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Posts tagged ‘Riyadh’

Alarmed over Obama’s Leadership, Saudis Strengthen Ties Elsewhere.


Image: Alarmed over Obama's Leadership, Saudis Strengthen Ties Elsewhere French President Francois Hollande meets with Saudi King Abdullah at the Saudi Royal palace in Riyadh on Dec. 29.

Increasingly vocal in its frustration over United States policies in the Mideast, Saudi Arabia is strengthening ties elsewhere, seeking out an alignment that will bolster its position after it was pushed to the sidelines this year.

It may find a solution in France, whose president is ending the year with 24 hours of high-level meetings with the Saudi leadership in a visit intended to showcase commercial and diplomatic strength.

With an entourage of French executives from the lucrative defense and energy sectors, President Francois Hollande arrives Sunday in Riyadh for a flurry of accords and contracts that have been in the works for months. The two countries also find themselves unexpectedly aligned in resistance, if not outright opposition, to U.S. policy on Syria’s civil war and Iran’s nuclear program.

The Saudi ambassador to Britain, Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, recently described the policies of some partners toward Iran and Syria as a “dangerous gamble” while calling for the kingdom to be more assertive internationally after decades of operating in diplomatic shadows.

France, with similar fears about Syria, has been one of the strongest backers of the Syrian moderate leadership and Hollande had pledged military support against Syrian President Bashar Assad until both the U.S. and Britain backed away. On Iran, the French shouldered their way into the negotiations with Iran, demanding a better deal and warning that the Tehran government needed careful monitoring.

“We cannot remain silent, and will not stand idly by,” Prince Mohammed wrote in a Dec. 17 opinion piece in The New York Times.

“We expected to be standing shoulder to shoulder with our friends and partners who have previously talked so much about the importance of moral values in foreign policy,” he wrote in the piece titled “Saudi Arabia Will Go It Alone.”

But it may not have to. The French have been clear that they share Saudi fears that U.S. and Russian concerns over Islamic militants could leave Assad the victor in any peace deal. Hollande’s visit will be his second since taking office in May 2012 — a rarity for a French leader outside Europe — and his defense minister has been three times, most recently after the announcement of a 1.1 billion euro ($1.4 billion) contract with the Saudi navy.

“There is an offensive among the Saudis to try to reach out to different partners and try and see if they can find new allies,” said Valentina Soria, a security analyst with IHS Jane’s. At the same time, she said, Hollande is showing “the kind of willingness to intervene on the international stage in a much more assertive way, a much more convinced way.”

In October, Saudi Arabia stunned diplomats when it rejected its first seat on the United Nations Security Council. The Saudi foreign ministry blasted the council for an “inability to perform its duties” in stopping the war.

“The problem in Syria today is … clear negligence on the part of the world, who continue to watch the suffering of the Syrian people without taking steps to stop that suffering,” Saudi Prince Turki Al Faisal, an influential member of the royal family and a former intelligence chief, said at a conference in Monaco this month.

The Saudis are particularly annoyed that the U.S. and Britain did not follow through with threats to punish Assad’s government over the use of chemical weapons. Those decisions caused similar uproar in France for Hollande, who many at home believed was left hanging as the only Western power to pledge military support.

“The Saudi monarchy cannot fathom the fact that Assad might survive this crisis and then turn against them. They reject this possibility and are willing to do what they can to make Assad go,” said Ali al-Ahmed, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute of Gulf Affairs.

Both countries say they will continue to back the rebels fighting to overthrow Assad, in contrast with the Obama administration’s hesitation. Unlike the U.S., the French have resisted suspending non-lethal aid to the rebels and show no signs of changing course.

The Syrian conflict, which has claimed more than 120,000 people and spawned a regional refugee crisis, has become in many ways a proxy fight pitting Saudi Arabia and other Sunni-led Arab states against Shiite powerhouse Iran, a major supporter of Assad.

What the Saudis won’t do is send in their own well-equipped armed forces, al-Ahmed said, because it could empower the Saudi military to turn against them as happened elsewhere during the Arab Spring.

The Saudis also watch with trepidation at the warming ties between Iran and the West.

The way the nuclear talks were handled — with U.S. officials secretly meeting their Iranian counterparts before more formal talks involving world powers — particularly rankled the Saudis.

