The bottom line of President Joe Biden’s Saudi Arabia visit

Special Negotiating teams led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and US President Joe Biden take part in a working session at Al-Salam Palace in Jeddah that set the tone for future US-Saudi relations with a string of initiatives. (AFP)
Negotiating teams led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and US President Joe Biden take part in a working session at Al-Salam Palace in Jeddah that set the tone for future US-Saudi relations with a string of initiatives. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 21 July 2022

The bottom line of President Joe Biden’s Saudi Arabia visit

The bottom line of President Joe Biden’s Saudi Arabia visit
  • Array of bilateral agreements signed by two sides went unnoticed amid media fixation on “fist bumps”
  • Saudi Arabia and US made several joint commitments to the wider Middle East region as well

JEDDAH: While many in Western news media were busy with the topic of “fist bumps,” an array of important outcomes of US President Joe Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia went mostly unreported.

Saudi Arabia was the final stop in Biden’s four-day Middle East trip, which kicked off on July 13 in Israel and Palestine.

As part of the bilateral agreements signed between the two sides, Biden reaffirmed the US commitment to help Saudi Arabia defend its territory and people from external attacks, particularly those launched by the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen.

The two sides made several joint commitments to the wider region, among them an agreement to sustain and extend the UN-mediated truce in Yemen and engage in a diplomatic process to reach a wider settlement of the conflict.

Biden welcomed Saudi Arabia’s commitment to the truce, which has helped to resume direct commercial flights from Sanaa to Amman and Cairo and financially support Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council to improve basic services and economic stability for Yemenis.

Both sides agreed to intensify their efforts to preserve the free flow of commerce and deter illicit smuggling into Yemen through strategic waterways in the region by expanding their joint naval operations focused on the Red Sea and Bab Al-Mandab Strait.

Elsewhere in the Middle East, the two sides agreed that peacekeepers, including American soldiers, will depart Tiran Island by the end of the year, after which the island will be developed for tourism purposes.

Since shortly after the 1978 Camp David Accords, US troops have served as peacekeepers on Tiran Island as part of the Multinational Force and Observers under the peace treaty signed between Israel and Egypt.

In furtherance of its Vision 2030 agenda to become a regional travel and entertainment hub and in accordance with the principles of the Chicago Convention of 1944, Saudi Arabia announced its decision to allow all civilian air carriers to fly over its airspace.

Both sides also agreed to extend visa validity to 10 years for nationals of both countries to visit for business and tourism.




Important outcomes and signings went unnoticed by many in Western media who were fixated on images of ‘fist bumps’ in Jeddah. (SPA)

On the technology front, Saudi and US officials agreed to pursue several major infrastructure projects, including a new bilateral framework for cooperation on 5G — using open, virtualized and cloud-based radio access networks — and the development of 6G.

Saudi Arabia has committed to a significant investment for this project under the umbrella of the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, which Biden announced at the G7 Summit in June.

The Kingdom’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology signed a memorandum of understanding with IBM to train 100,000 young Saudis over a period of five years.

A key feature of Biden’s visit was energy security in light of the war in Ukraine and the resulting Western embargoes on Russian oil and gas. The two sides agreed to expand cooperation on energy security, with Saudi officials committing to support the balancing of the global oil market.

US officials welcomed the Saudi commitment to increase oil production by 50 percent above what was planned for July and August. Nevertheless, the Saudi crown prince made it clear the Kingdom would not expand monthly production beyond 13 million barrels.

“Saudi Arabia’s policy on oil has been to try to seek balance in the energy markets, to make sure that the markets are adequately supplied and that there are no shortages,” Adel Al-Jubeir, Saudi Arabia’s minister of state for foreign affairs, told Arab News in an exclusive interview during Biden’s visit.

In order to meet the demands of the market, Saudi Arabia “will continue to assess market needs and make decisions according to those needs.”




Officials say the bilateral agreements the two delegations signed in Jeddah will set the tone for future Saudi-US relations. (Supplied)

In line with both nations’ commitment to reducing carbon emissions, they agreed to a new framework for clean energy cooperation, focusing particularly on solar, green hydrogen and nuclear, with new Saudi investments to accelerate the energy transition and combat the effects of climate change.

The partnership will leverage public and private sector collaboration to advance the deployment of clean energy solutions while accelerating research, development and the demonstration of innovative technologies to decarbonize the global economy and achieve net-zero.

The US welcomed Saudi Arabia’s support for the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, which aims to strategically invest in projects that support digital connectivity, supply chain sustainability and climate and energy security focused on low- and middle-income countries.

