Opinion

Biden is becoming a master at losing friends and alienating allies

Biden is becoming a master at losing friends and alienating allies

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As the veteran Lebanese journalist and Asharq Al Awsat columnist Eyad Abu Chakra tweeted on Monday: “The worst politico-military scenario is to be threatened by Russia, and promised protection by America!” I could not agree more: It was a brilliant and concise summary of the state of the world today.

What I can add, however, is that if the author Toby Young ever chose to write a sequel to his 2001 memoir “How to Lose Friends & Alienate People,” he would find a rich vein of content in US President Joe Biden’s foreign policy.

Just look at the headlines from the past few weeks alone — starting with Israel, the closest of US allies in the Middle East. Expressing shock at how far the ill-advised US negotiators in Vienna seem prepared to go in bowing to Iran’s demands, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said they “refuse to believe” that the US would remove the designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization.

How rare it is to have Israel’s two most senior ministers fighting for Arab concerns (as well as their own) by reminding Team Biden that the IRGC’s malign tentacles extend throughout the Middle East, and that they bear responsibility for attacks on American civilians and American forces in the region

Of course, no sane person wants to see a nuclear Iran, and the world should do all it can to obtain a tougher, tighter deal. However, declassifying the IRGC simply to obtain a new agreement would be the equivalent of trying to put out a fire by spraying it with aviation fuel.

Saudi Arabia was absolutely right to say that it was not responsible for any oil supply shortage that results from attacks by the Iran-backed Houthi terrorist militias

Faisal J. Abbas

At the heart of the Biden administration’s zeal for the deal in Vienna is a personal vendetta against his predecessor, Donald Trump. That vendetta, along with internal political squabbling, also led to the delisting of the Tehran-backed Houthi militia as a terrorist group in early 2021 — reversing the Trump administration’s laudable action before he left office. In response, the Houthis, who overthrew Yemen’s internationally recognized government in 2014, have ramped up their deliberate targeting of civilian facilities in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Instead of reconsidering its position, the Biden administration doubled down on its apparent strategy of alienating friends.

The US has not even taken the minimum, zero-cost decision to re-list the Houthis as a terrorist group, despite their blatant attacks at the weekend on Aramco facilities in Saudi Arabia at a time when global energy supplies are already being disrupted and accompanying price increases are troubling the world. Saudi Arabia was therefore absolutely right to say, as it did on Monday, that it could not be held responsible for any oil supply issues resulting from these Houthi attacks.

Indeed, from Toronto to Tokyo, truck drivers, airlines, cargo ships, hospitals and almost every other industry and individual affected by Biden’s ill-advised foreign policy should remember that the economic pinch they feel is on him.

But put aside Saudi Arabia, forget Afghanistan, ignore Israel. The biggest demonstration of US misjudgment is evident in Ukraine. President Volodomyr Zelenksy had to plead with the US Congress for more help, after Ukraine’s eternal hope of joining NATO was dashed, and a disrespected Obama-era red line on the annexation of Crimea set a dangerous precedent that paved the way to what is happening today.

From Toronto to Tokyo, every industry and individual affected by Biden’s ill-advised foreign policy should remember that the economic pinch they feel is on him

Faisal J. Abbas

If long-time friends and allies in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Israel and Ukraine are not enough to persuade Biden, or if he thinks the opinion of a Saudi newspaper editor will necessarily be biased against him, perhaps his team should look closer to home — and read a recent editorial in the Wall Street Journal that condemned his foreign policy direction in eloquent terms. “In this new era of Great Power competition, the US can’t afford to alienate allies that can help deter authoritarian aggressors bent on harming US interests and values. The US is paying the price in the Ukraine crisis for having lost the Saudis,” the editorial concluded.

I rest my case.

• Faisal J. Abbas is the editor in chief of Arab News

Twitter: @FaisalJAbbas

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view

World condemns Houthis as US says Iran ‘clearly enabled’ Jeddah oil attack

The attack caused a fire in two tanks at the North Jeddah oil facility on Friday. (AFP)
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Updated 27 March 2022

World condemns Houthis as US says Iran ‘clearly enabled’ Jeddah oil attack

  • Calls for action against Houthi attacks on civilian targets
  • US pledges to work with Saudi Arabia to shore up defenses

RIYADH: Yemen’s Houthi militia were roundly condemned for an attack on a Saudi oil facility in Jeddah on Friday with the US implicating Iran for enabling the attack by supplying weapons to the group against international law.