“Saudi Arabia is clamoring for a major role in shaping the region. They feel they deserve that,” said Theodore Karasik, a security and political affairs analyst at the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis.

Washington has strived to downplay any suggestion of a rift. Senior American officials have traveled to the Gulf recently to reassure allies including Saudi Arabia. And Soria, the analyst, said the U.S. partnership, which includes billions in defense contracts, would endure beyond the current tensions.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the U.S. and Saudi Arabia “share the same goals” of ending the war in Syria and preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, but she stopped short of endorsing a Saudi role at the bargaining table with Iran.

Al-Ahmed said Iran would never agree to any talks involving the Saudis, but that wouldn’t stop the kingdom from trying.

“The Saudi obsession that they will be sold out to the Iranians in a grand bargain makes them want to be in these meetings to ensure that does not happen,” he said.
© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Newsmax.com

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WSJ: Area Allies Fear US Pullback in Middle East.


Israel and Saudi Arabia fear that a combination of American war-weariness, energy independence, and economic troubles could herald a U.S. withdrawal from the Middle East, according to The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Bureau Chief, Gerald Seib.
Sunday’s Geneva deal with Iran appears to be the latest evidence that Washington wants to close the books on the region’s hard-to-solve problems and, above all, to avoid military entanglements.
President Barack Obama appears willing to use the military but only for pinpoint operations that do not entail a continuing commitment.
The sentiment in Jerusalem and Riyadh is that Washington is pulling back while Tehran will be playing a bigger regional role, according to the Journal.
The U.S. allies see a lessening of America’s footprint in the region from Iraq to Afghanistan and from Syria to the Iranian nuclear threat.
The Obama administration’s recoil from the military-led regime in Cairo, which overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood government, has concerned both Saudi Arabia and Israel.
The White House has long hinted that it wants to pivot American foreign policy from the Middle East toward Asia. It is a strategy that troubles Israel and Saudi Arabia which are dependent on American power for their ultimate survival.
The New York Times last month quoted White House national security adviser Susan Rice as saying, “We can’t just be consumed 24/7 by one region, important as it is.”

She said the president “thought it was a good time to step back and reassess, in a very critical and kind of no-holds-barred way, how we conceive the region.”

With Washington seemingly interested in pulling back, leaders in both Israel and Saudi Arabia are feeling increasingly insecure, according to the Journal.
This uncertainty over American staying power could push Jerusalem to take unilateral action against Iran’s nuclear facilities and drive Riyadh to purchase a nuclear weapons capability from Pakistan.
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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Elliot Jager

Saudis Punish 2 Men For Aiding Woman Christian Convert.


RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — A court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced two men to lashes and prison terms for converting a woman to Christianity and helping her flee the conservative Islamic kingdom, the Saudi Gazette reported on Monday.

A Lebanese man was sentenced to six years in prison and 300 lashes for converting the woman, while a Saudi man was sentenced to two years and 200 lashes for aiding her escape abroad, the English-language daily said. It added that the pair had challenged the verdict and would appeal.

A spokesman at the justice ministry could not immediately be reached for comment.

In Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, it is against the law for Muslims to abandon their faith, a practice known as apostasy. Proselytizing for other religions or practicing them openly is also illegal.

Judges have considerable leeway in how to interpret the kingdom’s Shariah code of Islamic law and are not bound by sentencing guidelines or a system of precedent. Both capital and corporal punishment are legal.

The case emerged last year after the woman’s family complained that she had been “brainwashed” by colleagues at the insurance company where she worked and that they had helped her leave Saudi Arabia via Bahrain on false documents.

The woman, whose name has not been released, was granted asylum in Sweden last year, the newspaper reported.

Last year King Abdullah, who has promoted limited reforms since coming to the throne in 2005, opened a center for religious dialogue in Vienna that drew criticism because of Saudi Arabia’s own lack of religious freedom. In 2008 he sponsored an inter-faith conference in Spain.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: NEWSmax.com

Saudi Arabia’s Top Cleric: Twitter ‘A Council for Jokesters’.


RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia’s top religious cleric has criticized the social media website Twitter, calling it “a council for jokesters” and a place for unjust, incorrect messages.

Grand Mufti Sheik Abdul-Aziz Al-Sheik made his remarks late Friday during a speech to other Saudi clerics.

