Frankly Speaking: Saudis feel let down by America, says Prince Turki Al-Faisal

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Updated 03 May 2022

Frankly Speaking: Saudis feel let down by America, says Prince Turki Al-Faisal

Frankly Speaking: Saudis feel let down by America, says Prince Turki Al-Faisal
  • Former Saudi intelligence chief and ambassador blames President Biden’s policies for US energy shortage, says Saudis want only mediator role in Russia-Ukraine conflict
  • He says Saudi-Turkish relationship “should be one of the best in terms of benefit for both countries,” be it in trade or cross-border investments
  • He says sanctions should be levied on Israel because of its record of invasions of Arab countries as “aggression is aggression”

JEDDAH: Saudis feel let down at a time when they believe the US and Saudi Arabia should be together facing threats to the stability and security of the Gulf region, Prince Turki Al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia’s former intelligence chief and former ambassador to both London and Washington D.C., told Arab News.

He identified the threats specifically as Iran’s influence in Yemen and its use of the Houthis as a tool “not only to destabilize Saudi Arabia, but also affect the security and stability of the international sea lanes” along the Red Sea, the Gulf and the Arabian Sea.

“The fact that President Biden delisted the Houthis from the terrorist list has emboldened them and made them even more aggressive in their attacks on Saudi Arabia, as well as on the UAE,” Prince Turki told Katie Jensen, the new host of Arab News’ “Frankly Speaking.” He was alluding to the Feb. 12, 2021, revocation by the new Democratic administration of the Iran-aligned militia’s designation as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

“Frankly Speaking” features interviews with leading policymakers and business leaders, diving deep into the biggest news-making headlines across the Middle East and around the world. During his appearance on the video show, Prince Turki offered his views on US-Saudi relations, the war between Russia and Ukraine, and the ever-shifting dynamics of Middle Eastern geopolitics at a time of rising oil prices and diplomatic tensions.

“We have always considered our relationship with the US as being strategic,” he said on the question of whether many Saudis feel they have been betrayed by one of their closest allies.

“We’ve had our ups and downs over the years and perhaps, at this time, it’s one of the downs, particularly since the president of the US, in his election campaign, said that he will make Saudi Arabia a pariah. And, of course, he went on to practice what he preached: First of all, by stopping the joint operations that America had with the Kingdom in meeting the challenge of the Houthi-led rebellion in Yemen against the Yemeni people. And, second, among other similar actions, by not meeting with (Saudi Arabia’s crown prince) and publicly declaring that he would not meet with the crown prince, and, at one stage, withdrawing anti-aircraft missile batteries from the Kingdom when we were facing an increase in attacks by the Houthis using Iranian equipment like missiles and drones.”

Pointing out that Saudi Arabia “all the time … has been calling for a peaceful solution to the Yemen conflict,” Prince Turki said: “Unfortunately the Houthis have always either not responded to that call or simply ignored it or opposed it. And, as we see now, there is a supposed ceasefire established by the UN, but the Houthis continue to infringe on that ceasefire and to take advantage of the ceasefire to reposition their forces and replenish them.”

“So, basically this is how the situation has come to this stage,” he said, referring to the current state of US-Saudi relations. “I hope that we’ll get over it like we got over so many previous downturns in the relationship.”

On the face of it, Washington seems to be quite eager to keep its communication channels with Riyadh open with phone calls and visits by officials but, according to Prince Turki, “it’s not just one thing.”

He said: “It’s the general tone of the atmosphere and America, for example, has been declaring, or American officials have been declaring, that they are in support of Saudi Arabia and will help Saudi Arabia defend itself against outside aggression and so on. We are grateful for those statements, but we need to see more in terms of the relationship between the two leaderships.”

He shrugged off the claim that Saudi Arabia has not budged on the issue of the oil problems that the US is facing, countering that Washington itself “is the reason for the state that it is in because of its energy policy.”

“President Biden made it a policy of the US government to cut all links to what is called the oil and gas industry. He curtailed oil production and gas production in the US (when) it had been, in the last few years, the biggest producer of these two energy sources,” Prince Turki said.