“Unprovoked Houthi attacks against Saudi Aramco’s oil storage facilities in Jeddah as well as attacks against civil facilities in Jizan, Najran, and Dhahran are acts of terrorism aimed to prolong the suffering of the Yemeni people,” said Jake Sullivan, the US national security advisor.

He accused Iran of facilitating the group’s actions by supplying weapons, which are against UN rules.

“Today’s attacks, just like the attacks against water treatment plants and energy infrastructure on March 19 and 20, were clearly enabled by Iran in violation of UN Security Council resolutions prohibiting the import of weapons into Yemen,” he said in a statement on Friday.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US will work with the Kingdom to strengthen defenses “while also seeking to advance a durable end to the conflict, improve lives, and create the space for Yemenis to determine their own future collectively.”

“At a time when the parties should be focused on de-escalation and bringing needed life-saving relief to the Yemeni people ahead of the holy month of Ramadan, the Houthis continue their destructive behavior and reckless terrorist attacks striking civilian infrastructure.”

UN chief Antonio Guterres on Saturday called for “restraint” on all sides and to “urgently reach a negotiated settlement to end the conflict.”.

“The Secretary-General strongly condemns the recent escalation of the conflict in Yemen,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement Saturday.

The Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen said the fire in two tanks at the North Jeddah oil facility had been brought under control, and there were no casualties.

The Kingdom’s s civil defense said it has extinguished fires at two fuel storage tanks in Jeddah that were hit in the attack, state television reported on Saturday.

On Saturday morning, the coalition knocked down two drones over Yemeni territory that were on their way to the Kingdom. It said the launch location was an oil installation in Hodeidah, a city on the Red Sea coast. It also said that it carried out a strike in Sanaa.

Plumes of black smoke could be seen across Jeddah on Friday after the Houthi attack, a reminder of the Iran-backed group’s intent to destabilize international energy security. The militia, which seized the capital Sanaa in 2014 and continues to hold large parts of Yemen, has conducted regular attacks against civilian infrastructure in the Kingdom.

The Saudi-led coalition, which has been supporting the internationally recognized Yemeni government against the Houthis, has intercepted numerous drones and missiles in the past.

An attack in Jeddah on March 19 caused a fire at an Aramco distribution center. A day later, the coalition destroyed an explosive-laden boat near Hodeidah, thwarting an imminent attack on shipping in the vital international maritime route.




The attack on the Saudi Aramco oil facility has been widely condemned. (AFP)

Previous attacks have also targeted airports in the Kingdom, causing harm to civilians.

In February, 12 civilians were injured by a drone attack targeting Abha airport. In October, ten people where injured at King Abdulaziz Airport in the southern city of Jazan, with another 16 injured by falling shrapnel following an attack at the same airport last month.

The Houthi militia has increased attacks against Saudi energy installations in recent weeks as Iran seeks to revive a nuclear deal that would allow it to begin selling oil again amid increased international energy demand following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Saudi energy ministry reiterated that it cannot bear responsibility for any shortage of oil supplies to global markets, in light of continuing attacks against its facilities. The ministry said the international community needs to realize the role of Iran in supporting the Houthis to target oil and gas production sites.




The smoke from the attack could be seen from the track. “I smell burning - is it my car?” said F1 world champion Max Verstappen on his team radio. (Reuters)

In a letter to the UN Security Council on Friday, Saudi Arabia said it reserves the right to defend itself against Houthi aggression.

 

 


Princess Reema bint Bandar, Saudi ambassador to the US, tweeted: “The Iran backed terrorist Houthis continue to attack our civilians, infrastructure & energy facilities with Iranian made missiles & UAV’s with impunity. The international community must act against this aggression that targets innocent civilians and global energy supplies.”

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi condemned the attack on the Aramco facility during a call with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. El-Sisi said Egypt stands in solidarity with the Kingdom to confront hostilities.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who visited the Kingdom last week, tweeted: “I fully condemn the latest Houthi attack against critical sites in Saudi Arabia, including in Jeddah. These strikes put civilian lives at risk and must stop.” His foreign secretary, Liz Truss, called the “abhorrent” attack a continuation of recent terror acts by the Houthis and urged an “immediate halt to the violence.”

