Frankly Speaking: Ex-CIA official Norman Roule on how Biden’s visit could fix Saudi ties, and why it’s important to do so

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Updated 19 June 2022

Frankly Speaking: Ex-CIA official Norman Roule on how Biden’s visit could fix Saudi ties, and why it’s important to do so

Frankly Speaking: Ex-CIA official Norman Roule on how Biden’s visit could fix Saudi ties, and why it’s important to do so
  • Visit an opportunity for POTUS and officials to see changes first-hand and build communication channels
  • Kingdom not to blame for soaring oil prices in US, criticisms on handling of Yemen are excessive
  • More efforts needed to tell Saudi story in US; many only see Kingdom in terms of 9/11, Khashoggi and oil

RIYADH: President Joe Biden’s upcoming July tour of the Middle East can repair his country’s relations with Saudi Arabia, something very important for the US to achieve, according to former senior CIA operations officer and Middle East expert Norman Roule.

The visit could not only have a major impact on US-Saudi and regional long-term ties, but also lead to the building of a relationship that will help both countries achieve their long-term goals, Roule told Katie Jensen, the host of “Frankly Speaking,” the Arab News talk show that features interviews with leading policymakers and business leaders.

Despite soaring fuel prices and quickening inflation in the US, the White House has denied that Biden’s visit will focus primarily on oil, a sentiment with which Roule agrees.

“The US and Saudi Arabia have multiple issues on areas ranging from green energy to space that will be important parts of the discussions that take place in Riyadh,” he said.

An Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and non-OPEC ministerial meeting in early June resulted in a pledge to increase oil production by 50 percent in July in order to alleviate the sharp rise in fuel prices.

Various other issues on the table include the waterways which surround Saudi Arabia that are vital to the functioning of the US economy, such as the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea and the Arabian Gulf.




Former senior CIA operations officer and Middle East expert Norman Roule speaks with Katie Jensen, the host of “Frankly Speaking,” the Arab News talk show. (AN photo)

Agriculture and food security, both regionally and in Africa, where Saudi Arabia’s influence is growing, and the fight against extremism will also be on the agenda.

“These issues just don’t get much press because I think they sound a little more boring than oil and gas prices and some more simplistic challenges,” Roule said.

Still, many argue that oil is the elephant in the room as Biden prepares to make his visit to a country that some Americans view as a giant gas station. Some imply that Saudi Arabia, as the largest and most profitable OPEC member, is somehow to blame for the recent surge in prices. Roule disagrees.

“President Putin deserves a fair amount of the blame,” he said. “Saudi Arabia has a role, but I wouldn’t overstate that.”

He said many other factors, including the cessation of Russian shipments of oil, gas and coal to Europe and rapid economic growth as the world’s economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, are playing their part.

He added: “There has been a failure of capital investment in the US and in other countries. We have an explosive growth of the economy as a result of our economic policies and coming out of COVID-19.”

One of the most interesting aspects of the upcoming Biden visit, according to Roule, is that “the economic goals of the US government and the Saudi government are almost identical.”

Aside from the more trans-global trade issues, both the US and Saudi Arabia are working to improve infrastructure and support the growth of their respective middle classes.

Roule thinks protecting the achievements of both countries is of great importance. “Each party wishes to avoid any conflicts in the region that might produce devastating conventional wars that would set back those economic and social gains,” he said.

“We need Saudi Arabia’s cooperation, partnership, and also to see how we can support Saudi Arabia’s own initiatives to prevent extremism throughout the Islamic world.”

On a more individual level, Roule said, “you’re going to have the president of the US and his vast staff see first-hand what life is like in Saudi Arabia. That will be powerful.”

“You are going to have a personal relationship potential between the president and all of the actors he meets on this trip, to include the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.”

Roule believes such a personal relationship between the two leaders has the potential to “see channels of communications and structures set up so that they can continue these discussions to build on this and actually achieve the goals these meetings were supposed to create in the months that follow this meeting.”

While Roule believes the US leadership respects the Kingdom’s ambitions for reform and challenges it faces in doing so, a wider audience “generally sees the Kingdom in terms of the 9/11 issue, the Jamal Khashoggi murder, and the oil issue.”

