Saudi Arabia backs US move to halt all Iranian oil sales

Saudi Foreign Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf, above, said the international community must continue their pressures on Iran. (AFP/File)
Updated 24 April 2019

Saudi Arabia backs US move to halt all Iranian oil sales

  • ‘Panic in Tehran’ as Trump ends exemptions from economic sanctions on May 2
  • The Saudi minister said Iran uses state income to finance their dangerous policies

JEDDAH: Iran on Tuesday designated the US military’s Central Command a terrorist organization, accused Washington of sponsoring terrorism and repeated its threat to close the Strait of Hormuz.

It was Tehran’s response to US blacklisting this month of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and President Donald Trump’s move on Monday to reduce Iran’s oil exports to zero, costing the country $15 billion a year in lost revenue.

The reaction is a sign of panic in the Iranian regime, the Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist Dr. Majid Rafizadeh told Arab News.

“This highlights the fact that the Iranian leaders are extremely concerned about the US sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic,” he said. “They have been feeling significant pressure from loss of revenues, a decline in oil exports, isolation of the IRGC, and dissatisfaction of the Iranian public with the regime.”

Saudi Arabia on Tuesday welcomed the US announcement that eight countries’ exemptions from economic sanctions against buyers of Iranian oil would end on May 2.

“Saudi Arabia fully supports this step taken by the United States as it is necessary to force the Iranian regime to end its policy of destabilizing the region and its support and sponsorship of terrorism around the world,” Foreign Minister Ibrahim bin Abdul Aziz Al-Assaf said.

The Iranian regime used its oil income to finance dangerous policies without any consideration for international law, the minister said, and international pressure must continue until it stopped interfering in the domestic affairs of other countries.

Iran’s Parliament passed legislation on Tuesday requiring the government “to take firm and retaliatory measures against terrorist activities of American forces that endangers Iran’s interests.”

“The government should use legal, political and diplomatic measures in response to the American actions,” it said.

The new chief commander of the IRGC, Hossein Salami, appointed after the US blacklisting, has warned that Iran could use its cruise and ballistic missiles and drones, mines, speedboats, and missile launchers in the Gulf area to confront the US.

He repeated the threat that Tehran would block all exports through the Strait of Hormuz if Tehran were barred from using the waterway, where a fifth of global oil consumption passes.

The US on Tuesday urged Iran to keep the strait open. “We call on Iran, and all countries, to respect the free flow of energy and commerce, and freedom of navigation,” a State Department spokesman said.

Iran’s oil minister Bijan Zanganeh said the US had made a mistake by politicizing oil. “With all our power, we will work toward breaking America’s sanctions,” he said.


Saudis recall history’s greatest TV event: Apollo moon landing

Updated 20 July 2019

Saudis recall history’s greatest TV event: Apollo moon landing

  • The TV images beamed from 320,000km away in space left viewers astounded but happy
  • The TV coverage influenced thinking and attitudes in the Kingdom just like everywhere else

DUBAI: It was a sleepy afternoon in Saudi Arabia, just days before the end of the school vacation, and Saudis had their eyes glued to their TV sets as they waited for live coverage of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Before July 20, 1969, the idea of a human walking on the moon was the stuff of science fiction. However, almost overnight, sci-fi had turned into reality with a live broadcast showing American astronaut Neil Armstrong’s dramatic descent onto the empty lunar landscape.

Between science fiction and science fact, the live coverage of the lunar landing amounted to an unusual fusion of news and entertainment.

Saudi TV technicians bring the first live images of Neil Armstrong’s 1969 moon landing to
viewers around the Kingdom. (Supplied photo)

The historic images — beamed back to Earth more than 320,000 km away — left Saudi viewers astounded and confused, but mostly elated to be witnessing such an epoch-making event.

The event was covered live on television and radio stations in Saudi Arabia. Most Saudis and residents living in the Kingdom watched it on Saudi channels 1 and 3, owned by Saudi Aramco.

Hessah Al-Sobaie, a housewife from Al-Dawadmi, recalled watching the moon landing from her grandparents’ backyard as an 11-year-old.

“It felt weird watching a human walk on the moon,” she told Arab News. “I remember the endless questions I asked as a child.”

While most people were aware that going to the moon was risky, many Saudis believed that such a journey was impossible and all but unthinkable.


1. NASA’s Apollo 11 mission control room in Houston has been restored to its 1969 condition and regular tours
will be conducted by the Johnson Space Center.

2. NASA ‘Science Live’ will have a special edition on July 23 on board the aircraft carrier that recovered the Apollo 11 capsule.

3. A summer moon festival and family street fair will be held in Wapakoneta, Ohio, from July 17-20.

4. Downtown Houston’s Discovery green will host a free public screening of the ‘Apollo 11’ documentary, with an appearance by NASA astronaut Steve Bowen.

5. Amateur radio operators will host a series of events on July 20-21.

6. The US Space and Rocket Center is staging a special ‘Rockets on Parade’ exhibition.

The Apollo 11 mission prompted discussions across the Middle East over the reality of what people saw on their TV screens. Some Saudi scholars found it hard to believe their eyes.

“I watched it, and I clearly remember each and every detail of the coverage,” Hayat Al-Bokhari, 68, a retired school principal in Jeddah, said.

“My father, Abdul, was 56 at the time. He said the landing was faked. He couldn’t believe or accept that a human could go to the moon.”

Khaled Almasud, 70, a retired university lecturer, was a student in the US state of Oregon at the time of the mission. “Americans were stunned and over the moon, happy with their national achievement. But many Saudis like me were either in denial or insisting on more proof.”

Since the beginning of the 1960s, King Faisal had been rapidly transforming Saudi Arabia, inviting foreign-trained experts to help build a modern country with world-class infrastructure.

Billie Tanner, now 90, lived in the Kingdom for many years with her husband, Larry, and their two children, Laurie and Scott, aged six and four. The family had just arrived in Saudi Arabia and headed to the Aramco compound in Ras Tanura in the Eastern Province.

A screengrab of video of the first lunar landing beamed toward Earth and shown on television worldwide. 

“We were going through a culture shock,” she told Arab News. “I wasn’t thinking of the moon landing, but we heard about it on the news from Dhahran.

“My kids tried to see the astronauts on the moon with their binoculars and said they could see them walking around.”

The Apollo 11 spaceflight has become a milestone in the annals of human history and science. Since 1969 space exploration has greatly expanded man’s knowledge of the universe, far beyond Earth’s limits.

The captivating live coverage of the moon landing inspired millions of people around the world, profoundly influencing their thinking and attitudes.

The people of Saudi Arabia were no exception.