‘It is in our interest to see a strong Saudi Arabia’

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King Salman receives US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in Riyadh Wednesday. (SPA)
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Houthi fighters ride on the back of a patrol truck Yemen's capital Sanaa on Wednesday. US Defense Secretary jim Mattis on Wednesday warned of Iranian efforts to create a Yemeni militia “in the image” of Lebanon’s Hezbollah. (REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah)
Updated 20 April 2017
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‘It is in our interest to see a strong Saudi Arabia’

RIYADH: The US wants to see a strong Saudi Arabia, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said during talks with King Salman on Wednesday, aimed at reinvigorating the Riyadh-Washington alliance. 

Mattis said Iran was playing a destabilizing role in the region but its influence would be overcome to try to reach a solution to the conflict in Yemen through UN-brokered negotiations.

“Everywhere you look if there is trouble in the region, you find Iran,” Mattis told reporters in Riyadh after meeting senior Saudi officials. “We will have to overcome Iran’s efforts to destabilize yet another country and create another militia in their image of Lebanese Hezbollah, but the bottom line is we are on the right path for it,” Mattis added. 

Mattis also hinted that President Donald Trump could visit the Kingdom, a longtime US ally which has welcomed Washington’s firmer line against the common adversary Iran. “It is in our interest to see a strong Saudi Arabia,” Mattis said at the start of talks with Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, pointing to the country’s “military security services and secret services.”

“What we can do here today could actually open the door possibly to bringing our president to Saudi Arabia,” Mattis said.

The two sides pledged to work closely to broaden security cooperation and to ramp up support for the Saudi-led coalition fighting Iranian-backed Houthi militias in Yemen.

Mattis’ talks with the king at Al-Yamamah Palace focused on “efforts to strengthen US-Saudi partnership,” said Johann Schmonsees, a spokesman of the US Embassy. 

Mattis discussed with the king and the deputy crown prince efforts to strengthen commitments to the US-Saudi security partnership, Schmonsees said.

Saud Al-Awadh, a political analyst, said: “The trip of the US defense secretary marks the first visit of the Pentagon chief to the Kingdom. It has added significance keeping in view the American counterterrorism operations and airstrikes in Yemen, where US forces are also providing moderate intelligence support to the Saudi-led forces.”

Mattis will also visit Israel, Egypt, Qatar and Djibouti. The Pentagon has billed the trip, Mattis’ fourth as defense secretary and second to the Middle East region, as an opportunity for him to discuss the ongoing fight against terrorism throughout the region. 

Mattis traveled to Egypt Thursday after wrapping up his two-day trip to the Kingdom. He will visit Israel Friday before returning to the Gulf Saturday for talks in Qatar. The trip is primarily aimed at boosting the alliance between the US and these five countries, which are important players in the region.


Disappointed fans hail improved performance by Saudi Green Falcons but defeat ends World Cup dream

Updated 21 June 2018
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Disappointed fans hail improved performance by Saudi Green Falcons but defeat ends World Cup dream

  • A fan named Yousif, who watched the match at the General Sports Authority viewing tent, was happy that the game at least was close this time.
  • Saudi Arabia will face off against Egypt, who also lost their opening two group A games against Uruguay and Russia, on June 25.

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s World Cup dreams were shattered after Uruguay beat the Green Falcons 1-0 in the second of the three group-stage matches. Most Saudi fans in Jeddah were much happier with the team’s performance in game two, following the resounding 5-0 defeat by host nation Russia in the opening match on June 14, but still bitterly disappointed by the loss, which means they cannot qualify for the knockout stages.

Yousif, who watched the match at the General Sports Authority viewing tent, was happy that the game at least was close this time. “Although we lost, the performance was much better than the first game with Russia. I hope we win our next match,” he said.

Nasrah, who watched the game with her two sons, said: “I was really disappointed because we played good today and nothing less than a win should have been acceptable. I am also disappointed to see the looks on my boys faces when the game ended as they were hoping for a win.”

Khalid Al-Raghbi said at least it had been a good match to watch. “We played a bit better today,” he added. “I wish we would have won but at least we performed better than our last match against Russia.”

Before the game, Ibrahim Al-Turki had been optimistic about Saudi Arabia’s chances. “We didn’t expect today’s result. I was thinking that Saudi would win by two goals, and Uruguay would score one,” he said.

The result was especially disappointing given the close result and the number of chances the Saudis had to score, said Badr, who added: “I don’t know what to tell you because we are deeply disappointed. At least if we lost with a big defeat I would say we deserved it. We had the potential but we could not score.”

Shadi Al-Ghamdi said he wished the national team’s much improved performance in their second game had been more evident in their first. “I am very proud of the players, I thought they played very well. I just wish they had played like this against Russia," he said.

Safah was less complimentary and said that the Saudi players had let their fans down, adding: “They seemed scared whenever they attempted to score any goals.”

Saudi Arabia will face off against Egypt, who also lost their opening two group A games against Uruguay and Russia, on June 25. It will be the final game in the competition for both sides, with only pride to play for, as they battle it out to see who will finish third in the group and who will be left in bottom spot.