 

 

The European Union said attacks against cities and civilian infrastructure are unacceptable and must stop, and the latest hostilities increase the risk of further escalation of the Yemen conflict and undermines ongoing efforts to end the war.
“The EU reiterates its call on all sides to participate in the Yemeni-Yemeni talks, starting on Tuesday, 29 March, in Riyadh under the auspices of the Gulf Cooperation Council. The EU recalls its full support to the efforts of UN Special Envoy Hans Grundberg,” said Peter Stabo, spokesman for EU Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

 


The UAE, which has also faced attacks by the Houthi militia in the past, condemn Friday’s attack and called on the international community to stand against the repeated acts of aggression, calling for the coalition’s work against the group to be supported.

France, who condemned the group’s attack in the “strongest terms,” said the acts, which threaten the security of Saudi Arabia and the stability of the region, must stop, urging the Houthis to constructively engage with the Yemeni peace initiative under the UN.

 




The Saudi energy ministry reiterated that it cannot bear responsibility for any shortage of oil supplies to global markets. (AFP)

Bahrain said it backed all measures Saudi Arabia “deems necessary to maintain its security and stability against these deliberate and systematic attacks that are inconsistent with international humanitarian law.”

Meanwhile, Kuwait condemned the attack, which it referred to as a 'cowardly terrorist attack' that not only affects Saudi Arabia's security and regional stability, but the global energy supply. 

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI sent a message of solidarity to King Salman, strongly condemning the attacks and reiterated his country’s full solidarity with the Kingdom.
Canada also condemned the attacks and called on the Houthis to negotiate, reject violence and cease all attacks.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett expressed his country's "sorrow" to Saudi Arabia following a wave of Yemen rebel attacks, in a rare public message to the country, with which it lacks formal ties.

"The State of Israel expresses its sorrow to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia after the horrific attack by the Iranian-backed Huthis," Bennett wrote on Twitter.


Sudan said the Houthi attack represented a dangerous escalation in the region and said it supports the Kingdom against anything that endangers its security.
Palestine, Algeria, Pakistan, Poland, and Mauritania also released similar statements condemning the attacks.
Secretary-General of the Arab League Ahmed Aboul Gheit said the attack poses a grave threat to security in the region and global energy supplies. He urged the international community to take a tougher stand against the Houthi terror and as well as their ongoing violation of humanitarian laws.

 

Muhammad bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, head of the Muslim World League, said the organization stood in solidarity with the Kingdom to protect civilians on its land.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and subsequent sanctions imposed on Moscow have caused crude prices to soar. The war in Ukraine, which entered its second month this week, has seen the Kremlin see reduced interest for its gas and oil as customers sought to avoid falling foul of international sanctions against Russia.

The main backer of the Houthis, Iran, is aiming to resurrect a nuclear deal with world powers that was scrapped by former US President Donald Trump.

US President Joe Biden has pledged to renew the deal, displeasing allies in the region who believe it rewards Iran, who supports the Houthis with weapons, for its destabilizing activities across the Middle East.

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In Feb. 2021, Washington reversed Trump’s designation of the Houthi militia as a terrorist organization, but last month the UN Security Council stamped the group as terrorist.

Concern has also been growing among America’s regional allies that the US may remove Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from its blacklist of terrorist organizations as part of the nuclear deal.

The Revolutionary Guard control a business empire in Iran, as well as military and intelligence forces responsible for terrorist attacks throughout the world.

“The attempt to delist the IRGC as a terrorist organization is an insult to their victims and would ignore documented reality supported by unequivocal evidence,” said Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in a statement.




This is the second time Saudi Arabia is hosting the F1 Grand Prix in Jeddah. (AFP)

Talks on the nuclear deal, however, have now paused after Russia wanted an agreement to allow Iran to be exempt from the international sanctions on Moscow. The US said the two issues are unrelated.

A finalized agreement would once again see Iran able to sell its oil freely on international markets, who are hungry for more supply.

The country may have as many as 65 to 80 million oil barrels on stationary tankers, Bloomberg reported, citing data from intelligence solutions provider Kpler.

Saudi Arabia is hosting the F1 Grand Prix this weekend in Jeddah. Race-goers could see a plume of black smoke from the attack in the distance during afternoon practice.

“I smell burning - is it my car?” said world champion Max Verstappen on his team radio, as he appeared one of the first drivers to notice the fumes in the air.




