Biden’s team realized Saudi relationship was too big to fail, Politico columnist tells Arab News 

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Updated 12 July 2022

Biden’s team realized Saudi relationship was too big to fail, Politico columnist tells Arab News 

Biden’s team realized Saudi relationship was too big to fail, Politico columnist tells Arab News 
  • US needs Kingdom on several fronts, President never intended to treat Riyadh as pariah, says Elise Labott
  • Biden will meet Saudi king and crown prince for talks on addressing joint issues: Saudi embassy spokesman

CHICAGO: US President Joe Biden publicly denounced Saudi Arabia as a “pariah” while privately sending back-channel emissaries to try to restore the relationship between the two allies, an influential analyst has told Arab News.

Elise Labott, the former global affairs correspondent with the broadcaster CNN who is now a columnist with Politico magazine, had access to highly placed US and Saudi sources — both on and off the record — for an article published recently in the magazine.

Speaking on “The Ray Hanania Show,” which is produced by Arab News and broadcast weekly on the US Arab Radio network, she said: “Let’s be honest, I don’t think that President Biden ever really intended to treat Saudi Arabia as a pariah when he came to office and make that his policy, but the politics kind of got in the way and they were trying to move forward on the policy, but in secret because of the politics. After a while, the Saudis did want to repair the relationship. So, they did a lot of what the US asked them to do.

“But finally, they were just like, all right, in or out? There have been a series of visits over the course of the last year or so. National security adviser Jake Sullivan went out there. CIA director Bill Burns went out there.”

Labott said there was a recognition in the White House that “there are problems in the relationship … on the wider human rights front, but then whether it's security, or economically or in the region, the Saudis are a valuable partner and the US does need to reset the relationship.”

Other issues encouraged a recalibration, including the Russian invasion of Ukraine and soaring fuel prices in the US, Labott said.

“I think that when President Biden was on the campaign trail as a candidate he promised, of course, to treat Saudi Arabia as a pariah state, make them pay the price, and for a while they were pretty standoffish, but I think as time wore on, and certainly the war in Ukraine was really a catalyst for this, the US saw that the relationship with Saudi Arabia was too big to fail. And so, you had rising gas prices. You had the war inUkraine. You had a whole host of things where the US would look to that solid partner over the years, Saudi Arabia — this is a 75-year-old relationship.

“And because the Saudis, and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in particular, were being kind of ostracized, finally they had had enough. Even though President Biden was saying this in public, in private he was sending emissaries to Saudi Arabia to say look, we want to reset the relationship. We want to move forward.

“And kind of in secret almost, there was this back-channel diplomacy going on for the last year or so in which the two sides were trying to make progress on a whole host of issues.”

Labott said Saudi influence on the global price of oil amid US domestic anger over the cost of fuel at the pumps was a driver of White House thinking — but far from the only one. “Well, a lot of people are reducing it to the oil and the Saudis are the biggest swing producer,” she said.

“The US is looking to them to stabilize markets, everyone is going to fill their car with gas at the pump, its over $5 and some places it’s $7, so the initial thought is can we get the Saudis to increase oil production so that will ease the pain?

“I think that the Saudis ultimately are playing hard to get, with the US having agreed to some oil production, I don’t think that’s going to make much of a difference for the US economy in the long run, that’s what experts say.

“I think if it is anything from stabilizing some of the economies in the region like Lebanon, for instance, or playing a mediator in Iraq or reaching out to Iran. Normalization with Israel. And then there is, you know, Saudi Arabia is on the Red Sea and there is a whole keeping trade lanes open in the Red Sea and mediating with Africa.

“If you look across the globe, most major foreign policy issues particularly in that part of the world, Saudi Arabia is the ‘gorilla in the room,’ and you can’t really get anything done if you don’t have them on the inside.”

Washington had functional relationships with many states without agreeing with them on every issue, Labott said, and it was important for the US to realize that it could not bend a country to its will. “Whether it’s in the UAE or Saudi or Bahrain or these Gulf states, they’re monarchies they’re not democracies, but if you ask the people by and large there’s not a lot of dissent … if you ask the Saudis whether they approve of Mohammed bin Salman, if you held an election, I think he’d win hands down. I think it’s recognizing these leaders as imperfect as they are and trying to find a way to move forward instead of trying to bend them to our will.”

As for what the US expected of Saudi Arabia, Labott said: “I think it’s just showing that leadership in the region that the US is looking for and that could be anything from standing on the right side of democracy against the war in Ukraine.

