Hope of Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia cutting US gasoline costs ‘unrealistic’

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Updated 18 July 2022

Hope of Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia cutting US gasoline costs ‘unrealistic’

Hope of Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia cutting US gasoline costs ‘unrealistic’
  • Energy prices set by oil refining, geo-political factors, say experts
  • US leader has to refocus on key trade and security pacts with the Kingdom

CHICAGO: President Joe Biden’s expectation to reduce US gasoline prices with his impending trip to Saudi Arabia are unrealistic because energy costs are driven by global market and political variables, say experts.

Gas prices at the pump have doubled over the past four months and weakened the American economy, and that is hurting Biden who faces losing control of both the US House and Senate in the Nov. 8 midterm elections.

Former Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs David Schenker and Saudi analyst and researcher Salman Al-Ansari both said that simply increasing the production of oil as many hope will happen, will not reduce costs because of industry limitations on refining capacity and European geo-political factors.

 

 

“When President Biden came to office, gas was $2 a gallon. It is now $5 a gallon on the East coast. He really wants Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf partners, the UAE, Kuwait and others, (including) Qatar to increase production to lower the price of oil. There are limitations in terms of capacity, surge and production. But also really some problems with our refining capacity. That is top on his agenda,” Schenker said.

“I think you get a couple hundred thousand barrels more, maybe 150. But even if you got a million barrels or 2 million barrels on the market, I think it is important for American consumers to know, it may not make a great deal of a difference to us because that oil isn’t coming to us. It is going to the global market. What’s more if you listen to the Saudis, and what I heard when I was in Riyadh and Dhahran, I went to Aramco my last trip, a month and a half ago to Saudi, they tell you … we can do a little bit more but production isn’t the problem. The problem is refining capacity.”

 

 

Al-Ansari agreed, saying: “Some people think of Saudi producing more oil, etcetera, but I don’t think that will happen in a dramatic kind of manner because Saudi Arabia is committed to OPEC+ agreements.”

“And let’s not forget the issues of high energy prices are not related to the lack of supply of oil but rather the effect of geo-political tensions in Europe and the fact that Russia supplies 30 percent of Europe’s oil and 40 percent of gas demand.”

Schenker said that Biden is hoping to “reset” the relationship with Saudi Arabia which he harshly criticized during his campaign and through the first 18 months of his presidency.

“Biden is also trying to reset the relationship with Saudi Arabia. (There) was basically a deliberate scuttling of the relationship with Saudi Arabia,” Schenker said.

Al-Ansari explained that the Saudi-US relationship has been productive for both countries since it began 76 years ago during a meeting between President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and King Abdul Aziz ibn Saud.

 

 

“The relationship has been there for more than 76 years or almost eight decades. I would quote the State Department Secretary Mr. Blinken and he said the US-Saudi Arabian relationship is important and bigger than any individual. I think both parties understand the importance of this mutual and beneficial relationship. Saudi Arabia is considered the biggest trading partner for the United States in the Middle East,” Al-Ansari said.

“When it comes to Saudi Arabia, the United States is considered the second (biggest trading partner). And also for the United States globally, Saudi Arabia is considered to be (its) number 12 biggest trading partner ... So, we are speaking about a very important relationship. Let’s not forget the fact that Saudi Arabia is the center and heart of the Arab and Muslim world. You cannot basically solve any issue in the Arab or Muslim world without getting Saudi Arabia involved, and Saudi Arabia has been involved heavily since the beginning of the relationship.”

Al-Ansari added that Saudi Arabia has been a dependable partner for the US and the West not only in tempering dramatic swings in oil costs but also confronting rising extremism.

“There are actually three pillars of the Saudi-US initiative and Saudi-US partnership that happened throughout history. The first was selling oil (at) cheap prices to the United States and that is very essential and important for the US to become what it became,” Al-Ansari said.

“And the second was (to) foil the Marxist, socialist, communist doctrine in the Middle East and globally. And Saudi Arabia worked with the United States to combat communism. And the third pillar was to counter terrorism. And let’s not forget the fact that Saudi Arabia has been the biggest victim and it was on the receiving end of most of the Al-Qaeda and ISIS terrorist attacks. Saudi Arabia received more than 60 terrorist attacks from Al-Qaeda and more than 35 terrorist attacks from Daesh, ISIS; and Saudi Arabia worked with the United States to obliterate ISIS and Al-Qaeda, also in Yemen and from so many different places like Iraq and Syria.”

During the radio interview, both Schenker and Al-Ansari said that confronting Iran is a key issue that Biden will have to address. They also said they do not expect any major breakthroughs on the Palestine-Israel stalemate.