Dark smoke can be seen at the site of the attack on Friday. (AFP)

Despite the drama of the first day, organizers said the race will go ahead as scheduled: “We are aware of the attack on the Aramco distribution station in Jeddah earlier this afternoon and remain in direct contact with the Saudi authorities,” promoter Saudi Motorsport Company said in a statement.

“The race weekend schedule will continue as planned. The safety and security of all our guests continues to be our main priority and we look forward to welcoming fans for a weekend of premium racing and entertainment.”

This is the second time the Kingdom is hosting the event in the Red Sea city.  The race on Dec. 5, 2021, was won by Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton after a dramatic stop-start contest with Dutchman Verstappen, who would later become world champion in the final race of the season, in Abu Dhabi.

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Jeddah receives 179mm of rainfall, higher figure than 2009 peak

Updated 25 November 2022

Jeddah receives 179mm of rainfall, higher figure than 2009 peak

  • Maximum alert issued in face of weather conditions

JEDDAH: The National Center of Meteorology recorded 179 mm of rainfall on Thursday, the highest amount ever received in the city.

Rain fell from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. in the south of the province in a heavier downpour than the previous biggest, in 2009.

The Jeddah Municipality announced a maximum alert in the wake of the weather conditions, while the meteorology center warned of moderate to heavy rain in the governorates of Jeddah and Rabigh in the Makkah region, including Thuwal and coastal areas, accompanied by surface winds, hail and flooding, until 7 p.m. on Thursday.

King Abdulaziz Airport announced that some flights had been delayed due to the weather. The airport was hoping to communicate with air carriers to confirm dates and times for rearranged flights.

Makkah Municipality employs 11,800 field workers to prepare for the rainy season. It has machinery and equipment to deal with the expected conditions. Its operation and maintenance department assesses the performance of rainwater drainage network channels in main and side roads, intersections and squares.

It removes sediment which can impede water flow in drainage systems, in accordance with contingency plans.

Task forces and equipment have been deployed throughout Makkah, with some 52 water tanks, each with a capacity of 194,000 gallons, removing floodwaters. Some 146 excavating machines and 89 multipurpose trucks have been dealing with the impact of the rain and removing water from the roads and streets.

The municipality has also organized field teams to remove waste that may have built up in the wake of the downpours.

It has also increased the number of cleaning teams to work on clearing sewers to prevent any dangers that may pose a threat to residents and visitors.

The teams have been deployed along with 520 machines, including lorries, pump tanks, Bobcats, tankers and automated sweepers, as well as a large number of pumps and excavating machines. Work is being carried out around the clock to implement contingency plans.

Makkah contains huge rainwater drainage systems that reach around 540 km and cover all of the region’s neighborhoods and holy sites. The systems include closed trunk water mains and deep tunnel networks, as well as shallow and open drainage channels.

The municipality also carries out maintenance and cleaning operations throughout the year to help reduce the effects of flooding on the region.

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Spanish passions of food and football combine at Riyadh festival

Updated 26 November 2022

Spanish passions of food and football combine at Riyadh festival

  • LaLiga and Spanish gastronomes host feast of Iberian culture at Ritz Carlton

RIYADH: Food and football were flavors of the week in Riyadh as Spanish cuisine experts and LaLiga officials came together to host a feast of Iberian culture.

The Spanish Pantry festival, organized by LaLiga and food experts Provacuno, was held over three days this week in the capital’s Ritz Carlton. 

Mohamad Essa, LaLiga’s delegate in Saudi Arabia, told Arab News that the festival combined two of Spain’s biggest passions, with football activities and displays from a Michelin star chef Rafael Centeno.

Essa said that Saudi Arabia had a passionate fan base for LaLiga football. “It’s my honor to be close to the local fans and to listen to their observations and understand their needs. We would like to achieve many things together. 

“We are here to promote strong relations with local institutions, clubs and media,” he said, adding that his presence helps LaLiga giants such as Real Madrid and Barcelona connect with Saudi fans, clubs and sponsors.

He added that his organization planned many activities for the Kingdom, including parties for Saudi fans to travel and watch LaLiga matches.

The league already helps develop skills in the sports industry with its LaLiga business school, and it has football academies aimed at developing youth talent.

“We want to export these capabilities to the country to create the new generation of footballers,” Essa said.

“As part of this international expansion, we are engaging in the market by hosting events, activities, different sports projects and academic opportunities.”

