Saudis travel back in time through vintage shops

JEDDAH: Saudis feel let down at a time when they believe the United States and Saudi Arabia should jointly confront threats to stability and security in the Gulf region, Prince Turki Al-Faisal says , a former Saudi intelligence chief and former ambassador to London and Washington DC, said Arab News.

He identified the threats specifically as Iran’s influence in Yemen and its use of the Houthis as a tool “not only to destabilize Saudi Arabia, but also to affect the security and stability of international sea lanes” along of the Red Sea, the Gulf and Saudi Arabia. Sea.

“The fact that President Biden removed the Houthis from the terrorist list has emboldened them and made them even more aggressive in their attacks on Saudi Arabia, as well as the United Arab Emirates,” Prince Turki told Katie Jensen, the new host of Arab News. “To put it bluntly.” He was referring to the February 12, 2021, revoking by the new Democratic administration of the designation of the Iran-aligned militia as a foreign terrorist organization.

“Frankly Speaking” features interviews with leading policy makers and business leaders, diving deep into the biggest news headlines in the Middle East and around the world. During his appearance on the video show, Prince Turki gave his perspective on US-Saudi relations, the war between Russia and Ukraine and the ever-changing dynamics of Middle East geopolitics to a an era of rising oil prices and diplomatic tensions.

“We have always viewed our relationship with the United States as strategic,” he said when asked if many Saudis felt they had been betrayed by one of their closest allies.

“We’ve had our ups and downs over the years and maybe right now this is one of the lows, especially as the President of the United States on his campaign trail has declared that he would make Saudi Arabia a pariah. And, of course, he continued to practice what he preached: First, by stopping the joint operations that America had with the Kingdom to relieve the defying the Houthi-led rebellion in Yemen against the Yemeni people. And, secondly, among other similar actions, by not meeting (the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia) and publicly stating that he will not meet the Crown Prince , and, at one point, removing the Kingdom’s anti-aircraft missile batteries when we were facing an increase in Houthi attacks using Iranian equipment like missiles and drones.”

Stressing that Saudi Arabia “has always called for a peaceful solution to the conflict in Yemen”, Prince Turki said: “Unfortunately, the Houthis have still not responded to this call or have simply ignored it or ignored it. are opposed. And, as we see now, there is a supposed ceasefire established by the UN, but the Houthis continue to violate this ceasefire and take advantage of the ceasefire to reposition their forces and replenish them.

“So basically that’s how it got to this point,” he said, referring to the current state of US-Saudi relations. “Hopefully we will recover as we have overcome so many previous downturns in the relationship.”

On the face of it, Washington seems keen enough to keep its communication channels with Riyadh open with phone calls and official visits but, according to Prince Turki, “it’s not just one thing.”

He said: “It’s the general tone of the atmosphere and America, for example, has said, or American officials have said, that they support Saudi Arabia and will help Saudi Arabia defend themselves. against external aggression, etc. We are grateful for these statements, but we need to see more in terms of the relationship between the two leaders.”

He ignored the claim that Saudi Arabia has not budged on the issue of the oil problems facing the United States, countering it with the argument that Washington itself “is the reason for the state it is in because of its energy policy”.

“President Biden has made it a policy of the US government to cut all ties with what is called the oil and gas industry. It has reduced the production of oil and gas in the United States (despite being, in recent years, the largest producer of these two energy sources,” Prince Turki said.

This cut in US energy production, he says, has helped drive up the price of oil, as well as the OPEC+ deal established after the COVID-19 crisis, which “was an agreement to cut production in order to to stabilize prices, for the benefit of everyone and the stability of oil prices.

Prince Turki insisted that Saudi Arabia did not want to be “an instrument or a reason for the instability of oil prices”, indicating that actions such as the 1973 embargo were a thing of the past.

“That is why the Kingdom and other members of OPEC and members of OPEC+ are sticking to the production quotas they have assigned themselves. I have read that the recent decision by OPEC+ to ‘increasing oil production gradually while the deal is in effect addresses the challenges people are facing in the energy sector.Another factor that adds to all of this is the issue of security, rates high insurance costs resulting from the war in Ukraine, as well as European and American reductions and sanctions against the Russian oil industry, all of which have contributed to the increase in oil prices.

In this regard, Prince Turki expressed his strong dissatisfaction with the comments of Hillary Clinton, the former US Secretary of State, on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program in favor of a “carrot and stick” to force Saudi Arabia to increase its share of oil production to reduce prices during what it called an “existential crisis”.

