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 doctors separate conjoined twins from war-torn Yemen

Saudi doctors separate conjoined twins from war-torn Yemen
Updated 13 sec ago

Saudi doctors separate conjoined twins from war-torn Yemen

Saudi doctors separate conjoined twins from war-torn Yemen

RIYADH: Doctors in Saudi Arabia have successfully separated conjoined twins from war-torn Yemen after a "complicated" 15-hour operation, Saudi state media reported on Monday.
The baby boys, Yussef and Yassin, were "conjoined in several organs", and some 24 doctors were involved in the operation to separate them, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said.
Yemen has been wracked by a brutal seven-year conflict pitting the Saudi-backed government against Iran-backed Huthi rebels, whose seizure of the capital Sanaa in 2014 prompted a Saudi-led military coalition to intervene.
More than 150,000 people have died in the violence and the country's health system has been devastated, in what the United Nations describes as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.
Saudi Arabia's state-run King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) regularly touts its humanitarian assistance to Yemen as evidence of Riyadh's commitment to alleviating the suffering there.
The centre's doctors carried out the "four-phase surgery" separating Yussef and Yassin, describing it as "among the most complicated" they had performed, the SPA said Monday.
Last July Saudi doctors separated a Yemeni baby from her parasitic twin, saying at the time it was their 50th successful operation on conjoined twins.
In December a separate set of Yemeni twins were separated by doctors in Jordan's capital Amman before being flown back to Sanaa, according to the UN children's agency.
Last week Saudi King Salman ordered that yet another set of Yemeni conjoined twins, girls named Mawaddah and Rahmah, be transferred to Riyadh "to conduct medical examinations and check on the possibility" of separation, the SPA reported.
The king "attaches big importance to the Saudi programme for the Siamese twins," the SPA report said.


King Salman leaves hospital after medical examinations

King Salman leaves hospital after medical examinations
Updated 15 May 2022

King Salman leaves hospital after medical examinations

King Salman leaves hospital after medical examinations
  • King Salman thanked well-wishers within Saudi Arabia and from friendly countries

JEDDAH: King Salman left King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Jeddah on Sunday evening after undergoing medical examinations and successfully completing the treatment plan and recovery period.

Saudi Press Agency reported the king thanked well-wishers within Saudi Arabia and from friendly countries for their messages of support.


Dutch artist Satori headlines Riyadh desert event

DJ NarkBeat engaged the crowd with his notable performance at Desert Sounds'
DJ NarkBeat engaged the crowd with his notable performance at Desert Sounds' "Mars Escape" on Friday. (AN photo/Basheer Saleh)
Updated 15 May 2022

Dutch artist Satori headlines Riyadh desert event

DJ NarkBeat engaged the crowd with his notable performance at Desert Sounds' "Mars Escape" on Friday. (AN photo/Basheer Saleh)
  • New wave of events featuring international lineup of artists and diverse activities catering to music lovers, weekend family entertainment in Riyadh

RIYADH: On Friday, a vibrant series of electronic house music bounced off the hills of the Riyadh desert at the NOX Camp Desert Resort, bringing together music, art and desert-sport lovers alike in a one-of-a-kind event.

The exclusive music and art event organizer, Desert Sound Entertainment, presented their premiere “Mars Escape” experience to the Saudi community, transporting about 1,000 attendees to another dimension made distinct by live art, festival makeup and fire performances.

The moon shone, setting up the atmosphere for the celestial night, the music ascended. Headlined by Satori, the international DJ lineup included the likes of Alaa Jazaery, Rafa, NarkBeat, and a surprise performance by local DJ Ibbie.

One. of. the Mars. Escape attendees enjoyed one of the many games and activities 'Mars Escape' had to offer. (AN photo by Basheer Saleh)

The 10-hour festival saw a distinctive blend of artists taking to the main stage. Rafa gave the crowd a sensual and authentically earthy organic house experience while NarkBeat’s performance left the crowd in anticipation with sultry Arabian oud sounds. Alaa Jazaeri, founder of a similar music festival titled “Narratives,” slowed down the groove with an organic and soulful house music set, taking festival-goers on a mini-journey.