This curtailment of US energy production, he says, helped lift the price of oil, together with the OPEC+ agreement established after the COVID-19 difficulty, which “was an agreement to bring down production in order to stabilize the prices, for the benefit of everybody and stability of oil prices.”

Prince Turki was emphatic that Saudi Arabia does not want to be “an instrument or a reason for instability in oil prices,” indicating that actions such as the embargo of 1973 were a thing of the past.

“That is why the Kingdom and the other OPEC members and the OPEC+ members are sticking to the production quotas that they have assigned themselves. I have read that the recent decision by OPEC+ to incrementally increase oil production while the agreement is effective, is in response to the difficulties that people have in the energy sector. Another factor that adds to all this is the security issue, the high rates of insurance that have come about as a result of the war in Ukraine, plus the European and US curtailment of, and sanctions on, the Russian oil industry. All of these things have added to the increase in oil prices.”

In this connection, Prince Turki expressed strong displeasure with comments made by Hillary Clinton, the former US secretary of state, on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program in support of a “carrot-and-stick” approach to force Saudi Arabia to increase its share of oil production in order to reduce prices during what she called an “existential crisis.”

Reiterating that he could not speak for all Saudis, Prince Turki said: “We are not schoolchildren to be treated with a carrot and stick. We are a sovereign country, and when we are dealt with fairly and squarely, we respond likewise. It is unfortunate that such statements are made by politicians wherever they may be. I hope that the relationship of the Kingdom and the US will not hinge around or be built upon that principle.”

Likewise, Prince Turki brushed away the charge that Riyadh has chosen to side with Moscow in the Ukraine conflict, noting that “the Kingdom has publicly declared and voted to condemn the aggression against Ukraine that was passed by the UN General Assembly.”

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Pointing out that Saudi Arabia offered to mediate between Russia and Ukraine, he said: “As a mediator, it will have to maintain a link and the ability to talk to both sides. We’ve had good relations with both countries over the years. In general, as I mentioned, the Kingdom is against the aggression in Ukraine. But also, most recently, the Kingdom has contributed to the fund that was established by the UN to provide support for the Ukrainian refugees in Europe. So that is where the Kingdom stands.”

He described the Saudi mediation bid as “an offer of a friend to friends — both Ukraine and Russia — (with) whom we have had excellent relations in the recent past.”

Moving on to what he perceives as international hypocrisy exposed by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Prince Turki said this has been proven “by the way refugees from Ukraine have been described in civilizational terms as being one with the West and one with Europe and so on, as if other refugees from the Middle East or from other parts of the world are not equally human as Ukrainians. That’s one discrepancy in the way that Western media particularly has depicted the issue of the refugees.

“Another one of course — part of the hypocrisy — is the UN and the way that sanctions have been placed on Russia for invading Ukraine but no sanctions for example had been placed on Israel when it invaded Arab countries a few years back. Those are the double standards and the injustices that I think have been taking place over the years.”

On the question of whether Israel should therefore be treated at par with Russia when it comes to sanctions, Prince Turki did not pull any punches. “Absolutely. I don’t see what the difference is there between the two,” he told “Frankly Speaking.”

He added: “Aggression is aggression, whether it is committed by Russia or by Israel.”

Furthermore, Prince Turki cast doubt on the theory that normalizing relations with Israel — the route taken by a number of Arab countries, including Egypt, Jordan, the UAE and Bahrain — could be a more productive policy. “I have seen no evidence of that,” he said. “The Palestinian people are still occupied, they are still being imprisoned by the Israeli government. Attacks and assassinations of Palestinian individuals take place almost on a daily basis. The stealing of Palestinian land by Israel continues despite the assurances that Israel gave to the signatories of the peace (accord) between the UAE and Israel. So, there is no sign whatsoever that appeasing Israel is going to change their attitude.”

On issues closer to home, Prince Turki views the recent visit of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for one, as a positive development. “I think the leadership in Turkey has come to realize that their previous animus toward the Kingdom was not serving anybody’s well-being and purpose, especially the Turkish people,” he said, referring to the disputes and disagreements of recent years.

