Reforms Facilitating Business Boost Investment in Saudi Arabia

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Reforms Facilitating Business Boost Investment in Saudi Arabia

Saturday, 18 November, 2017 – 12:00
Cars drive past the King Abdullah Financial District, north of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, March 1, 2017. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser/File Photo
Riyadh – Shujah Baqmi

The investment climate in Saudi Arabia enjoys an advanced position among world economies. This climate resulted from the record-breaking number of reforms carried out by the kingdom, as part of its pursuit to enhance business climate for small and medium projects.

The report issued by the World Bank Doing Business 2018 confirmed this fact.

The report, released on Thursday, showed that the kingdom conducted six reforms – the highest number of reforms in the MENA in 2017.

The kingdom implemented 30 reforms since 2003, majorly focusing on starting a business (seven reforms), real-estate registration (five reforms) and getting credit (four reforms), showed the report. It added that now it takes 18 days to start a business in Riyadh compared to 81.5 days, 15 years ago.

The report revealed that procedures to start a business were facilitated through installing an e-system. As for real-estate registration, efficiency in administering lands has been enhanced through developing an e-portal.

Further, protection of minority investment was consolidated through increasing shareholders rights and their role in major decisions, setting conditions to increase transparency and organize disclosure. Also, the time required for importing and exporting has been shortened through reducing required documents for the customs.

Rita Ramalho, Acting Director of the World Bank’s Global Indicators Group, declared that the completed reforms during the last year are quite comprehensive and they cover six out of 10 fields linked to the business performance used to determine the countries’ position.

The kingdom’s performance is considered good in regards to protecting minority’s investors (10th rank worldwide), and it occupies rank 24 as to property registration and ranks 38 in granting licenses.

Nader Mohamed, Country Director of the GCC Countries in the MENA region of the World Bank, stated that the huge progress achieved by the kingdom in one year is a proof of the government commitment to reform investment climate.

Mohamed pointed out that the coordinated efforts among governmental parties send a strong indicator for investors interested in the kingdom – he noted that the World Bank is delighted with the foundation in which reforms were based, ensuring that the ambitious vision of the kingdom requires succession and continuity of economic reforms.

He described ongoing reforms that aim at reducing dependency on oil as significant, the thing that demands to transfer five percent of Aramco and supporting the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia to become the biggest sovereign fund in the world.

Russian hackers breached Qatar’s state news agency and planted a fake news report

(THIS COURTESY OF CNN)

US investigators believe Russian hackers breached Qatar’s state news agency and planted a fake news report that contributed to a crisis among the US’ closest Gulf allies, according to US officials briefed on the investigation.

The FBI recently sent a team of investigators to Doha to help the Qatari government investigate the alleged hacking incident, Qatari and US government officials say.
Intelligence gathered by the US security agencies indicates that Russian hackers were behind the intrusion first reported by the Qatari government two weeks ago, US officials say. Qatar hosts one of the largest US military bases in the region.
The alleged involvement of Russian hackers intensifies concerns by US intelligence and law enforcement agencies that Russia continues to try some of the same cyber-hacking measures on US allies that intelligence agencies believe it used to meddle in the 2016 elections.
US officials say the Russian goal appears to be to cause rifts among the US and its allies. In recent months, suspected Russian cyber activities, including the use of fake news stories, have turned up amid elections in France, Germany and other countries.
It’s not yet clear whether the US has tracked the hackers in the Qatar incident to Russian criminal organizations or to the Russian security services blamed for the US election hacks. One official noted that based on past intelligence, “not much happens in that country without the blessing of the government.”
The FBI and CIA declined to comment. A spokeswoman for the Qatari embassy in Washington said the investigation is ongoing and its results would be released publicly soon.
The Qatari government has said a May 23 news report on its Qatar News Agency attributed false remarks to the nation’s ruler that appeared friendly to Iran and Israel and questioned whether President Donald Trump would last in office.
Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman al-Thani told CNN the FBI has confirmed the hack and the planting of fake news.
“Whatever has been thrown as an accusation is all based on misinformation and we think that the entire crisis being based on misinformation,” the foreign minister told CNN’s Becky Anderson. “Because it was started based on fabricated news, being wedged and being inserted in our national news agency which was hacked and proved by the FBI.”
Sheikh Saif Bin Ahmed Al-Thani, director of the Qatari Government Communications Office, confirmed that Qatar’s Ministry of Interior is working with the FBI and the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency on the ongoing hacking investigation of the Qatar News Agency.
“The Ministry of Interior will reveal the findings of the investigation when completed,” he told CNN.
Partly in reaction to the false news report, Qatar’s neighbors, led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, have cut off economic and political ties, causing a broader crisis.
The report came at a time of escalating tension over accusations Qatar was financing terrorism.
On Tuesday, Trump tweeted criticism of Qatar that mirrors that of the Saudis and others in the region who have long objected to Qatar’s foreign policy. He did not address the false news report.
“So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off,” Trump said in a series of tweets. “They said they would take a hard line on funding extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!”
In his tweet, Trump voiced support for the regional blockade of Qatar and cited Qatar’s funding of terrorist groups. The Qataris have rejected the terror-funding accusations.
Hours after Trump’s tweets, the US State Department said Qatar had made progress on stemming the funding of terrorists but that there was more work to be done.
US and European authorities have complained for years about funding for extremists from Saudi Arabia and other nations in the Gulf region. Fifteen of the 19 9/11 hijackers were Saudi citizens.
Last year during a visit to Saudi Arabia, Obama administration officials raised the issue of Saudi funding to build mosques in Europe and Africa that are helping to spread an ultra-conservative strain of Islam.
US intelligence has long been concerned with what they say is the Russian government’s ability to plant fake news in otherwise credible streams, according to US officials.
That concern has surfaced in recent months in congressional briefings by former FBI Director James Comey.
Comey told lawmakers that one reason he decided to bypass his Justice Department bosses in announcing no charges in the probe of Hillary Clinton’s private email server was the concern about an apparent fake piece of Russian intelligence. The intelligence suggested the Russians had an email that indicated former Attorney General Loretta Lynch had assured Democrats she wouldn’t let the Clinton probe lead to charges.
The FBI came to believe the email was fake, but still feared the Russians could release it to undermine the Justice Department’s role in the probe.

