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.

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.”

Saudi Arabia ‘completely rejects’ US report on Khashoggi murder

Updated 27 February 2021

Saudi Arabia ‘completely rejects’ US report on Khashoggi murder

  • Foreign Ministry said it had followed report submitted to Congress regarding ‘heinous’ crime

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia on Friday rejected the findings of a US Congress report on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

The Saudi journalist was murdered in on Oct. 2, 2018 at the Kingdom’s consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul. He had gone there to complete paperwork relating to his divorce.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that it has been following the report submitted to the US Congress “regarding the heinous murder of Saudi citizen Jamal Khashoggi” and “notes that the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia 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.”

It said: “The ministry reiterates what was previously announced by the relevant authorities in the Kingdom, that this was an abhorrent crime and a flagrant violation of the Kingdom’s laws and values. This crime was committed by a group of individuals that have transgressed all pertinent regulations and authorities of the agencies where they were employed.”

The ministry said that authorities in the Kingdom “took all possible measures within our legal system to ensure that these individuals were properly investigated, and to ensure that justice was served.” It pointed out that they were convicted and sentenced in Saudi courts and that “these sentences were welcomed by the family of Jamal Khashoggi.”

The statement continues: “It is truly unfortunate that this report, with its unjustified and inaccurate conclusions, is issued while the Kingdom had clearly denounced this heinous crime, and the Kingdom’s leadership took the necessary steps to ensure that such a tragedy never takes place again.

“The Kingdom rejects any measure that infringes upon its leadership, sovereignty, and the independence of its judicial system.”

The ministry reiterated that the relationship between the Kingdom and the US is “a robust and enduring partnership.”

It added: “This partnership has thrived for nearly eight decades on the basis of mutual respect and the institutions in both countries have worked diligently to deepen these ties in all aspects, through increased cooperation and consultations to bolster security and stability in the region and the world.

“We look forward to maintaining the enduring foundations that have shaped the framework of the resilient strategic partnership between the Kingdom and the United States.

Saudi Arabian Military Industries signs deals at IDEX

Updated 27 February 2021

Saudi Arabian Military Industries signs deals at IDEX

  • SAMI also agreed to be a strategic partner of Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Military Industries (GAMI in next year’s IDEX

Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI) signed several cooperation agreements with international companies and government authorities during the International Defense Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) this week.

SAMI, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Public Investment Fund (PIF), aims to enhance the Kingdom’s defense capabilities and localize its military industry as part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030.

“We are pleased to achieve outstanding success through our participation in IDEX 2021,” Walid bin Abdulmajeed Abu Khaled, CEO of SAMI, said.

“This will lead us to new achievements and make Saudi Arabia one of the leading manufacturers of military systems in the world.”

SAMI signed a joint venture agreement with the US firm Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest military defense company. The venture will develop capabilities in manufacturing software technologies, along with the production, maintenance, and repair of helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.

SAMI also signed a cooperation agreement with Nimr, which is part of the Abu Dhabi-based EDGE Technology Group. The deal will allow both companies to work together on armored military and security vehicles. It also marks the first collaboration in the field of military industries between Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Military Industries (GAMI) also signed an agreement with SAMI to be a strategic partner in next year’s IDEX.

During the five-day exhibition, GAMI Gov. Ahmed bin Abdul Aziz Al-Ohali visited the Saudi pavilion along with Saudi Ambassador to the UAE Turki bin Abdullah Al-Dakhil.

The pavilion also welcomed Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed and Lt. Gen. Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the UAE’s deputy prime minister.






Who’s Who: Ziyad Al-Shiha, new CEO of Saudi Investment Recycling Co. 

Updated 27 February 2021

Who’s Who: Ziyad Al-Shiha, new CEO of Saudi Investment Recycling Co. 

Ziyad Al-Shiha has been appointed CEO of the Saudi Investment Recycling Co. (SIRC).

SIRC, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Public Investment Fund, the National Waste Management Center and the municipality of the Eastern Province recently signed an agreement to start integrated waste management and waste recycling activities in the province.

Al-Shiha has been a board member of the National Petrochemical Company, a Saudi joint-stock company, since 2019, and was deputy chair of the Business 20 (B20) Trade and Investment Taskforce.

He was president and CEO of the Saudi Electricity Co. (SEC) from 2014 to 2018 and, prior to that, was a SEC board member from 2012 to 2013.

Al-Shiha has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, a master’s degree in engineering and control systems from Rice University, and a second master’s in executive business administration from MIT.

He had a number of positions at Saudi Aramco after joining the company in 1984. He was an electrical engineer and vice president of general planning in one of the international joint ventures in the Philippines. He was also a public relations manager at Aramco, the director of facilities planning, and the executive director of power systems.

Al-Shiha has participated in several leadership training programs, including MIT’s Sloan Fellowship Program.

Number of COVID-19 active cases in Saudi Arabia stabilizing

Updated 26 February 2021

Number of COVID-19 active cases in Saudi Arabia stabilizing

  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 367,691
  • A total of 6,483 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

JEDDAH: The number of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) active cases being dealt with in Saudi Arabia on Friday dropped to 2,549.

And the number of patients requiring critical care was on the decline too, according to Ministry of Health data that also revealed the levels of people recovering from COVID-19 gaining momentum over new cases.  

Officials said there were 477 patients in a serious or critical condition on Friday and they reiterated the importance of people maintaining social distancing and other health and safety measures aimed at stopping the spread of the virus.

Figures showed that COVID-19 recoveries in the Kingdom had risen by 368 to 367,691, a recovery rate of 97.6 percent, with most being in Riyadh followed by Al-Kharj with 17, Dammam 15, and Jeddah 13.

There were 346 new cases of COVID-19 recorded in the country, raising the total number since the beginning of the pandemic to 376,723.

Of the new cases, 184 were in Riyadh, 74 in the Eastern Province, 38 in Makkah, nine in Asir, five in Madinah, four in Hail, four in Najran, and three in Jazan. Only one case was reported in Al-Baha.

Saudi Arabia announced that three more people had died from COVID-19-related illness, taking the death toll in the Kingdom to 6,483.

More than 13.5 million polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests have now been conducted in the country, with 45,027 checks being carried out in the latest reported 24-hour period.

Meanwhile, 158 mosques had been partially shut down in the past 19 days, most recently five in four different regions where 13 COVID-19 cases had been identified among worshippers.

The Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah, and Guidance said that of the mosques closed, 141 had now reopened after satisfying sanitization directives.