Saudi media must do more to counter these stereotypical images of the Kingdom, Roule said, adding that other Middle Eastern countries such as Israel and Qatar have 24-hour broadcasting stations which American television viewers can watch.

He suggests that a Saudi 24-hour television station could “show life in a flat, nonpartisan, non-political way.”

Just as Saudi Arabia is not without its faults, a potential Biden visit to Saudi Arabia is not without its detractors. Those who criticize the trip highlight human-rights issues and the now seven-year war in Yemen.

Roule calls these reservations “excessive,” saying that “I have spoken with many Saudi officials who have assured me, to my satisfaction, frankly, that they are trying to do everything they can to limit civilian casualties.”

He added: “I would stress that the Biden administration itself, in its rhetoric and its political statements, has repeatedly thanked the Kingdom for its strenuous diplomatic efforts that it has undertaken to achieve a political solution to this conflict, and it has been quite a while since you have had the Biden administration criticize the Saudi government, and that is based on what I am certain is the simple view of the facts.”

Roule has no doubt that the Iranian-backed Houthis are the primary opposition to a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Yemen.

US-Saudi relations are critical to countering malicious actions by Iran, according to Roule, who spent 34 years with the CIA covering the Middle East.

For nine of those years, he was the national intelligence manager for Iran at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and he currently serves as a senior adviser to the political advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran.

Tehran may view the Biden visit as a threat, and the country and its proxies may attempt to disrupt the visit, according to Roule.




During his frequent travels to the Kingdom over nearly forty years, Roule said he has been impressed by many aspects of the Kingdom’s progress. (AN Photo)

“They are not happy with this upcoming visit, particularly with the prospect of improved air defenses in the region, because an integrated air-defense system for the region would complicate Iran’s ability to conduct missile attacks and drone attacks directly or via its proxies,” he said.

Roule called the social and economic success witnessed by the Arabian Peninsula in the past several decades “the greatest threat to the Iranian government,” adding that Tehran views the achievements of the region as “a powerful corrosive that will undermine the stability of the Islamic Republic.”

In his opinion, Iran is attempting to cement its hegemony in the Arab world by force, belying former US President Barack Obama’s claim in an interview with The Atlantic magazine that Saudi Arabia and Iran finding a way to “share the neighborhood” is the best way to institute a “cold peace.”

Despite the obstacles that Iranian proxy force Hamas is creating with the intent of hindering an Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Roule believes Saudi Arabia could have an effective role in a peaceful solution to the conflict.

As a guest in a previous episode of Frankly Speaking, Issawi Frej, Israeli minister for regional cooperation, said the “Saudi leadership would be central to any solution in the future.” 

Roule concurred, saying: “The Kingdom has repeatedly said it supports a two-state solution, and once the Palestinian issue is resolved and some legitimate concerns and requirements of the Palestinians are resolved, it would see greater engagement with Israel, which it accepts as a part of the region.”

During his frequent travels to the Kingdom over nearly forty years, Roule has been impressed by many aspects of the Kingdom’s progress, and remains positive that such a visit could have a deeper impact on how the world views the country.

“The history of the Kingdom is more open than it has ever been, to include the pre-Islamic history,” he said.

“I have been struck by the number of contacts I have in the American business community who have told me with delight and astonishment of the trips they have taken to Saudi Arabia, which are increasingly touristic in nature.”

He also praised the opening of the UNESCO World Heritage site in AlUla to increasing numbers of tourists, a move which he called “the greatest development in archaeology, perhaps in the last 20, 30 or 50 years.”

Those who continue to visit the Kingdom from outside, Roule said, “come back with a magnificent appreciation of this unique geography, history, a very warm people, the similarity and values between the American people and the Saudi people and the Arabs in general.”

 


Al-Hilal coach Diaz: Flamengo were surprised by our skill and tactics

Al-Hilal coach Diaz: Flamengo were surprised by our skill and tactics
Updated 8 sec ago

Al-Hilal coach Diaz: Flamengo were surprised by our skill and tactics

Al-Hilal coach Diaz: Flamengo were surprised by our skill and tactics
  • The Saudi and Asian champions overcame the Brazilian giants 3-2 to reach the final of the FIFA Club World Cup on Feb. 11

Al-Hilal coach Ramon Diaz has expressed delight at reaching the FIFA Club World Cup 2022 final, after his team defeated Brazilian giants Flamengo 3-2 in their semifinal at Tangiers Stadium in Morocco.