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 D.C. 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’s podcast by visiting ArabNews.com/rayradioshow.

 

 

 


US vice president Kamala Harris caps Asia trip with stop at DMZ dividing Koreas

US vice president Kamala Harris caps Asia trip with stop at DMZ dividing Koreas
Updated 9 sec ago

US vice president Kamala Harris caps Asia trip with stop at DMZ dividing Koreas

US vice president Kamala Harris caps Asia trip with stop at DMZ dividing Koreas
  • The visit comes on the heels of North Korea’s latest missile launches
  • At the DMZ, Harris went to the top of a ridge, near guard towers and security cameras
PANMUNJOM, Korea: US Vice President Kamala Harris capped her four-day trip to Asia with a stop Thursday at the Demilitarized Zone dividing the Korean Peninsula as she emphasized US commitment to the security of its Asian allies in the face of an increasingly aggressive North Korea.
The visit comes on the heels of North Korea’s latest missile launches and amid fears that the country may conduct a nuclear test. Visiting the DMZ has become something of a ritual for American leaders hoping to show their resolve to stand firm against aggression.
North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles on Wednesday, while Harris was in Japan, and had fired one before she left Washington on Sunday. The launches contribute to a record level of missile testing this year that is intended to move Pyongyang closer to being acknowledged as a full-fledged nuclear power.
At the DMZ, Harris went to the top of a ridge, near guard towers and security cameras. She looked through bulky binoculars as a South Korean colonel pointed out military installations on the southern side. Then an American colonel pointed out some of the defenses along the military demarcation line, including fence topped with barbed wire and claymore mines. He said American soldiers regularly walk patrols along a path.
“It’s so close,” Harris said.
Her tour visit to the observation post came after she met US service members and some of their relatives at the Camp Bonifas Dining Facility, where she said she wanted them to know “how grateful and thankful we are.”
“I know it’s not always easy. Most of the time it’s not,” she said.
She asked a soldier from Florida on whether he checked in on his family after Hurricane Ian.
“Yeah, they’re up on a hill,” he said.
When another soldier stammered nervously while introducing himself, Harris said, “You know your name!”
“They’re going to give you such a hard time when this is over,” she joked.
Earlier, Harris met with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol at his office in Seoul where they condemned North Korea’s intensifying weapons tests and reaffirmed the US commitment to defend the South with a full range of its military capabilities in the event of war, Yoon’s office said.
They expressed concern over North Korea’s threats of nuclear conflict and pledged an unspecified stronger response to major North Korean provocations, including a nuclear test, which South Korean officials say could possibly take place in coming months.
Harris and Yoon were also expected to discuss expanding economic and technology partnerships and repairing recently strained ties between Seoul and Tokyo to strengthen their trilateral cooperation with Washington in the region.
Harris’ trip was organized so she could attend the state funeral of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, but her itinerary was dominated by security concerns, a reflection of fears about China’s growing power and North Korea’s ramped-up testing activity.
In every meeting, Harris tried to lay to rest any fears that the United States was wavering in its commitment to protect its allies, describing American partnerships with South Korea and Japan as the “linchpin” and “cornerstone” of its defense strategy in Asia.
Yoon, who took office earlier this year, had anchored his election campaign with vows to deepen Seoul’s economic and security partnership with Washington to navigate challenges posed by the North Korean threat and address potential supply chain risks caused by the pandemic, the US-China rivalry and Russia’s war on Ukraine. But the alliance has been marked by tension recently.
South Koreans have expressed a sense of betrayal over a new law signed by President Joe Biden that prevents electric cars built outside of North America from being eligible for US government subsidies, undermining the competitiveness of automakers like Seoul-based Hyundai.
There are indications North Korea may up its weapons demonstrations soon as it refines its missiles and delivery systems and attempts to pressure Washington to accept the North as a nuclear power. South Korean officials said last week that they detected signs North Korea was preparing to test a ballistic missile system designed to be fired from submarines.
The US aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan was to train with South Korean and Japanese warships in waters near the Korean Peninsula on Friday in the countries’ first trilateral anti-submarine exercises since 2017 to counter North Korean submarine threats, South Korea’s navy said Thursday.
US and South Korean officials also say North Korea is possibly gearing up for its first nuclear test since 2017. That test could come after China holds its Communist Party convention the week of Oct. 16, but before the United States holds its midterm elections Nov. 8, according to South Korean lawmakers who attended a closed-door briefing from the National Intelligence Service.

