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.
 


Picture perfect: Saudi Arabia’s ancient beauty finds a new audience

Updated 01 March 2021

Picture perfect: Saudi Arabia’s ancient beauty finds a new audience

  • Online platforms have become a melting pot of images taken by photographers who travel the country

JEDDAH: A new generation of Saudi photographers is relying on the power of social media to showcase the Kingdom’s vast beauty.

Online platforms have become a melting pot of images taken by photographers who travel the country — from the sandy beaches of the east and west, to the mountains of the north and south, and the green oases of the deserts — discovering the beauty of each region one picture at a time.

Fahad Al-Mutairi, 22, started @thesaudigate on Twitter to promote Saudi Arabia’s “hidden wonders” to a growing tourist market.

“I wanted to be part of the future somehow — that’s why I started Saudi Gate and this is what has motivated me to go on,” he told Arab News.

Many other photographers who travel the country share the same outlook.

Faisal Fahad Binzarah, 41, said: “I had to work on a few projects and went to places I had never been before. I remember thinking, where has this been all my life? I never thought I would find such gems in Saudi Arabia.”

Binzarah said that he looks for dramatic landscapes and tries to “capture the overall feeling of the place.”

He said: “The pictures I take are not unique, the uniqueness comes from the places. I am just the conveyer of the beauty and nothing else.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Fahad Al-Mutairi, 22, started @thesaudigate on Twitter to promote Saudi Arabia’s ‘hidden wonders’ to a growing tourist market.

• Al-Mutairi said that about a third of @thesaudigate’s followers are international, and they are usually surprised by what they see.

“As a photographer, I try to capture the right objects at the right time, but often I feel like the beauty is not represented,” he said.

Al-Mutairi said that about a third of @thesaudigate’s followers are international, and they are usually surprised by what they see.

“Often they are amazed but also very happy because after going through the pictures they know that there is a part of the world that they must explore.”

Hadi Farah, 28, a Lebanese photographer who now lives in the Kingdom, said that he had traveled widely in Saudi Arabia and “always felt a sense of welcome and ease.”

“I think tourism is directly influenced by photographers. Whenever I upload something, I receive questions with people asking if this is really in Saudi Arabia or have I accidentally put the wrong name.

“Unfortunately, people think that it is just a desert and nothing else. So by posting pictures of these places we are educating them about possibilities and attractions they thought never existed,” he said.

Binzarah agreed, saying: “Undiscovered places are of interest for professional photographers, because they are always looking for challenges, and I think this ignites their interests to go to these places and explore.”

he added that “while the desert might be nothing new to a Saudi resident, it will be of interest to people who live in greener countries.”

Saudi Arabia, as a land of ancient civilizations, is extremely appealing for archaeologists and tourists interested in history, Binzara said.

Farah described the beauty of nature in different places, saying: “We associate beauty with life, and in our minds where there is green there is life, but we forget that there is also life in rocks and sand, and they are rich in history. So, we need to keep in mind that the beauty of AlUla is different from other areas.”

Technology is also having a major influence. Photographers now use drones to reach places that once were too dangerous or remote, and the resulting images shed new light on the power of photography and the beauty of landscapes.

“Being on social media gives us the drive to do better,” Binzarah said. “If there is no community or people to engage with, it gets dull.”

He added: “It is a personal journey and one for everyone to discover Saudi Arabia one picture at a time.”


Who’s Who: Nabil Khojah, secretary-general of the Economic Cities and Special Zones Authority

Updated 28 February 2021

Who’s Who: Nabil Khojah, secretary-general of the Economic Cities and Special Zones Authority

A royal order has recently approved Nabil Khojah as the secretary-general of the Economic Cities and Special Zones Authority.

Khojah received a bachelor’s degree in management information systems from the College of Industrial Management of King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in 1996.

Nearly three years ago, he attended a leadership program designed for senior executives, Harvard Business School (HBS).