“We are all happy because Al-Hilal is the largest club in Saudi Arabia, and we are proud to represent it and of the successes that we are achieving,” the Argentine said during the press conference after the match.

Salem Al-Dawsari gave Al-Hilal a fourth-minute lead from the penalty spot before Pedro equalized on 20 minutes. In stoppage time of the first half, Al-Dawsari scored his second spot-kick of the match to give the Saudi team the lead at the break.

Luciano Vietto extended Al-Hilal’s lead on 70 minutes, before Pedro scored a consolation goal for the Brazilians in stoppage time.

Asked whether tension in the Flamengo team helped Al-Hilal record their famous victory, he said: “Perhaps they were surprised by the players’ skills and our way of playing. In the first half, they only created one attack, and it was a very intense tactical match.”

Diaz highlighted the contribution of fellow Argentine Vietto, who won both penalties during the match. “Vietto was the playmaker and excels at perpetrating the opposition team. He is developing a lot and is very important to us.”

Flamengo were reduced to 10 men when midfielder Gerson was sent off after giving away the second penalty of the night. The Brazilian club’s coach complained about the refereeing in the match, but Diaz dismissed that as the reason for his side’s win.

“We should not focus on the refereeing, we should focus on the way we played,” he said. “We saw a strong team that could not reach our goal often, and this is evidence of the quality of our team’s tactics and players. We were playing one against one instead of three against three, and we played a great match and dominated for majority of its course.”


LeBron James breaks Kareem’s NBA all-time points-scoring record

LeBron James breaks Kareem’s NBA all-time points-scoring record
Updated 16 min 59 sec ago

LeBron James breaks Kareem’s NBA all-time points-scoring record

LeBron James breaks Kareem’s NBA all-time points-scoring record
  • The Los Angeles Lakers star passed Abdul-Jabbar’s longstanding total of 38,387 points after nailing a 21-foot shot late in the third quarter against the Oklahoma City
  • Abdul-Jabbar, sitting courtside, was among the first to congratulate James as play was interrupted to salute an iconic moment in NBA history

LOS ANGELES: LeBron James finally eclipsed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the most prolific scorer in NBA history on Tuesday, breaking a 39-year record that many throughout basketball believed would never be beaten.

The Los Angeles Lakers star, playing in his 20th season in the NBA, passed Abdul-Jabbar’s longstanding total of 38,387 points after nailing a 21-foot shot late in the third quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

James flung his arms aloft in relief as the Crypto.com Arena erupted in wild celebration at his new record of 38,388 points.

Abdul-Jabbar, sitting courtside, was among the first to congratulate James as play was interrupted to salute an iconic moment in NBA history.

“To be able to be in the presence of a legend and great as Kareem it means so much to me,” James told the crowd before thanking family, friends and fans.

“Everybody that’s ever been part of this run with me these last 20 years, I just want to say I thank you so much because I wouldn’t be me without all your help, all your passion and all your sacrifices to help me get to this point.”

James also paid tribute to NBA commissioner Adam Silver and his predecessor, the late David Stern.

“Thank you guys so much for allowing me to be a part of something I’ve always dreamed about, and I would never ever in a million years have dreamt this even better than what it is tonight,” James added before signing off with an F-bomb.

After a dazzling season that has seen him average 30 points per game in a struggling Lakers outfit, James went into Tuesday’s clash with Oklahoma City needing just 36 points to surpass Abdul-Jabbar.

The 38-year-old took his time before surging toward his magic number, missing his first two attempts before finally nailing a three-pointer midway through the first quarter to get off the mark.

The four-time NBA champion would go on to score eight points in the opening quarter, leaving him 28 short as the second quarter got under way.

James upped the pace in the second quarter with 12 quick points before being subbed off with 5:34 left in the half, 16 points away from the record by half-time.

A pair of back-to-back three pointers midway through the third quarter left him just eight points away from the record, with 28 on the night, before a driving layup put him within six.

Two more layups left him two points away before he duly converted his long-range effort to seal the record.

James has been at pains to dampen anticipation surrounding his record chase this season, insisting that his priority remains helping the Lakers become a competitive outfit once more.