Japanese chief cabinet secretary receives courtesy call from Egyptian transport minister

Japanese chief cabinet secretary receives courtesy call from Egyptian transport minister
Updated 59 min ago

Japanese chief cabinet secretary receives courtesy call from Egyptian transport minister

Japanese chief cabinet secretary receives courtesy call from Egyptian transport minister
  • Both sides reaffirmed the partnership between the two countries

Chief Cabinet Secretary of Japan Hirokazu Matsuno received a courtesy call Tuesday from the Transport Minister of Egypt Kamel Elwazer, who is visiting Japan to attend former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s state funeral.

Elwazer handed Matsuno a letter from Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi addressed to Prime Minister Kishida and expressed his condolences over the death of Abe.

In response, Matsuno expressed his appreciation for Elwazer’s attendance of the state funeral and said that he would like Elwazer to convey deep gratitude of Japan to El-Sisi.

President El-Sisi’s letter addressed to the Prime Minister Kishida to Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno and expressed his heartfelt condolence for the passing of late former Prime Minister Abe.

In response, Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno expressed his appreciation for Minister Elwazer’s attendance at the state funeral for former Prime Minister Abe and stated that he would like Minister Elwazer to convey deep gratitude of Japan to President El-Sisi.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno appreciated the fact that Japan-Egypt relationship, which was enhanced by the strong trust between former Prime Minister Abe and President El-Sisi, has been bearing fruit such as corporation on Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM), Cairo Metro Line 4, Egypt-Japan University of Science and Technology (E-JUST) and Japanese education system in Egypt.

Elwazer showed his gratitude for Japan’s support to Egypt in various fields, both public and private, and expressed his expectation for further Japanese investment in Egypt.

He also expressed his expectation for increased investment by Japanese companies through improvement in the investment environment in Egypt. Elwazer showed his gratitude for Japan’s support to Egypt in various fields, both public and private, and reiterated Matsuno’s expectation for further Japanese investment in Egypt.

Both sides reaffirmed the partnership between the two countries and agreed on continued corporation to further enhance bilateral relationship.

This article originally appeared on Arab News Japan.


Taliban fire into air to disperse women’s rally backing Iran protests

Taliban fire into air to disperse women’s rally backing Iran protests
Updated 18 min 33 sec ago

Taliban fire into air to disperse women’s rally backing Iran protests

Taliban fire into air to disperse women’s rally backing Iran protests

KABUL:  Taliban forces fired shots into the air on Thursday to disperse a women’s rally supporting protests in Iran over the death of a woman in the custody of morality police.
Deadly protests have erupted in neighboring Iran for the past two weeks, following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while detained by the Islamic republic’s morality police.
Chanting the same “Women, life, freedom” mantra used in Iran, about 25 Afghan women protested in front of Kabul’s Iranian embassy before being dispersed by Taliban forces firing in the air, an AFP correspondent reported.
Women protesters carried banners that read: “Iran has risen, now it’s our turn!” and “From Kabul to Iran, say no to dictatorship!“
Taliban forces swiftly snatched the banners and tore them in front of the protesters.
Defiant Afghan women’s rights activists have staged sporadic protests in Kabul and some other cities since the Taliban stormed back to power last August.
The protests, banned by the Taliban, contravene a slew of harsh restrictions imposed by the hard-line extremists on Afghan women.
The Taliban have forcefully dispersed women’s rallies in the past, warned journalists against covering them and detained activists helming organization efforts.
An organizer of Thursday’s protest, speaking anonymously, told AFP it was staged “to show our support and solidarity with the people of Iran and the women victims of the Taliban in Afghanistan.”
Since returning to power, the Taliban have banned secondary school education for girls and barred women from many government jobs.
Women have also been ordered to fully cover themselves in public, preferably with the all-encompassing burqa.
So far the Taliban have dismissed international calls to remove the curbs on women, especially the ban on secondary school education.
On Tuesday, a United Nations report denounced the “severe restrictions” and called for them to be reversed.
The international community has insisted that lifting controls on women’s rights is a key condition for recognizing the Taliban government, which no country has so far done.


Fourth leak found on Nord Stream pipelines, Swedish coast guard says

Fourth leak found on Nord Stream pipelines, Swedish coast guard says
Updated 29 September 2022

Fourth leak found on Nord Stream pipelines, Swedish coast guard says

Fourth leak found on Nord Stream pipelines, Swedish coast guard says
  • The two other holes are in the Danish exclusive economic zone
  • The EU suspects sabotage behind the gas leaks on the subsea Russian pipelines

OSLO: Sweden’s coast guard earlier this week discovered a fourth gas leak on the damaged Nord Stream pipelines, a coast guard spokesperson told newspaper Svenska Dagbladet.
“Two of these four are in Sweden’s exclusive economic zone,” coast guard spokesperson Jenny Larsson told the newspaper.
The two other holes are in the Danish exclusive economic zone.
The European Union suspects sabotage was behind the gas leaks on the subsea Russian pipelines to Europe and has promised a “robust” response to any intentional disruption of its energy infrastructure.