Trump Opens His Ignorant Twitter Mouth Again His Ego Wanting Credit For His Stupidity

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

President Trump met with Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, the emir of Qatar, in Saudi Arabia last month.CreditStephen Crowley/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — President Trump thrust himself into a bitter Persian Gulf dispute on Tuesday, claiming credit for Saudi Arabia’s move to isolate its smaller neighbor, Qatar, which is a major American military partner.

“During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology,” Mr. Trump said in a morning tweet. “Leaders pointed to Qatar — look!”

On Monday, Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen broke diplomatic and commercial ties with Qatar, citing its support for terrorist groups. Mr. Trump, who made the cutting of terrorist funding a centerpiece of his trip to Saudi Arabia in May, said he was responsible.

“So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off,” the president said on Twitter. “They said they would take a hard line on funding.”

Continue reading the main story

Moments later, he added, “Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!”

Qatar has long been accused of funneling arms and money to radical groups in Syria, Libya and other Arab countries. But so has Saudi Arabia. And Mr. Trump’s tweets have huge potential strategic consequences in the Middle East, where Qatar is a crucial military outpost for the United States.

A peninsula that juts into the Persian Gulf, Qatar is home to the forward headquarters of the United States Central Command. It is a major intelligence hub for the United States in the Middle East and the base where the United States plans and carries out airstrikes on the Islamic State.

Qatar has also built deep ties to American academia, providing funding and real estate to build Middle Eastern campuses for six major universities, including Cornell, Georgetown and Northwestern.

Qatar’s financing of radical groups has long been a source of tension with Washington. But the United States has generally avoided taking sides in the regional feuds in the Persian Gulf since it has strategic ties with several of the gulf states.

Mr. Trump’s comments were a sharp break from his top national security aides, who tried to play down any impact of the rift within the Sunni-Arab coalition that is helping the United States fight the Islamic State.

“We certainly would encourage the parties to sit down together and address these differences,” Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson told reporters in Sydney, Australia, where he and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis were meeting with officials.

Mr. Mattis added, “I am positive there will be no implications coming out of this dramatic situation at all, and I say that based on the commitment that each of these nations that you just referred to have made to this fight.”

Mr. Trump’s tweets also appeared to contradict the American ambassador to Qatar, Dana Shell Smith, who this week retweeted a post of hers saying that Qatar had made “real progress” in curbing financial support for terrorists. Both Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been previously accused of support for extremist militants.

At the Pentagon, some Defense Department officials said they were taken aback by Mr. Trump’s decision to thrust the United States into the middle of a fight with its close partners, particularly given the American military’s deep ties to Qatar.

Al Udeid base, outside Doha, the country’s capital, is home to around 10,000 American troops, and Mr. Mattis made a point of visiting Qatar in April, spending three nights in Doha, where he held meetings with the emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.

Mr. Mattis “reinforced the importance of deepening the U.S.-Qatari strategic partnership and discussed shared security interests, which include the defeat of ISIS,” the Pentagon said in its statement about the meeting, using another name for the Islamic State. The official statement also spoke of the “value of the Qatari support to the counter-ISIS coalition as well as the country’s role in maintaining regional stability and security.”

After the president’s tweets on Tuesday, Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, tried to steer clear of the appearance that the United States had taken sides.