It also welcomed the leading role played by Saudi Arabia in strengthening relations with Iraq, including the commitment to link the electricity networks of Saudi Arabia and Gulf Cooperation Council countries to the Iraqi grid to provide it with diversified energy sources and wean it off reliance on Iran.

The dialogue also resulted in the signing of two bilateral agreements on cybersecurity with Saudi Arabia’s National Cybersecurity Authority — one with the FBI and another with the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

The two sides will expand their cooperation, share information about threats and activities of malicious actors to enhance their shared defense and collaborate on best practices, technologies, tools and approaches to cybersecurity training and education.

They agreed to expand cooperation in space exploration, including human spaceflight, Earth observation, commercial and regulatory development, and responsible behavior in outer space.




Saudi Arabia welcomed greater mutual investments in the areas of defense, renewable energy, manufacturing, healthcare, technology and innovation, which are contributing to job creation and localization goals. (SPA)

As part of the agreement, Saudi Arabia signed the Artemis Accords and restated its commitment to the responsible, peaceful and sustainable exploration and use of outer space.

Both nations also welcomed a new agreement between their respective ministries of health to share information, build capacity, collaborate on disease surveillance, address the health concerns of women and special needs populations, and pursue public policies oriented toward disease prevention and health promotion.

Saudi Arabia welcomed greater mutual investments in the areas of defense, renewable energy, manufacturing, healthcare, technology and innovation, which are contributing to job creation and localization goals.

New agreements include investments by Boeing, Raytheon, Medtronic and Digital Diagnostics, and IKVIA in the healthcare sector, and many other US companies across the energy, tourism, education, manufacturing and textiles sectors.

Other deals include Saudi Aramco Energy projects in recycled thermal plastics in the US, agreements in developing and implementing healthcare data and technology solutions, as well as supply chain localization for medical device technologies in Saudi Arabia.

“The joint communique that was issued following the bilateral meetings between the leaders of both nations underscored the many issues on which our policies align and on which we work closely together,” Fahad Nazer, spokesman for the Saudi Embassy in Washington, told Arab News.




Biden’s visit is a testament to the strength of strategic bilateral relations and the important leadership role Saudi Arabia plays, according Fahad Nazer Spokesman, Saudi Embassy in Washington. (Supplied)

The text of these agreements will likely be dissected in the weeks to come, not only by Middle East experts but also by the region’s malign actors and Washington’s strategic competitors for their full geopolitical ramifications as well as their symbolic significance.

Nazer put the significance of the visit this way: “The fact that President Biden visited Saudi Arabia on his first trip to the Middle East is both a testament to the strength of the strategic bilateral relations as well as the important leadership role that Saudi Arabia plays both regionally and globally.” 

Officials say the bilateral agreements the two delegations signed in Jeddah will set the tone for future Saudi-US relations.

“The two countries are allies and partners and have been for eight decades. They have tremendous interests at stake, and they have tremendous challenges that they both are working together to confront,” Al-Jubeir said.

He pointed out that Biden’s visit symbolized “in very clear terms the importance of the relationship, the importance of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the US, and to global peace and security.”

 

Druze: the great survivors
How the world's most secretive faithhas endured for a thousand years

Enter


keywords

Italy pledges ‘full cooperation’ with Jordan during king’s visit

Italy pledges ‘full cooperation’ with Jordan during king’s visit
Updated 20 sec ago

Italy pledges ‘full cooperation’ with Jordan during king’s visit

Italy pledges ‘full cooperation’ with Jordan during king’s visit
  • ‘Many common points were found during the talks,’ source in PM’s office tells Arab News
  • Trade, cultural and defense cooperation were the core issues discussed

ROME: Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni pledged their country’s “full cooperation” with Jordan “in every field,” during a meeting with King Abdullah II.

The monarch and Queen Rania were received by Mattarella at Quirinale Palace during their visit to Rome.

A source in the Italian presidency told Arab News that Mattarella stressed to the king “the importance for his country of the longstanding friendship between Italy and Jordan.” 

Italy is one of Jordan’s main commercial partners. In the first five months of 2021, bilateral trade grew by 26.7 percent compared to the same period the previous year. During the same period, Jordanian exports to Italy grew by 82.7 percent.

During an official lunch at Chigi Palace, Meloni told the king: “We always can do more together in so many fields.”

A source in the prime minister’s office said trade, cultural and defense cooperation were the core issues discussed.

“The situation in Syria was also covered. Many common points were found during the talks,” the source told Arab News.

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani and Defense Minister Guido Crosetto also attended the lunch.