“Historic links bring us together with Turkey not just in terms of geography, but also in terms of human relations and family ties between the two countries. My own grandmother was of Turkish extraction, Circassian.”

Moving forward, the relationship “should be one of the best in terms of benefit for both countries,” Prince Turki said, citing such areas as trade, construction, development projects, and investments by Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

“All of those, I hope, will be restored now that the relationship is hopefully back to normal,” he added.

He expressed similarly cautious optimism about the likelihood of a lasting peace deal in Yemen on the basis of the recently concluded Riyadh agreement and the Ramadan ceasefire.

“I’ve always maintained that ceasefire agreements, as attempted by the UN, particularly concerning Yemen, have lacked one crucial aspect which has not led to their success, and that is a mechanism to enforce the ceasefires,” Prince Turki said.

“We saw, after the Kuwait meeting back in 2016, there was a ceasefire, but it led nowhere. And then there was the Swedish-sponsored ceasefire attempt back in 2018, equally without much success. Saudi Arabia’s own efforts at unilateral ceasefires of recent years have led nowhere because there was no mechanism to implement the ceasefire.”

Nevertheless, Prince Turki expressed hope that with the renewed international impetus to bring the fighting in Yemen to an end, some sort of instrument can be implemented so that any party that does not abide by the ceasefire terms is publicly shamed by the international community.

“That has not happened yet. I have not yet seen the UN saying that the Houthis are not abiding by the ceasefire,” he said, adding: “But I hope that they will have the courage and the moral courage to stand up and say who is at fault here.”


Saudi woman criminology graduate trains with US police

Saudi woman criminology graduate trains with US police
Updated 06 October 2022

Saudi woman criminology graduate trains with US police

Saudi woman criminology graduate trains with US police
  • Alaa Al-Hamad spent a year with Indiana State department
  • Author of book on crime committed to Kingdom’s justice system

MAKKAH: A Saudi criminology graduate who spent a year training with the Indiana State Police in the US plans to use her expertise to tackle perpetrators in the country.

Alaa Al-Hamad said her alma mater, Indiana University, nominated her to undergo training with the state’s police department, after fulfilling criteria which included having no criminal record and excelling academically.

During her stint with the Indiana State Police, Al-Hamad dealt with a wide range of criminal activities including murder and theft. She also worked on a high number of suicide cases. She learned to shoot guns and handle German Shepherd dogs in the department’s K9 unit.

Speaking to Arab News, Al-Hamad said that the “experience was enriching” as she would accompany the police following 911 calls and conduct investigations.

Al-Hamad received a scholarship to study computer engineering at Indiana University after completing high school in 2017.

However, she did not enjoy computer engineering, and later “decided to major in criminal justice following the advice of one of her teachers.”

She said it was her ability to “analyze and reach conclusions” that led to her changing course in her studies. She graduated with distinction from the institution.

Al-Hamad has also authored a book titled “Another Kind of Crime” in which she writes about a variety of offenses, including those involving “emotional” abuse.

She said emotional crimes “are deeper” than physical ones, having long-lasting effects on victims, with perpetrators often causing harm unwittingly.

Al-Hamad urged Saudi women to take up studies in the field because there was a great need for committed and educated individuals to work in the criminal justice system.

She said crimes related to drug abuse was a scourge in society, and added that awareness programs should be launched at schools and universities to highlight the “devastating negative effects” it has on society, families and individuals.


KSrelief, OIC to provide food aid to Afghanistan

KSrelief, OIC to provide food aid to Afghanistan
Updated 05 October 2022

KSrelief, OIC to provide food aid to Afghanistan

KSrelief, OIC to provide food aid to Afghanistan

The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center signed an agreement on Tuesday with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to provide food aid to Afghanistan, which would help alleviate the effects of poverty and natural disasters.

The pact was signed by Ahmed bin Ali Al-Baiz, KSrelief’s assistant general supervisor of operations and programs, and Mohammed Saeed Al-Ayyash, director general of the OIC mission in Afghanistan, at the center’s headquarters in Riyadh.