The diverse music echoing the valley of the desert culminated with Satori, a world-famous Dutch producer whose music focuses on spirituality and enlightenment. His set took off promptly at midnight and closed the event. His stop at Riyadh is part of his world tour this month with upcoming shows in Moscow, Stockholm and London.

HIGHLIGHT

Rafa gave the crowd a sensual and authentically earthy organic house experience while NarkBeat’s performance left the crowd in anticipation with sultry Arabian oud sounds.

“I would not imagine from this side of the world that people would know me and connect with the music in this way, so it was really a big pleasure. I’ve been playing in this region of course already for a few years, if we speak about Dubai or Egypt, I played in Oman and Lebanon, but never in Saudi,” Satori said in an exclusive interview with Arab News.

Satori’s mellow sounds, crafted under the influence of the Japanese term “Satori,” cannot be narrowed down to a single genre, but rather a feeling. His music combines elements of self-exploration, earthy melodies, psychedelic tones and vivid energy. The crescendo of the piano, synthetic electronic beats and kalimba prompted a series of cheers as people danced. Almost every listener was rhythmically entranced, surrendering to the sound.

AN photo by Basheer Saleh

“For me it feels like I’m part of innovation. There’s something progressing and just to be part of that is really a great honor. It feels like we’re writing history and I’m kind of part of that chapter,” he said of his recent performance. “In the end, music is a universal language, people would connect to that or understand that even if they’re not used to these types of events. People will feel it.”

While primarily centered around the musical performances, the Saudi General Entertainment Authority-certified event also included an array of cultural activities such as art installations, graffiti sites and street art, virtual reality booths, games, and live catering. “We wanted to complete the music experience as a whole, connecting with nature and expressing through art and feeling with music,” assistant manager, Reema Al-Saud, told Arab News.

Event-goers were ready to indulge in the cultural aspect of the experience. “This is my first experience, and it gives a nice vibe,” said attendee Bha’a Mahdi. “I didn’t like that there wasn’t a big crowd. The place is very, very gorgeous. Incredible. It’s unreal. I liked the music, but was hoping the music would have more drops and highs. I felt united with the desert, I even removed my shoes,” he said.

Other members of the audience had similar comments. “The location is good, the vibe is nice. Just one thing: I wish there were more people,” said one attendee.

“The ground traps you. The sand doesn’t give you way to dance or walk,” said another attendee.

This international lineup and diverse activities come after a new wave of events that cater to those music-lovers, the latest being Freaks of Nature, bringing new meaning to weekend family entertainment ventures in Riyadh.


Saudi Civil Defense rescues pet animals trapped in Alkhobar fire

A Civil Defense crew in Alkhobar rescued animals including cats, dogs and fish from Pets Houses. (Saudi Civil Defense)
A Civil Defense crew in Alkhobar rescued animals including cats, dogs and fish from Pets Houses. (Saudi Civil Defense)
Updated 15 May 2022

Saudi Civil Defense rescues pet animals trapped in Alkhobar fire

A Civil Defense crew in Alkhobar rescued animals including cats, dogs and fish from Pets Houses. (Saudi Civil Defense)
  • All animals are subject to periodic medical checkups by Pets Houses’ veterinarian clinic, which provides for all their needs, including hygiene

RIYADH: Pet owners were relieved after their animals were rescued from a massive fire that broke out Friday inside Alkhobar’s Dhahran Mall in eastern Saudi Arabia.

A Civil Defense crew in Alkhobar rescued animals including cats, dogs and fish from Pets Houses, a pet supplies store in the largest commercial complex in the Eastern Province.

The animals were transported during daylight hours after a fire that started on the complex’s roof was put out.

