there would be an increase in spot checks to ensure everyone followed the rules.

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Saudi Arabia announces 5 more COVID-19 deaths

Updated 48 min 25 sec ago

Saudi Arabia announces 5 more COVID-19 deaths

  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 369,922
  • A total of 6,519 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced five deaths from COVID-19 and 384 new infections on Friday.
Of the new cases, 187 were recorded in Riyadh, 68 in the Eastern Province, 55 in Makkah, 24 in the Northern Borders region, 10 in Madinah, six in Hail, five in Asir, five in Najran and three in Jazan.
The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 369,922 after 309 more patients recovered from the virus.
A total of 6,519 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.

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