Ohoud M. Aljabr, of the Ritz-Carlton group, said: “Our main goal of this successful partnership is to introduce the beautiful and rich culture of Spain and present a memorable experience. Hosting the Spanish Festival for the first time in the Kingdom was a pleasure.” 

Provacuno is a promotion organization for Spanish beef and veal, and represents 140,000 farms and processing plants.

Spain produces more than 800,000 tonnes per year of meat to EU standards. Saudi Arabia meanwhile is a growing market for beef, with consumption rates increasing and outstripping local supply. “Spanish beef has been a supplier since 2016. Export figures have been rising in recent years, reaching 350 tonnes a year,” Provacuno said. “Most of our exports to Saudi Arabia are high-quality cuts that meet Saudi demands.”


Al-Harthi receives Rawabi Holding Award in London

Updated 24 November 2022

Al-Harthi receives Rawabi Holding Award in London

JEDDAH: Ghadah W. Al-Harthi has received the Rawabi Holding Award for her contribution to promoting Saudi-British cultural relations.

She was awarded by Abdulaziz Al-Turki, chairman of Rawabi Holding. The award ceremony was held in the presence of Prince Khalid bin Bandar, Saudi ambassador to the UK.

Al-Harthi works in London as a senior cultural consultant delivering research, strategy and content curation to consultancies in the UK with projects in the Gulf countries.

She is also a senior lecturer and associate director of the MA Innovation Management at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London.

Alongside her work as a consultant and academic, she is a young adviser at Chatham House and a member of the Next Generation Committee.

For the past 10 years, Al-Harthi has been collaborating with key arts and culture institutions in the UK and the Gulf.

She aims to build bridges between communities, increase cultural exchange and enhance the multilayered communication between Saudi Arabia and the UK through her work, research and participation in international events.

In her acceptance speech, Al-Harthi said she was privileged “to have been able to strengthen cultural relations and to lead on major projects and research, with talented teams and academics here in London.”

She said: “I’m starting a London-based cultural initiative, which will aim to further continue my contributions to promoting cultural dialogue between the East and the West.”


Two dead, schools and universities close as heavy rains hit western Saudi Arabia

Updated 24 November 2022

Two dead, schools and universities close as heavy rains hit western Saudi Arabia

  • Social media showed standing water snarling traffic and partially submerging vehicles
  • Jeddah's King Abdulaziz International Airport said some flights has been delayed

RIYADH: At least two people died on Thursday as heavy rains hit western Saudi Arabia, including Jeddah, delaying flights and forcing schools to close, officials said.

“Two deaths have been recorded so far, and we call on everyone not to go out unless necessary,” Makkah regional government said on its Twitter page.

The road connecting Jeddah and Makkah was closed on Thursday once the rains began, Saudi Press Agency said, although it was later reopened.

Al-Ekhbariya channel showed footage of worshippers at the Grand Mosque in Makkah circling the Kaaba under a heavy downpour.

In Jeddah, images posted to social media showed standing water snarling traffic and partially submerging some vehicles.

The city's King Abdulaziz International Airport said that “due to weather conditions, the departure of some flights has been delayed” and urged passengers to contact carriers for up-to-date schedules.

SPA reported before dawn that schools in the city would temporarily be closed as rains were forecast to continue throughout the day.

Schools were also closed in the nearby towns of Rabigh and Khulais “to preserve the safety of male and female students", SPA added.


Saudi peak stands tall as global landmark

Updated 24 November 2022

Saudi peak stands tall as global landmark

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia is home to one of the most beautiful landmarks in the world, based on a selection of leading geological sites by the International Union of Geological Sciences and UNESCO.

Mount Al-Qadar, the 2,000-meter-high extinct volcano in the Madinah region, took its place among the top 100 geological heritage sites selected from among 181 nominations submitted by 56 countries, including 34 landmarks from North and South America, 28 from Europe, 15 from Africa, and 23 from Asia, the Pacific and the Middle East.

The Saudi Geological Survey said on Thursday that Mount Al-Qadar in Harrat Khaybar “forms an aesthetically pleasing shape with a 400-meter volcanic cone.”

Mount Al-Qadar, which last erupted 1,000 years ago, was chosen along with landmarks such as the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Park in the US, the Archean Barberton Greenstone belt in South Africa, and Mount Everest.