We always find these (Civil Defense) heroes providing assistance and saving lives, says Badr S. Al-Turaif, General manager Rahmah Animal Welfare Association

According to a Civil Defense source, it is part of firefighters’ job in such circumstances to perform search and rescue operations at the scene to ensure that no one is trapped inside and that any animals are rescued.

The same source told Arab News that firefighters evacuated the pets to a safe location outside the mall before the animals were returned to their owners.

Nawaf Al-Mandeel, general manager of Pets Houses, said that “the shock was tremendous at Pets Houses,” following the fire that broke out at Dhahran Mall, where one of the company’s branches is located.

Firefighters rescuing animals from a pet shop near the conflagration which broke out in Dharhan Mall and caused a lot of damage while a fireman appears to carrying a fish tank. (Supplied/Saudi Civil Defense)

Al-Mandeel said that Pets Houses does its best to afford care and a decent life for the many pets at the branch located in Dhahran Mall. Pet owners regularly come to the branch, he said, to purchase supplies and learn how to breed and care for their pets as part of the family.

All animals are subject to periodic medical checkups by Pets Houses’ veterinarian clinic, which provides for all their needs, including hygiene, he said.

“We were shocked by the news of the fire that morning. We contacted the authorities and alerted them to the presence of pets inside our branch located inside the complex, and they responded immediately,” Al-Mandeel added.

Firefighters rescuing animals from a pet shop near the conflagration which broke out in Dharhan Mall and caused a lot of damage while a fireman appears to carrying a fish tank. (Supplied/Saudi Civil Defense)

He described the waiting periods as “excruciating” until he received the welcome news that all the animals at the branch had been rescued and transported safely and without any injuries, thanks to the efforts of the Civil Defense “heroes.”

“The team brought the animals to our veterinary clinic swiftly to check on their health. The medical team confirmed the safety of all the animals,” he said.

Badr S. Al-Turaif, general manager of Rahmah Animal Welfare Association, told Arab News that the association is in contact with the shop’s management and that the animals are in good health, adding that they had not been exposed to either fire or fumes as the shop is located relatively far from the fire site.

Nawaf Al-Mandeel, General Manager of Pets Houses. (Supplied)

“The courageous efforts of the Civil Defense team are not surprising,” Al-Turaif said. “We always find these heroes at the center of incidents, providing assistance and saving lives.”

Al-Turaif urged pet store owners to implement the preventive measures outlined by the Civil Defense to avoid tragedies in the future. These include setting fire alarms, developing an emergency and evacuation plan, ensuring adequate ventilation, designing the shop in a way that allows for the implementation of these measures, and creating an appropriate environment for animals so that their health and safety are not jeopardized.


Grand Mosque robots answer pilgrims’ questions in 11 languages

Grand Mosque robots answer pilgrims’ questions in 11 languages
Updated 15 May 2022

Grand Mosque robots answer pilgrims’ questions in 11 languages

Grand Mosque robots answer pilgrims’ questions in 11 languages
  • The robots guide pilgrims on how to perform their Umrah rituals, issue fatwas, and answer questions
  • They also have high resolution cameras that provide clarity in transmitting images, high resolution headphones, and a microphone with high capture quality

RIYADH: Robots that provide visitors to the Grand Mosque in Makkah with guidance can be accessed in 11 languages: Arabic, English, French, Russian, Persian, Turkish, Malay, Urdu, Chinese, Bengali, Hausa.

The robots guide pilgrims on how to perform their Umrah rituals, issue fatwas, answer questions and provide opportunities for people to communicate with scholars remotely.

The four-wheeled robots have 21-inch touchscreens and are equipped with a smart stopping system that allows them to be moved easily and smoothly.

They also have high resolution cameras that provide clarity in transmitting images, high resolution headphones, and a microphone with high capture quality that allows clear sound transmission.

The robots work on a Wi-Fi wireless network system at a speed of 5 GHz which enables fast and high transmission of data.