Former Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi convicted again, Australian economist gets 3 years

Former Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi convicted again, Australian economist gets 3 years
Updated 29 September 2022

Former Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi convicted again, Australian economist gets 3 years

Former Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi convicted again, Australian economist gets 3 years
  • Suu Kyi received a three-year sentence after being tried and convicted under the secrets law
  • Australian economist Sean Turnell had served as an adviser to the former leader

BANGKOK: A court in military-ruled Myanmar convicted former leader Aung San Suu Kyi in another criminal case Thursday and sentenced Australian economist Sean Turnell to three years in prison for violating Myanmar’s official secrets act, a legal official said.
Suu Kyi received a three-year sentence after being tried and convicted with Turnell under the secrets law, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to release information about the case.
Three members of her Cabinet were also found guilty, each receiving sentences of three years.
Turnell, an associate professor in economics at Sydney’s Macquarie University, had served as an adviser to Suu Kyi, who was detained in the capital Naypyitaw when her elected government was ousted by the army on Feb. 1, 2021.
He has been in detention for almost 20 months. He was arrested five days after the military takeover by security forces at a hotel in Yangon, the country’s biggest city, while waiting for a car to take him to the city’s international airport.
He had arrived back in Myanmar from Australia to take up a new position as a special consultant to Suu Kyi less than a month before he was detained. As director of the Myanmar Development Institute, he already had lived in Naypyitaw for several years.
The day after the military’s takeover, he posted a message on Twitter that he was: “Safe for now but heartbroken for what all this means for the people of Myanmar. The bravest, kindest people I know. They deserve so much better.”
He was charged along with Suu Kyi and the three former Cabinet ministers on the basis of documents seized from him. The exact details of their offense have not been made public, though state television said last year that Turnell had access to “secret state financial information” and had tried to flee the country.
Turnell and Suu Kyi denied the allegations when they testified in their defense at the trial in August.
Turnell was also charged with violating immigration law, but it was not immediately clear what sentence he received for that.
Myanmar’s colonial-era official secrets act criminalizes the possession, collection, recording, publishing, or sharing of state information that is “directly or indirectly, useful to an enemy.” The charge carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.
All sessions of the trial, held in a purpose-built courtroom in Naypyitaw’s main prison, were closed to the media and the public. The defense lawyers were barred by a gag order from revealing details of the proceedings.
The same restrictions have applied to all of Suu Kyi’s trials.
The case that concluded Thursday is one of several faced by Suu Kyi and is widely seen as an effort to discredit her to prevent her return to politics.
She had already been sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment after being convicted of illegally importing and possessing walkie-talkies, violating coronavirus restrictions, sedition, election fraud and five corruption charges. The cases are widely seen as being concocted to keep the 77-year-old Suu Kyi from returning to active politics.
Suu Kyi is still being tried on seven counts under the country’s anti-corruption law, with each count punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a fine.
Defense lawyers are expected to file appeals in the secrets case in the coming days for Turnell, Suu Kyi and three former ministers: Soe Win and Kyaw Win, both former ministers for planning and finance, and Set Aung, a former deputy minister in the same ministry, the legal official said.
About half-a-dozen foreigners are known to have been arrested on political charges since the army takeover, and they generally have been deported after their convictions.
Australia has repeatedly demanded Turnell’s release. Last year, it suspended its defense cooperation with Myanmar and began redirecting humanitarian aid because of the military takeover and Turnell’s ongoing detention.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, when he visited Myanmar in January this year, asked for Turnell’s release in a meeting with the leader of ruling military council. Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing replied that he “would consider it positively.”
The UN Special Envoy on Myanmar Noeleen Heyzer said she conveyed a specific request from Australia for Turnell’s release when she met with Min Aung Hlaing in August. Myanmar’s government said the general replied that, should the Australian government take positive steps, “we will not need to take stern actions.”
According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a rights monitoring organization, 15,683 people have been detained on political charges in Myanmar since the army takeover, with 12,540 of those remaining in detention. At least 2,324 civilians have been killed by security forces in the same period, the group says, though the number is thought to be far higher.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the takeover, which led to nationwide protests that the military government quashed with deadly force, triggering armed resistance that some UN experts now characterize as civil war.