“We have one goal right now and that’s to beat Putin, and we need the Saudis to help us do that, so that means not doing anything with the oil market that will embolden President Putin … maybe not supporting sanctions in the way the US wants them to, but don’t do anything that will help President Putin, and I think if the Saudis want to be that leader, that’s what the US is looking for them to do.”
The radio show also featured an interview with Fahad Nazer, spokesman for the Saudi Embassy in Washington, who said that contrary to the views of some pundits there was a genuine appreciation in Washington of the important role played by Saudi Arabia and the significance of the relationship with the US. Biden’s decision to visit Saudi Arabia next month as part of his first Middle East trip was evidence of that, Nazer said.

“This dialogue goes a long way but I think there is an appreciation in Washington, as far as I can tell among congressional leaders and in the administration, that Saudi Arabia plays a very important role globally … in stabilizing international energy markets,” he said.
“We play an important role in helping bring stability and helping resolve some of the political crises in the region including the Yemen war … and we have played the leading role over the years in pushing back onmilitant non-state actors like Daesh, Al-Qaeda, the Houthis, Hezbollah and others. So, I think there is an appreciation for that very constructive role that the Kingdom plays.”

Nazer confirmed that Biden would hold separate meetings during his visit with King Salman and the crown prince, with a wide range of issues on the agenda. “The two leaders will discuss bilateral cooperation and joint efforts to address regional and global challenges including some of the newer challenges that the international community faces including cyber security, climate change, and environmental initiatives,” he said.

“At the same time the Kingdom is hosting a summit that will include the leaders of the GCC countries as well as the leaders of Jordan, Egypt and Iraq, and obviously President Biden will be attending that as well.”

Arab countries remained critically important role players in these discussions with “our most important strategic ally in the world,” Nazer said.

The Ray Hanania Show is broadcast live every Wednesday at 5 p.m. Eastern EST on WNZK AM 690 radio in Greater Detroit including parts of Ohio, and WDMV AM 700 radio in Washington DC including parts of Virginia and Maryland. The show is rebroadcast on Thursdays at 7 a.m. in Detroit on WNZK AM 690 and in Chicago at 12 noon on WNWI AM 1080.

You can listen to the radio show podcast here: www.arabnews.com/RayRadioShow


Arab counter-terrorism strategy draft discussed in Riyadh

Arab counter-terrorism strategy draft discussed in Riyadh
Updated 01 February 2023

Arab counter-terrorism strategy draft discussed in Riyadh

Arab counter-terrorism strategy draft discussed in Riyadh
  • The meeting was chaired by Omani representative Lt. Col. Mohammed bin Salem Al-Shanfari
  • Representatives reviewed the components of the executive plan

RIYADH: Representatives from 14 Arab countries submitted a draft executive plan for the Arab counter-terrorism strategy, which was developed by the Council of Arab Interior Ministers.
It came during the seventh two-day meeting of the Arab high committee, hosted by Naif Arab University for Security Sciences at its headquarters in Riyadh.
The meeting, organized by the Arab Office of Counter-Extremism and Terrorism in Riyadh and the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism, was chaired by Omani representative Lt. Col. Mohammed bin Salem Al-Shanfari, and attended by delegations from Jordan, UAE, Bahrain, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Iraq, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Egypt, Morocco, Mauritania and Yemen, along with a GCC representative.
The meeting reviewed the components of the executive plan, its means of implementation as well as accompanying programs with international partners. Representatives discussed mechanisms for measuring, monitoring and evaluating the plan.
Foreign relations vice president at NAUSS, Khalid Alharfash, said that terrorism tops issues that the university is keen to address, given the impacts of terror on international security and stability.
Alharfash added that the university, in partnership with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, recently inaugurated a specialized center that aims to combat crimes including terrorism.
He expressed hope that the recommendations and resolutions adopted by representatives would achieve the goals and objectives of regional interior ministers, and boost Arab action in the field of counter-terrorism.


Social Responsibility Forum kicks off in Riyadh

Social Responsibility Forum kicks off in Riyadh
Updated 28 min 47 sec ago

Social Responsibility Forum kicks off in Riyadh

Social Responsibility Forum kicks off in Riyadh
  • Event agenda highlights role of private sector in promoting civic duties

RIYADH: The 2023 Social Responsibility Forum launched on Wednesday at Riyadh’s InterContinental Hotel, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Representatives from the public and private sectors, company CEOs as well as heads of local authorities and organizations are taking part in the event.

The support of the Kingdom’s leadership in promoting social responsibility was lauded in a speech by Saudi Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Development Majid bin Abdul Rahim bin Salem Al-Ghanmi.

He noted that the Saudi Council of Ministers will mark March 23 as an annual Day of Social Responsibility in the Kingdom for the first time this year.

The association’s CEO, Abdullah Al-Muhanna, said that the forum will also tackle the Kingdom’s experience of social responsibility during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as ways to incorporate the private and nonprofit sectors in promoting civic duties.