Khojah, who has served as CEO of Mosanada Logistics Services since 2019, brings extensive experience in the logistics industry to his role.

For four years beginning in 2008, he worked as the managing director at Exel, a joint venture business between DHL and Al-Olayan Group, a multinational enterprise with an actively managed portfolio of global investments.

Between 2012 and 2018, he served as the chief executive officer of Saudia Cargo, one of the Middle East’s leading air cargo carrier and cargo ground handling companies. His responsibilities included reporting to the company’s board of directors and overseeing a business with an extensive global network.

He has also held leadership positions with Unilever KSA and the Royal Saudi Air Force, among others.

From 2001 to 2003, he worked for Unilever, where he occupied a series of more senior positions, including manager of business systems, manager of the supply chain and logistics department, and manager of market demand planning. For three years beginning in 2003, he served as the regional manager for logistics and imported products in Dubai.

Khojah then moved to DHL as the general manager for transport and logistics, later becoming general manager of the company at its headquarters in Saudi Arabia.


World leaders condemn Houthi attack on Riyadh

Updated 01 March 2021

World leaders condemn Houthi attack on Riyadh

  • The Houthis in Yemen launched six drones at the south of the Kingdom, all of which were shot down
  • The coalition also intercepted a ballistic missile targeting Riyadh

JEDDAH: World and Arab leaders have condemned the drone and missile attacks on Saudi Arabia by Houthi militias on Saturday targeting Riyadh and Khamis Mushayt.
The Arab coalition intercepted and destroyed four Houthi drones targeting civilian areas in the Kingdom’s southwestern city Khamis Mushayt — one targeting Jazan and another targeting the southern region on Saturday.
Saudi defense forces also intercepted a ballistic missile targeting the capital Riyadh. No casualties were reported. Shrapnel from one of the Houthi ballistic missiles crashed through the roof of a residential property in Riyadh after it was intercepted.


British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that the UK condemned the missile and drone attacks launched by the Houthis on Saudi Arabia and Marib. These attacks endangered the lives of innocent people and showed that the perpetrators were not serious about the peace process or protection of the Yemeni people, he said.
The secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Dr. Nayef Al-Hajjraf, condemned the terrorist Houthi militia, saying that the continuation of such attacks reflected a blatant challenge to the international community and showed its disregard for international laws and norms. This required the international community to take an immediate and decisive stance to stop the repeated terrorist acts, which targeted vital and civilian installations and the security and stability of Saudi Arabia.

The Kuwaiti Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: “The Houthi militia’s insistence on continuing these terrorist acts constitutes a continuation of the dangerous escalation that these militias are undertaking to harm the security of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and undermine the stability of the region.”
Kuwait renewed its call to the international community, and the UN Security Council, to carry out their duties to curb the Houthis “dangerous escalation” and to maintain international peace and security.

HIGHLIGHT

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that the UK condemned the missile and drone attacks launched by the Houthis on Saudi Arabia and Marib. These attacks endangered the lives of innocent people and showed that the perpetrators were not serious about the peace process or protection of the Yemeni people, he said.

Qatar strongly condemned the Houthi missile attack that targeted Riyadh and said it was “a dangerous act against civilians which contravenes all international norms and laws.”
The French ambassador in Saudi Arabia, Ludovic Pouille, condemned the attack and thanked Saudi forces for their intervention.
“I firmly condemn the ballistic missile attack claimed by the Houthis which has targeted Riyadh last night and the drone attacks against Khamis Mushayt. I convey my deepest thanks to the Saudi defense forces for their efficient protection,” he tweeted.  
Egypt has also expressed its condemnation and denunciation of the Houthi militia’s continuing terrorist acts directed at the territories of Saudi Arabia.
The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs affirmed Egypt’s solidarity with the Kingdom and its support for all measures taken to safeguard security and stability, and to protect citizens and residents in the face of terrorist acts that represented a violation of international law and were a threat to regional peace and security.