Twitter has been used by youth activists to galvanize protests in the Arab Spring uprisings, as well as by regional governments seeking to communicate with the public.

The mufti’s remarks come on the same day that the imam at Mecca‘s Grand Mosque said people have the right to express themselves, but must do so cautiously in order to protect the nation’s prestige and unity.

Rights groups have criticized Saudi Arabia for its limited freedoms and its ultraconservative mores.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: NEWSmax.com

US, Saudi present united front on Syria, Iran.


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  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, meets with Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah at Yamamah Palace in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Monday, March 4, 2013. Saudi Arabia is the seventh leg of Kerry's first official overseas trip. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)View PhotoU.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, …
  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry drinks coffee with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, during a welcoming ceremony on his arrival in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Sunday, March 3, 2013. Saudi Arabia is the seventh leg of Kerry's first official overseas trip. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)View PhotoU.S. Secretary of State John Kerry …

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — The United States and Saudi Arabia on Monday presented a united front to Iran and Syria. They warned Syrian President Bashar Assad that they will boost support to rebels fighting to oust him unless he steps down and put Iran’s leadership on notice that time is running out for a diplomatic resolution to concerns about its nuclear program.

After a series of meetings in the Riyadh, U.S. Secretary of StateJohn Kerry and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told reporters at a joint news conference that Assad must understand that recent scud missile attacks on regime foes in the city of Aleppo would not be tolerated by the international community and that he had lost all claim to be Syria’s legitimate leader.

Saud, whose country along with other Gulf states is widely believed to be supplying weapons to the Syrian rebels, said Saudi Arabia could not ignore the brutality Assad is inflicting on his people, even after two years of escalating violence that has claimed 70,000 lives. He said that history had never seen a government use strategic missiles against its own people. “This cannot go on,” he said. “He has lost all authority.”

In his discussions with Kerry, Saud said he had “stressed the importance of enabling the Syrian people to exercise its legitimate right to defend itself against the regime’s killing machine.” Saud also decried the fact that the Assad continued to get weapons from “third parties,” a veiled reference to Russia and Iran, which have backed the regime through the conflict.

“Saudi Arabia will do everything within its capacity, and we do believe that what is happening in Syria is a slaughter, a slaughter of innocents” he said. “We can’t bring ourselves to remain quiet. Morally we have a duty.” The Obama administration has resisted appeals from the Syrian opposition to provide it with weapons and ammunitions over fears that they could fall into the hands of Islamist extremists who have gained support among Assad opponents. But Kerry sidestepped a question about whether the arms reportedly being supplied to the rebels by Saudi Arabia and others were a concern. Instead, he criticized Iran, Hezbollah and Russia by name for giving weaponry to the Assad regime.

Kerry did announce last week that the U.S. would for the first time provide rebel fighters in the Free Syrian Army with non-lethal assistance — rations and medical assistance. European nations like Britain and France are expected to soon send the rebels defensive military equipment and Kerry has said the totality of the aid could be enough to change the situation on the ground.

“The United States will continue to work with our friends to empower the Syrian opposition to hopefully be able to bring about a peaceful resolution, but if not, to increase pressure on Assad,” Kerry said. He added that Assad “is destroying his country — and his people in the process — to hold onto power that is not his anymore.”

Kerry is in Saudi Arabia on the seventh leg of a marathon nine-nation dash through Europe and the Middle East on his first overseas trip as secretary of state. During his trip, members of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany met in Kazakhstan with Iranian officials in the latest bid to get Iran to prove that its nuclear program is peaceful and not a cover for atomic weapons development.

That meeting ended in an agreement for further expert-level discussions between the sides and both Saud and Kerry said it was critical for Iran to accept offers made by the so-called “P5+1” group quickly. Kerry reminded the Iranians that President Barack Obama has vowed not to allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon and that he has kept all options, including military options, on the table to prevent that from happening.

The window of opportunity for a diplomatic solution “cannot by definition remain open indefinitely,” Kerry said. “There is time to resolve this issue providing the Iranians are prepared to engage seriously on the P5+1 proposal. But talks will not go on for the sake of talks and talks cannot become an instrument for delay that will make the situation more dangerous,” he said.

Saud, whose country shares concerns with other Gulf Arab states about increasing Iranian aggressiveness in the region, agreed. “We hope that the negotiations will result in putting an end to this problem rather than containing it,” he said, “taking into account that the clock is ticking and negotiations cannot go on forever.”