Saud Al-Subaie, chairman of the association’s board of directors, stressed the importance of bridging the gap between the public, private and nonprofit sectors in promoting social responsibility to achieve sustainable development.

“It is very important to achieve sustainable development in social responsibility, rooting social work in a framework, conducting research and scientific studies, in addition to spreading public awareness about social responsibility issues and monitoring social responsibility experiences with the relevant authorities,” Al-Subaie told Arab News.

“Partnerships between active institutions in the three sectors are due to be signed in relation to the goals of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 in the social responsibility sector,” he added.

Al-Subaie praised the private sector’s growing interest in its “internal and external environment,” including the long-term strategy of Saudization.

Following the forum’s launch, a documentary film was screened covering the Social Responsibility Association’s history, goals and achievements.


Riyadh meeting for Saudi, Brunei ministers

Riyadh meeting for Saudi, Brunei ministers
Updated 01 February 2023

Riyadh meeting for Saudi, Brunei ministers

Riyadh meeting for Saudi, Brunei ministers
  • The ministers discussed the strong fraternal relations between the two countries

RIYADH: Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan received Dato Erywan Pehin Yusof, second minister of Brunei’s foreign affairs, in Riyadh on Wednesday.
The ministers discussed the strong fraternal relations between the two countries and ways to enhance and develop them in all fields.
They also discussed ways to develop a coordinated approach toward regional and international issues of common concern.
The two sides looked at opportunities to enhance partnership in line with Saudi Vision 2030.
 


Jeddah Central Development Co. to transform desalination plant into cultural museum by 2028

Jeddah Central Development Co. to transform desalination plant into cultural museum by 2028
Updated 01 February 2023

Jeddah Central Development Co. to transform desalination plant into cultural museum by 2028

Jeddah Central Development Co. to transform desalination plant into cultural museum by 2028
  • CEO of Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah Central Project Ahmed Abdulaziz Al-Saleem said that the museum will provide a “rich experience” that will detail the process of desalination
  • The contract for engineering and architectural designs with the multi-award-winning British architecture company Heatherwick Studio includes establishing a large cultural center

JEDDAH: The Jeddah Central Development Co. announced that it is currently working on transforming the Jeddah desalination plant into a museum that will document the city’s industrial heritage from the time of King Abdulaziz to the present day.

CEO of Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah Central Project Ahmed Abdulaziz Al-Saleem said that the museum will provide a “rich experience” that will detail the process of desalination “in both its historical and scientific aspects.”

The contract for engineering and architectural designs with the multi-award-winning British architecture company Heatherwick Studio includes establishing a large cultural center on the project’s waterfront.

The museum will open in 2028 and will include, among other features, studios dedicated to creative visual production and exhibitions representing industry and culture.

Al-Saleem is overseeing the SR75 billion ($20 billion) plan to develop 5.7 million square meters of the port city, which will include major international landmarks, such as an opera house, a museum, a sports stadium and coral farms.

It will also feature a marina, restaurants, beach resorts, over 2,700 hotel rooms, and 17,000 homes in the Kingdom’s second-largest city, which has a population of around 4 million.

The Jeddah Central Project is expected to create 25,000 jobs in the city, according to the firm behind the development.

In 2020, the last two chimneys of the desalination plant were shut down for environmental reasons following the directive of the minister of environment, water and agriculture as the plant had a high operating cost and was a major reason behind the spread of polluted fumes in the air since 1990.

The Saline Water Conversion Corp. now depends on more sustainable and innovative desalination technologies for a better environment.


KSRelief distributes food aid in Lebanon, Pakistan, Yemen and Niger

KSRelief distributes food aid in Lebanon, Pakistan, Yemen and Niger
Updated 01 February 2023

KSRelief distributes food aid in Lebanon, Pakistan, Yemen and Niger

KSRelief distributes food aid in Lebanon, Pakistan, Yemen and Niger

RIYADH: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) on Tuesday distributed 1,040 food aid packages to Syrian refugees in several Lebanese regions, benefiting 5,200 people.

The Saudi charity has a project aiming to distribute food aid to the most neediest groups in various countries.

On Sunday, KSRelief distributed  731 food parcels in Marib Governorate, Yemen, benefiting 5,117 people.

And in Niger, KSRelief distributed on Sunday a further 1,000 in Niamey, benefiting 1,000 families, around 7,176 people.

In Niger, KSRelief distributed on Sunday a further 1,000 in Niamey, benefiting 1,000 families, around 7,176 people.​​​​​ (SPA)

In Pakistan, they distributed 1,130 food packages to 7,910 affected by the floods in Sindh Province, Pakistan.

 In Pakistan, KSRelief distributed 1,130 food packages to 7,910 affected by the floods in Sindh Province. (SPA)