Reiterating that he could not speak for all Saudis, Prince Turki said: “We are not schoolchildren to deal with carrots and sticks. We are a sovereign country, and when we are treated fairly and frankly, we react the same way. It is unfortunate that such statements are made by politicians everywhere. I hope that the relationship between the Kingdom and the United States will not revolve around this principle or be built on this principle.

Similarly, Prince Turki dismissed the accusation that Riyadh chose to side with Moscow in the Ukraine conflict, noting that “the Kingdom has publicly declared and voted to condemn the aggression against Ukraine which has been adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations”.

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Pointing out that Saudi Arabia has offered to mediate between Russia and Ukraine, he said: “As a mediator, he will have to maintain a connection and the ability to talk to both sides. We have had a good relationship with the two countries over the years. In general, as I mentioned, the Kingdom is against aggression in Ukraine. But also, more recently, the Kingdom has contributed to the fund established by the United Nations to come to the aid Ukrainian refugees in Europe, so that’s where the Kingdom stands.

He described the Saudi mediation offer as “an offer from a friend to friends – both Ukraine and Russia – (with) whom we have had excellent relations in the recent past”.

Turning to what he perceives as international hypocrisy revealed by the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, Prince Turki said this has been proven “by the way refugees from Ukraine have been portrayed in civilizational terms as only doing one with the West and one with Europe, etc., as if the other refugees from the Middle East or other parts of the world were not as human as the Ukrainians. It is a discrepancy in the way Western media have particularly portrayed the refugee issue.

“Another of course – part of the hypocrisy – is the UN and how the sanctions were imposed on Russia for invading Ukraine, but no sanctions, for example, had been imposed on Israel when he invaded Arab countries a few years ago. It’s the double standards and the injustices that I think have happened over the years.”

On the question of whether Israel should therefore be treated on an equal footing with Russia in terms of sanctions, Prince Turki spared no effort. “Absolutely. I don’t see what the difference is between the two,” he told ‘Frankly Speaking’.

He added: “Aggression is aggression, whether committed by Russia or by Israel.

In addition, Prince Turki questioned the theory that normalizing relations with Israel – the path taken by a number of Arab countries, including Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain – could be a more productive politics. “I haven’t seen any evidence of that,” he said. “The Palestinian people are still occupied, they are still imprisoned by the Israeli government. Attacks and assassinations of Palestinian individuals take place almost daily. The theft of Palestinian land by Israel continues despite Israel’s assurances to signatories to the UAE-Israel peace accord. So there is no sign that appeasement of Israel will change its attitude.

On issues closer to home, Prince Turki sees the recent visit of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for his part, as a positive development. “I think the Turkish leadership has realized that their previous animosity towards the Kingdom does not serve the well-being and purpose of anyone, especially the Turkish people,” he said, referring to the disputes and disagreements of these last years.

“Historical ties bring us closer to Turkey not only in terms of geography, but also in terms of human relations and family ties between the two countries. My own grandmother was of Turkish, Circassian origin.

Going forward, the relationship “should be one of the best in terms of benefits for both countries”, Prince Turki said, citing areas such as trade, construction, development projects and investments of Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

“All of these will hopefully be restored now that the relationship is hopefully back to normal,” he added.

He expressed equally cautious optimism about the likelihood of a lasting peace deal in Yemen based on the recently reached Riyadh accord and the Ramadan ceasefire.

“I have always maintained that the ceasefire agreements, as attempted by the UN, especially regarding Yemen, lacked a crucial aspect that did not lead to their success, and that is a mechanism to enforce ceasefires,” Prince Turki said.

“We saw, after the Kuwait meeting in 2016, that there was a ceasefire, but it didn’t lead anywhere. And then there was the ceasefire attempt sponsored by Sweden in 2018, also without much success Saudi Arabia’s own efforts for unilateral ceasefires in recent years went nowhere as there was no mechanism to implement the ceasefire. -fire.

Nevertheless, Prince Turki expressed the hope that with the new international impetus to end the fighting in Yemen, some sort of instrument could be implemented so that any party that does not respect the terms of the ceasefire fire is publicly humiliated by the international community.

“That hasn’t happened yet. I have yet to see the UN say that the Houthis are not respecting the ceasefire,” he said, adding, “But I hope they have the courage and the moral courage to stand up and say who is at fault here.

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