UNRWA, Arab League urge protection of Palestinian education curriculum

UNRWA, Arab League urge protection of Palestinian education curriculum
Updated 05 December 2022

UNRWA, Arab League urge protection of Palestinian education curriculum

UNRWA, Arab League urge protection of Palestinian education curriculum
  • Israeli censorship a concern, says ALECSO representative

CAIRO: The Palestinian education system should be protected from attempts to censor material being taught at schools.

This was the concern raised by some officials at the 32nd joint meeting of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees and the Council of Educational Affairs of the Arab League in Cairo, the Saudi Press Agency reported. The gathering took place at the Arab League’s headquarters in Egypt’s capital.

Dr. Tamer Anis, a representative of the Arab League Educational Cultural and Scientific Organization, drew attention to Israel’s attempts to censor the Palestinian curriculum. He urged support for the Palestinian Ministry of Education.

Arab News had reported this year about attempts by Israel to impose a “sanitized” curriculum on East Jerusalem’s schools that includes the deletion of all photos of Al-Aqsa Mosque, the word Palestine and the Palestinian flag. Holy Qur’anic verses were also deleted on claims that they help strengthen Palestinian, Arab and Islamic identities.

At Sunday’s meeting in Cairo, Saeed Abu Ali, the Arab League’s assistant secretary-general for Palestine and the occupied Arab territories, said the gathering comes in the wake of the UNRWA’s ongoing financial crisis, which has had a direct impact on the services provided to Palestinian refugees.

Abu Ali stressed the need for the next UNRWA budget to reflect the growing needs of Palestinian refugees. He added that the Arab League would continue to keep communication channels open between the two organizations

Rawda Al-Hajj, the representative of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, said that ISESCO continues to support several education projects in Palestine.

The UNRWA’s Deputy Director of Education Moritz Bilagher reiterated that the Palestinian refugee crisis was not solely the responsibility of Arab countries, but rather a global issue for which the international community must take responsibility.

 


Israeli President arrives in UAE for Abu Dhabi Space Debate

Israeli President arrives in UAE for Abu Dhabi Space Debate
Updated 05 December 2022

Israeli President arrives in UAE for Abu Dhabi Space Debate

Israeli President arrives in UAE for Abu Dhabi Space Debate
  • Israeli president among 300 high-ranking personalities attending the event

DUBAI: Israeli president Isaac Herzog has arrived in the UAE Monday to attend the Abu Dhabi Space Debate, state news agency (WAM) reported.

Herzog was welcomed by the UAE’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan at the Presidential Airport in Abu Dhabi.

The Israeli president will be among 300 high-ranking personalities and decision makers attending the first edition of the Abu Dhabi Space Debate, which opened on Monday.

The two-day event will discuss the space industry’s most pressing challenges and factors to drive the new space economy.


Iran-backed hackers stage phishing campaign against activists, journalists: HRW

Iran-backed hackers stage phishing campaign against activists, journalists: HRW
Updated 05 December 2022

Iran-backed hackers stage phishing campaign against activists, journalists: HRW

Iran-backed hackers stage phishing campaign against activists, journalists: HRW
  • Espionage group linked to IRGC gains access to emails of 3 victims

LONDON: Iran-backed hackers have staged a targeted campaign against more than a dozen high-profile human rights activists, journalists, academics and government officials, Human Rights Watch said.

The organization found that a coordinated phishing attack had been launched by an Iran-linked hacking entity known as APT42, believed to be a cyberespionage group.

The HRW report said that two of its employees were targeted, alongside 18 other people, resulting in the hacking of emails belonging to three individuals.

APT42 gained access to the emails, cloud storage, calendars and contacts of a US newspaper correspondent based in the Middle East, a Gulf-based women’s rights activist as well as a refugee advocate in Lebanon.

HRW said that the phishing attack was launched via WhatsApp, with 15 of the targets receiving suspicious messages between September and November this year.

The message, disguised as a conference invitation, allowed APT42 to gain access to the Google accounts of the three victims after they were invited to enter their two-factor authentication details on false pretenses.

Iran has long engaged in phishing attempts as part of its cyberwarfare strategy.

Since 2010, hackers and espionage groups linked to the regime in Tehran have successfully hacked and leaked the data of government, military and business targets around the world.

In September, APT42 members were sanctioned by the US Office of Foreign Assets Control at the Treasury Department.

Google as well as cybersecurity businesses Recorded Future and Proofpoint have said that APT42 operates on behalf of Iranian authorities.

Earlier this year, cybersecurity company Mandiant said that the group’s activities were directed by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

APT42 uses sophisticated social engineering strategies in disguising phishing attempts, HRW said.