However, in recent days he has been more expansive when discussing the record, saying last week that beating Abdul-Jabbar’s mark was comparable to breaking baseball’s all-time home run record.

“I think it’s one of the greatest records in sports in general,” James said.

“I think it’s up there with the home run record in baseball. It’s one of those records that you just don’t ever see or think that would be broken.”

Many in the NBA agreed, believing that Abdul-Jabbar’s record was untouchable in the modern era.

“I think most of us back then thought that record would never be broken,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said of Abdul-Jabbar’s record last weekend.

“So to see LeBron do it over 20 years is pretty remarkable and a testament to not only his ability but his durability.

“He’s just a machine. He’s healthy and a physical force night after night.”

Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who coached James to two of his four NBA championships in 2012 and 2013, said he had always assumed Abdul-Jabbar’s record would never be beaten.

“I thought that would be untouchable,” Spoelstra told NBA.com before James’s record-breaking performance on Tuesday.

Tyronn Lue, James’s former coach at the Cleveland Cavaliers, believes the scoring record is the crowning achievement of his glittering career.

“This has to be No. 1, seeing how long Kareem has held this record (since 1984). I know LeBron has his championships and MVPs. But to be the all-time leading scorer in NBA history, considering all the great players that have come through this game? That’s a big-time accomplishment,” Lue told NBA.com.


Seeded Beatriz Haddad Maia and Liudmila Samsonova suffer before progressing at Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open

Seeded Beatriz Haddad Maia and Liudmila Samsonova suffer before progressing at Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open
Updated 56 min 54 sec ago

Seeded Beatriz Haddad Maia and Liudmila Samsonova suffer before progressing at Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open

Seeded Beatriz Haddad Maia and Liudmila Samsonova suffer before progressing at Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open
  • Former World No. 1 Karolina Pliskova advances into the last-16 after a straight-sets victory against Belgium’s Ysaline Bonaventure

ABU DHABI: Seeded players Beatriz Haddad Maia and Liudmila Samsonova both needed three sets to secure their places in the last-16 stage as the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open presented by Abu Dhabi Sports Council delivered another entertaining day of tennis.

On the third day of the inaugural WTA 500-level tournament at the International Tennis Center, the Brazilian was made to work in her 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 victory against Czech Republic’s Marie Bouzkova on Stadium Court.

After losing the first set, Haddad Maia, the World No. 14, showed her class, breaking Bouzkova’s serve at 5-3 to clinch the second set. Her confidence soared as the match went on and she dominated the decider, needing only 32 minutes to seal the third set 6-0.

Speaking after the match, she said: “Marie Bouzkova is a very competitive player and I had practiced hard over the last few days to be 100 percent ready, and I’m happy with how I played. I can only focus on the next game and along with my coach, I’ll watch videos of my next opponent to come up with the best strategy and improve my game.”

Meanwhile, eighth seed and World No. 19 Samsonova also recovered from a set down to win 3-6, 6-2, 6-0 against the US’s Claire Liu, who replaced Paula Badosa after the Spaniard withdrew from her first-round match due to a viral illness.

Speaking after the match, Samsonova said: “It was not easy to find my game and I was very nervous at the beginning. But in the second set, I started to play more aggressively and it worked. Playing at the start of the season is sometimes tough so getting as much game time as possible will help me for the rest of 2023.”

Due to personal reasons, two-time Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza also withdrew from her highly anticipated match against Karolina Pliskova that would have seen the former World No. 1s go head-to-head.

She was replaced by Belgium’s Ysaline Bonaventure, but the Czech proved to be too strong as she breezed into the next round with a 6-1, 6-3 in a contest that lasted 47 minutes. She will next face third seed and Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina in the last-16.

Meanwhile, in the only doubles match of the day, Belinda Bencic and Elize Mertens ran out 6-1, 6-1 winners over Alicja Rosolska and Erin Routliffe to advance to the last-eight.

The Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open will continue on Wednesday with second seed and World No. 9 Bencic headlining the day’s play in the last-16 stage.