Under the agreement, 47,400 food baskets weighing 2,938 tons will be distributed to flood-affected and needy families in 24 Afghan provinces, benefiting 284,400 individuals.

Each basket will weigh 62 kilograms and include flour, rice, beans, dates, vegetable oil and sugar.

KSrelief provides aid to those in need across the world.


Search for Saudi Arabia’s gifted students underway

Search for Saudi Arabia’s gifted students underway
Updated 05 October 2022

Search for Saudi Arabia’s gifted students underway

Search for Saudi Arabia’s gifted students underway
  • Pupils in grades 3 to 10 targeted in nationwide drive
  • 2,480 students have already registered for aptitude test

A total of 2,480 students have already registered for the 13th edition of the National Project for the Identification of the Gifted, as the annual nationwide drive kicked off on Monday across cities in Saudi Arabia.

The project targets students in grades three to 10, with the closing date for applications on Dec. 15.

The project is organized annually by the King Abdulaziz and his Companions’ Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity, Mawhiba, in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Qiyas Center.

Students can register through their schools or on the Mawhiba website.

All registered students will have to sit for the Mawhiba Multiple Cognitive Aptitude Test, which will be held between Dec. 18 and Jan. 16 next year at the National Center for Assessment centers across the Kingdom.

The MMCAT is available in Arabic and English, and the test results will be announced on March 14, 2023.

Dr. Amal Al-Hazaa, acting secretary-general of Mawhiba, said that more than 466,000 male and female students have taken the aptitude test since the project’s inception in 2011.

Al-Hazaa said the national project seeks to discover, nurture and empower Saudi talent through the strategic partnership between Mawhiba, the Ministry of Education, and the Education and Training Evaluation Commission.

Selected students are given various sponsorships, including for study at prestigious universities abroad, training camps for international competitions in science, research and innovation, and admission to local academic programs.


Riyadh Outlet attracts sneakers collectors at Sneak.Me festival

Riyadh Outlet attracts sneakers collectors at Sneak.Me festival
Updated 05 October 2022

Riyadh Outlet attracts sneakers collectors at Sneak.Me festival

Riyadh Outlet attracts sneakers collectors at Sneak.Me festival

RIYADH: Sneaker collectors will be thrilled to know that Riyadh Outlet is currently hosting a festival called Sneak.Me.

Exploring the world of casual footwear, their designs and global reach is the focus of the Sneak.Me festival, which runs from Oct. 1–14 and is the first of its kind in the Kingdom, in Al-Rehab district.

In addition to an array of musical performances, the festival offers attendees sneakers in a variety of distinctive and unique designs, a museum, and an auction that will feature a selection of sneakers, rare and expensive collectibles, and limited editions. 

The Sneaker Museum showcases such items as 1998 Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls signed Air Jordan IV fire red sneakers, and Nike MAG Back To The Future sneakers among others. 

Signed Air Jordan IV fire red sneakers. (Supplied)

The first floor of the museum contains the auction area, and the second the collections of famous sneakers obsessives in the Arab world. 

Prince Faisal Al-Saud’s collection, featuring rare Yeezy Nike shoes, is on show, also including 1998 Jordan 6 Batman boots and Sadu Dunk shoes, made by hand from Saudi Sadu fabric. 

The museum contains 200 rare items as well as stores, brands and international designers specializing in custom designs.

Jordan 6 Batman boots. (Supplied)

British brand Matt B Customs, which makes exclusive hand-crafted costume footwear, came from Manchester to participate in the festival. 

“We create handmade custom footwear from branded shoes like Nike, Adidas, Balenciaga, Dior, and we customize them — we change them, paint them, we put new materials on them, and make it super unique. Also we have a website that you can order from,” founder Matt Burgess told Arab News.

Another British brand, Crep Protect, is also on hand to help you clean your shoes.

Aljan, a worker at Crep Protect, said: “This is our first time in Saudi Arabia, and our business is all about shoe cleaning, how to protect the shoe, and how to keep them clean.”