In addition to Saud and the Saudi crown prince, Kerry met in Riyadh with the foreign ministers of Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman, all of whom are equally wary of Iranian intentions.

In a last-minute addition to his schedule, Kerry also saw Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who is visiting the Saudi capital. Kerry’s working lunch with Abbas came two weeks before the secretary is to accompany President Barack Obama to Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan to explore ways of restarting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Kerry said he would talk with Abbas about “all the obvious issues” and that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was aware of the meeting, which was being held on the same day that Vice President Joe Biden is to address the annual policy conference of the pro-Israel American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington.

From Saudi Arabia, Kerry heads into the homestretch of his lengthy first official trip abroad, traveling next to the United Arab Emirates and then Qatar before returning to Washington on Wednesday.

Source: YAHOO NEWS.

By MATTHEW LEE | Associated Press

Kerry talks Syria, Iran in Saudi Arabia.


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  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, meets with Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah at Yamamah Palace in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Monday, March 4, 2013. Saudi Arabia is the seventh leg of Kerry's first official overseas trip. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)View PhotoU.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, …
  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry drinks coffee with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, during a welcoming ceremony on his arrival in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Sunday, March 3, 2013. Saudi Arabia is the seventh leg of Kerry's first official overseas trip. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)View PhotoU.S. Secretary of State John Kerry …

RIYADHSaudi Arabia (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, in Saudi Arabia for talks with Saudi and Gulf Arab officials, said Monday the window of opportunity for a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear problem “cannot by definition remain open indefinitely.”

But Kerry, who was meeting in Riyadh with the foreign ministers of Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman as well as the Saudi crown prince andforeign minister, added that “there is time to resolve this issue providing the Iranians are prepared to engage seriously” on proposals to defuse it.

“But talks will not go on for the sake of talks and talks cannot become an instrument for delay that will make the situation more dangerous,” he said. Kerry said he and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal “discussed our shared determination to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.”

Saud said that Saudi Arabia “supports the efforts to resolve the crisis diplomatically in order to alleviate all doubts surrounding the program.”

“Therefore, we hope that the negotiations will result in putting an end to this problem rather than containing it,” he said, “taking into account that the clock is ticking and negotiations cannot go on forever.”

In addition to Iran, Kerry, who is on his first overseas trip as secretary of state after succeedingHillary Rodham Clinton, also held discussions about the situation in violence-torn Syria. He repeated U.S. pressure on Syria’s President Bashar Assad to step down, saying that Assad “is destroying his country — and his people in the process — to hold onto power that is not his anymore.”

“The United States will continue to work with our friends to empower the Syrian opposition to hopefully be able to bring about a peaceful resolution, but if not, to increase pressure on Assad,” he said. The United States last week agreed to increase non-lethal aid to Syrian opposition groups.

Saudi Arabia and several other Gulf states are believed to be involved in shipping weapons to Syrian rebels, who have yet to receive lethal aid from the West. They share deep U.S. concerns about Iran’s nuclear ambitions and increasing assertiveness in the region.

Saud said that in the talks here Monday, “The Kingdom stressed the importance of enabling the Syrian people to exercise its legitimate right to defend itself against the regime’s killing regime.”

“Saudi Arabia will do everything within its capacity, and we do believe that what is happening in Syria is a slaughter,” he said, “… and we can’t bring ourselves to remain quiet. Morally we have a duty.”

Kerry also was to meet in Riyadh with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who is visiting the Saudi capital. Kerry’s working lunch with Abbas was coming two weeks before the secretary is to accompany President Barack Obama to Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan to explore ways of restarting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Kerry travels next to the United Arab Emirates and Qatar before returning to Washington Wednesday.

Source: YAHOO NEWS.

By MATTHEW LEE | Associated Press

Obama Gives $250 Million To Muslim Brotherhood.


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CAIRO (AP)U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday rewarded Egypt for President Mohammed Morsi’s pledges of political and economic reforms by releasing $250 million in American aid to support the country’s “future as a democracy.”

After meeting Morsi and his defense and intelligence chiefs on Sunday, Kerry flew to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and planned later stops in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, where his focus is expected to be the crisis in Syria and Iran. source – AP

by NTEB News Desk

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