In gaining the trust of victims, APT42 members use the real information of conference organizers to create fake accounts and contact high-profile activists and officials.

Previous attacks have seen the group impersonate members of the Munich Security Conference and the G20 Think 20 Summit in Saudi Arabia to contact targets and launch phishing attacks.

Abir Ghattas, information security director at HRW, said: “Iran’s state-backed hackers are aggressively using sophisticated social engineering and credential harvesting tactics to access sensitive information and contacts held by Middle East-focused researchers and civil society groups.

“This significantly increases the risks that journalists and human rights defenders face in Iran and elsewhere in the region.”

She added: “In a Middle East region rife with surveillance threats for activists, it’s essential for digital security researchers to not only publish and promote findings, but also prioritize the protection of the region’s embattled activists, journalists and civil society leaders.”


Iran morality police status unclear after ‘closure’ comment

Iran morality police status unclear after ‘closure’ comment
Updated 05 December 2022

Iran morality police status unclear after ‘closure’ comment

Iran morality police status unclear after ‘closure’ comment
  • Iran’s chief prosecutor Mohamed Jafar Montazeri earlier said the morality police ‘had been closed’

CAIRO: An Iranian lawmaker said Sunday that Iran’s government is “paying attention to the people’s real demands,” state media reported, a day after a top official suggested that the country’s morality police whose conduct helped trigger months of protests has been shut down.
The role of the morality police, which enforces veiling laws, came under scrutiny after a detainee, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, died in its custody in mid-September. Amini had been held for allegedly violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress codes. Her death unleashed a wave of unrest that has grown into calls for the downfall of Iran’s clerical rulers.
Iran’s chief prosecutor Mohamed Jafar Montazeri said on Saturday the morality police “had been closed,” the semi-official news agency ISNA reported. The agency did not provide details, and state media hasn’t reported such a purported decision.
In a report carried by ISNA on Sunday, lawmaker Nezamoddin Mousavi signaled a less confrontational approach toward the protests.
“Both the administration and parliament insisted that paying attention to the people’s demand that is mainly economic is the best way for achieving stability and confronting the riots,” he said, following a closed meeting with several senior Iranian officials, including President Ebrahim Raisi.
Mousavi did not address the reported closure of the morality police.
The Associated Press has been unable to confirm the current status of the force, established in 2005 with the task of arresting people who violate the country’s Islamic dress code.
Since September, there has been a reported decline in the number of morality police officers across Iranian cities and an increase in women walking in public without headscarves, contrary to Iranian law.
Montazeri, the chief prosecutor, provided no further details about the future of the morality police or if its closure was nationwide and permanent. However he added that Iran’s judiciary will ‘‘continue to monitor behavior at the community level.’’
In a report by ISNA on Friday, Montazeri was quoted as saying that the government was reviewing the mandatory hijab law. “We are working fast on the issue of hijab and we are doing our best to come up with a thoughtful solution to deal with this phenomenon that hurts everyone’s heart,” said Montazeri, without offering details.
Saturday’s announcement could signal an attempt to appease the public and find a way to end the protests in which, according to rights groups, at least 470 people were killed. More than 18,000 people have been arrested in the protests and the violent security force crackdown that followed, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group monitoring the demonstrations.
Ali Alfoneh, a senior fellow at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, said Montazeri’s statement about closing the morality police could be an attempt to pacify domestic unrest without making real concessions to protesters.
‘‘The secular middle class loathes the organization (morality police) for restricting personal freedoms,” said Alfoneh. On the other hand, the “underprivileged and socially conservative class resents how they conveniently keep away from enforcing the hijab legislation” in wealthier areas of Iran’s cities.
When asked about Montazeri’s statement, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian gave no direct answer. ‘‘Be sure that in Iran, within the framework of democracy and freedom, which very clearly exists in Iran, everything is going very well,’’ Amirabdollahian said, speaking during a visit to Belgrade, Serbia.
The anti-government demonstrations, now in their third month, have shown no sign of stopping despite a violent crackdown. Protesters say they are fed up after decades of social and political repression, including a strict dress code imposed on women. Young women continue to play a leading role in the protests, stripping off the mandatory Islamic headscarf to express their rejection of clerical rule.
After the outbreak of the protests, the Iranian government hadn’t appeared willing to heed the protesters’ demands. It has continued to crack down on protesters, including sentencing at least seven arrested protesters to death. Authorities continue to blame the unrest on hostile foreign powers, without providing evidence.
But in recent days, Iranian state media platforms seemed to be adopting a more conciliatory tone, expressing a desire to engage with the problems of the Iranian people.