Crep Protect, a British brand. (Supplied)

The festival features a special area set aside for musical performances by local DJs and hip-hop groups.

A basketball court can be found in the sports zone, which also has a cafe with a unique view. It also hosts discussion sessions about sports and the various cultures of sneakers.

The area has many surprises for visitors such as the barber corner, where the Brazilian barber, Stenio, provides the finest grooming along with braids and dreadlocks by his partner Lil’ Boy. 

(Photo by Abdulaziz Al-Noman)

“Young guys love dreadlocks and I think it’s a great idea to have such a shop here for grooming and braiding because it’s special and different and I didn’t see it in Riyadh before, to have a barber shop among the festival and the turnout is crazy,” Lil’ Boy said. 

“This is my first visit to Saudi Arabia, and I’ve decided to stay and work as a barber because I like it here. Riyadh is nice, and the people here are wonderful,” Stenio said. 

A British personal shopper with A list clients, FTP Kicks, is one of the stores that caught people’s attention. (Supplied)

A British personal shopper with A list clients, FTP Kicks, is one of the stores that caught people’s attention.

“Since I’ve been collecting sneakers for 10 years and have a thorough understanding of them, I started this business in 2015, and everything you see here is authentic, sold out, and has a special backstory,” founder Hamza Inayat said.

Celebrities and influencers approach him for the most sought-after sneakers, he continued: “Once, a famous influencer reached out to me to get her a pair of the Travis Scott X Nike SB Dunk Lows in a size 38, and that size is a unicorn size — very hard to find — my client wanted them fast, and I managed to find them and deliver them to her within three days, and that was the hardest request I’ve had.”


Who’s Who: Al-Mohanad Al-Marwai, CEO of Arabian Coffee Institute

Who’s Who: Al-Mohanad Al-Marwai, CEO of Arabian Coffee Institute
Updated 06 October 2022

Who’s Who: Al-Mohanad Al-Marwai, CEO of Arabian Coffee Institute

Who’s Who: Al-Mohanad Al-Marwai, CEO of Arabian Coffee Institute

Al-Mohanad Al-Marwai is the co-founder and CEO of the Arabian Coffee Institute since January 2022.

The institute, comprised of experts and researchers, educates on all aspects of the coffee value chain, offering a wide range of internationally accredited training courses.

Al-Marwai is also the co-founder and CEO of two other companies in the coffee industry: Coffee Lights and AgriNexsus Ltd.

Coffee Lights specializes in the operation of coffee shops, consultation, training of staff and baristas, and the import and export of coffee. 

AgriNexsus Ltd. is a Ugandan-based organic farming and production company that uses Ugandan Community Supported Agriculture, which allows consumers to get high-quality local and seasonal food directly from certified farmers’ communities.

By leading both these organizations, Al-Marwai offers Saudi cafes a transparent supply chain of authentic specialty coffee served to the Kingdom’s public.

Over the past 12 years, Al-Marwai has founded eight companies in Saudi Arabia, Uganda, the UK and the US. 

During these years in the coffee industry, Al-Marwai has worked in quality assurance and business consultancy, supporting and empowering small businesses to launch and reach new heights.

He is one of 30 licensed coffee graders in the Kingdom; the total number of licensed coffee graders globally is only 3,000.

He is also among the 36 certified trainers in Saudi Arabia’s coffee industry. He has trained and mentored over 2,000 leaders in the coffee sector and entrepreneurship.

Al-Marwai has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Business and Technology in Jeddah.

He holds three master’s degrees: an MBA in multimedia from the University in Malaysia (2009); an MBA in entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial studies from the Prince Mohammed bin Salman College of Business and Entrepreneurship (2018); and a master’s degree in entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial studies from Babson College in Massachusetts (2018). 

In 2018, Al-Marwai also earned a diploma in the coffee skills program from the Specialty Coffee Association in London.

Currently, he is pursuing a master’s degree in coffee excellence from the Zurich University of Applied Sciences and will graduate in 2023.