 


Pakistan PM’s special adviser denies findings of US intelligence report on Khashoggi

Updated 28 February 2021

Pakistan PM’s special adviser denies findings of US intelligence report on Khashoggi

  • Pakistan in “solidarity” with Saudi Arabia to bring Khashoggi killers to justice
  • Kingdom took all measures to convict people responsible for the crime, Foreign Office says

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s special adviser on religious harmony and the Middle East has denied the findings of a US intelligence report containing an “assessment” of the Jamal Khashoggi murder case, calling it “baseless.”
Saudi journalist Khashoggi was murdered in October 2018 at the Kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, where he had gone to complete paperwork related to his divorce.
“The Saudi government fulfilled the requirements of justice, and propaganda against the Kingdom’s leadership is baseless,” Tahir Ashrafi, chairman of the Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC), said during a convention in Lahore on Saturday.
He expressed solidarity with the Kingdom, adding that ties between the two countries “are strong and permanent, and nothing can dent the relationship.
“There has been a negative campaign against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman since day one, but he laid down the foundations for polices of moderation in Saudi Arabia, and his Vision 2030 is for the development of the Kingdom and the entire Arab World,” Ashrafi said.
The Foreign Office of Pakistan on Saturday also expressed solidarity with Saudi Arabia after the release of the report, saying that Islamabad recognized the Kingdom’s efforts to bring Khashoggi’s killers to justice.
In an official statement issued in Islamabad, the Foreign Office noted that the Saudi authorities had described the killing 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,” the statement continued.
“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.
Saudi Arabia has already rebuffed the contents of the report, saying that it “completely rejects the negative, false and unacceptable assessment in the report pertaining to the Kingdom’s leadership, and notes that the report contained inaccurate information and conclusions.”
The Saudi Foreign Affairs Ministry noted that people responsible for the killing had been convicted and sentenced in Saudi courts, and that “these sentences were welcomed by the family of Jamal Khashoggi.”


Saudi Health Ministry announces new drive-through vaccine centers

Updated 01 March 2021

Saudi Health Ministry announces new drive-through vaccine centers

  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 368,305
  • A total of 6,494 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health announced the launch of new drive-through vaccine centers at a briefing on Sunday, as well as stating that fluctuating coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases continue to concern authorities in the Kingdom.
People will be able to travel to the centers in Riyadh, Makkah, Madinah and Abha, and can book an appointment to take the vaccine at one through the ministry’s Sehhaty app.
Ministry spokesman Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly added that virus numbers have been fluctuating — some more than others in different regions — since the start of the year.
“We have been monitoring the numbers constantly and carefully. These numbers can go down of course if we all adhere to the health precautions,” he said.
He added: “Any type of carelessness from our society could lead us to stricter measures we do not want to take.”
An important Twitter question was raised at the conference, with one observer asking: “I have taken the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, but my appointment for the second dose is after two months and a half. Is it possible to reschedule my appointment earlier? Or take the second dose from Pfizer?”
Al-Aly said studies about the use of different vaccines for one beneficiary are still ongoing but stressed: “Scientifically it is better to receive the vaccine from a specific company and get the second dose from the same company,” he said.

FASTFACTS

377,383 Total cases

368,305 Recoveries

6,494 Deaths

“The time period is set by scientists. We must trust and attend appointments on set dates.”
A total of 780,667 beneficiaries across the Kingdom have received jabs so far. A total of 322 new cases of COVID-19 were recorded in the Kingdom on Sunday, meaning 377,383 people in Saudi Arabia have contracted the disease.
There are 2,584 active cases, 481 of them critical.
Al-Aly announced 294 new recovered cases taking the total number of recoveries to 368,305 while six new deaths had been reported, raising the death toll to 6,494.
Saudi Arabia’s recovery rate is holding steady at 97.5 percent.
Saudi health clinics set up by the ministry as testing hubs or treatment centers have helped hundreds of thousands of people around the Kingdom since the outbreak of the pandemic.