The gold medallist will face Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk on a day that also features fourth seed Veronika Kudermetova’s clash against Belgium’s Mertens. Seventh seed Anett Kontaveit will go up against Shelby Rogers, who beat Leylah Fernandez 6-4, 7-6, 6-1. Jelena Ostapenko will open Stadium Court proceedings against China’s Qinwen Zheng, who returns to the court 24 hours after defeating Rebecca Marino of Canada in straight sets 6-3, 6-3.


Oil Updates — Crude steady; EIA says US crude output to rise in 2023 

Oil Updates — Crude steady; EIA says US crude output to rise in 2023 
Updated 08 February 2023

Oil Updates — Crude steady; EIA says US crude output to rise in 2023 

Oil Updates — Crude steady; EIA says US crude output to rise in 2023 

RIYADH: Oil prices were little changed on Wednesday amid subdued movements in the dollar, and as investors waited for more inventory data for more clues on demand trends. 

Brent crude futures rose by 06 cents to $83.75 a barrel at 08.00 a.m. Saudi time, after gaining 3.3 percent in the previous session. 

US West Texas Intermediate crude futures climbed by 19 cents to $77.33, after jumping 4.1 percent in the previous session. 

US crude output to rise in 2023, while demand to stay flat: EIA 

US crude production will rise in 2023, while demand will stay flat, the US Energy Information Administration said in its Short-Term Energy Outlook on Tuesday. 

The EIA projected that crude production will rise to 12.49 million barrels per day in 2023 and 12.65 million bpd in 2024. 

The agency also projected petroleum and other liquid fuels consumption would stay flat at 20.3 million bpd in 2023 and rise to 20.6 million bpd in 2024.

BP makes record profit in 2022 

BP reported on Tuesday a record profit of $27.6 billion for 2022 and hiked its dividend, but infuriated climate activists by rowing back on plans to slash oil and gas output and reduce carbon emissions by 2030. 

The blockbuster profit follows similar reports from rivals Shell, Exxon Mobil and Chevron last week after energy prices surged in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, prompting new calls to further tax the sector as households struggle to pay energy bills. 

BP’s $4.8 billion fourth-quarter underlying replacement cost profit, its definition of net income, narrowly missed a $5 billion company-provided analyst forecast. 

The results were impacted by weaker gas trading activity after an “exceptional” third quarter, higher refinery maintenance and lower oil and gas prices. 

But for the year, BP’s $27.6 billion profit exceeded its 2008 record of $26 billion despite a $25 billion write-down of its Russian assets. 

That allowed it to boost its dividend by 10 percent to 6.61 cents per share, after halving it in the wake of the pandemic, and announce plans to repurchase $2.75 billion worth of shares over the next three months after buying $11.7 billion in 2022. 

(With input from Reuters) 

 


Frankfurt come back to beat Darmstadt 4-2 in German Cup

Frankfurt come back to beat Darmstadt 4-2 in German Cup
Updated 08 February 2023

Frankfurt come back to beat Darmstadt 4-2 in German Cup

Frankfurt come back to beat Darmstadt 4-2 in German Cup
  • Kolo Muani made sure of the win for Frankfurt, surging down the left flank before placing a shot just inside the far post

FRANKFURT: Randal Kolo Muani scored twice as Eintracht Frankfurt came back from a goal down to beat local rivals Darmstadt 4-2 and seal a place in the German Cup quarterfinals on Tuesday.

Frankfurt took an early lead when Kolo Muani leaped to head in a cross and missed two clear-cut chances soon after but was stunned when Mathias Honsak scored twice in the space of three minutes on counterattacks to put second-division leader Darmstadt ahead.

Rafael Borre was left unmarked in the penalty area just before halftime and capitalized to score and send Frankfurt into the break on level terms.

A powerful shot from Daichi Kamada put Frankfurt back in front in the 62nd minute but Darmstadt were not done yet and nearly leveled again when Phillip Tietz hit the post. Kolo Muani made sure of the win for Frankfurt late on, surging down the left flank before placing a shot just inside the far post.

Last season’s cup runner-up Freiburg left it late for the third cup game in a row to win 2-0 at second-division Sandhausen. Freiburg took the lead with an 87th-minute header from Philipp Lienhart and Nils Petersen added a second deep into added time after a goalkeeping error.

Freiburg’s first two German Cup games this season both went to extra time and none of its six goals in the competition have been scored earlier than the 82nd minute.