“I consider them a host to our very important base at Al Udeid,” he said. “We have no intention of altering our current operations not only in Qatar but anywhere in the G.C.C.,” he added, referring to Gulf Cooperation Council of Sunni states in the region.

Privately, however, several Defense Department officials said that Mr. Trump’s tweets had undercut the Pentagon, particularly given how crucial Al Udeid base is to the war against the Islamic State.

In addition to the military’s combat and intelligence mission based in Qatar, the American end of the “de-confliction” line is there, a conduit for discussions with Russia to try to avoid accidental conflict in the skies above Syria and Iraq.

American officials had been anticipating the Saudi-led move, a Defense Department official said, and had received reassurances from Qatari officials that the United States would not be shut out of Al Udeid. But that was before Mr. Trump’s Tuesday morning tweets.

“Qatar can certainly make it less convenient to use the base, and the president’s tweets give them reason to flex their muscles and remind the United States just how convenient the base has been for the last 15 years,” said Jon B. Alterman, Middle East program director with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Also Tuesday, the leaders of Kuwait and Turkey offered to play mediation roles in the dispute. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, an important Qatari ally, called his counterparts in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait, as well as the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, a Turkish presidential official said.

The emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, who has not joined the campaign against Qatar, flew to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday for a meeting with the Saudi head of state, King Salman.

Disagreements between Qatar and its gulf neighbors escalated after a series of uprisings against Arab autocrats in 2011. In the power vacuums that came after the uprisings, Qatar backed Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Syria and Libya — angering Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which see the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization.

Like the Saudis and Emiratis, Kuwait backed the Muslim Brotherhood’s subsequent ouster from power in Egypt in 2013. Analysts said the country had taken a more conciliatory role in this week’s dispute because it was wary of ceding too much influence to the Saudi alliance.

“Kuwait feels that if Saudi Arabia and the Emirates get what they want from Qatar, then Kuwait will be next, too,” said Galip Dalay, research director at Al Sharq Forum, a Turkish think tank.

Turkey publicly maintains that it is not taking sides in the dispute. “Turkey does not get into that — they’re all our Sunni brothers and our friends,” Ilnur Cevik, a foreign policy adviser to Mr. Erdogan, said by phone on Tuesday.

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The analysts said in private that Turkey was frightened of losing its best regional ally. Turkey has a military base in Qatar and supports many of the same Islamist groups in the region. Like Qatar, Turkey welcomed Muslim Brotherhood members who fled Egypt after the removal of President Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

“If Qatar gives into this pressure, that will mean that Turkey’s role in the region will be further constrained,” Mr. Dalay said.

U.S. seen trying to calm waters between Qatar and Saudi Arabia  

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

U.S. seen trying to calm waters between Qatar and Saudi Arabia

By Arshad Mohammed and Steve Holland | WASHINGTON

The United States will quietly try to calm the waters between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, current and former U.S. officials said on Monday, arguing that the small Gulf state was too important to U.S. military and diplomatic interests to be isolated.

U.S. officials were blindsided by Saudi Arabia’s decision to sever diplomatic ties with Qatar in a coordinated move with Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, the current and former officials said.

In announcing the decision to cut ties, Saudi Arabia accused Qatar of providing support to Shi’ite Iran, which is in a tussle for regional supremacy with Riyadh, and to Islamist militants. [nL8N1J252R]

Washington has many reasons to want to promote comity within the region. Qatar is host to the largest U.S. air base in the Middle East at Al Udeid, a staging ground for U.S.-led strikes on the Islamic State militant group that has seized parts of Syria and Iraq. U.S. Donald Trump has made defeating Islamic State a priority of his presidency.

Further, Qatar’s willingness to welcome organizations such as Hamas, which Washington brands a terrorist group, and the Taliban, which has fought U.S. forces in Afghanistan for more than 15 years, allows contacts with such groups when needed.

“There is a certain utility,” one U.S. official said on condition of anonymity. “There’s got to be a place for us to meet the Taliban. The Hamas (folks) have to have a place to go where they can be simultaneously isolated and talked to.”

The current and former U.S. officials said they were unable to identify precisely what may have triggered the four countries’ coordinated decision to cut ties, which was later followed by Yemen, Libya’s eastern-based government and the Maldives.

They said the Saudis may have felt empowered by the warm embrace that Trump gave them when he visited Riyadh in May and adopted a harsh anti-Iran stance.

“My suspicion is (they felt) emboldened by what Trump said on his visit and … that they feel they have got some kind of backing,” said a former U.S. official. “I don’t know that they needed any more of a green light than they got in public.”

A senior administration official told Reuters the United States got no indication from the Saudis or Emiratis in Riyadh that the action was about to happen. The White House said on Monday it was committed to working to de-escalate tensions in the Gulf.

In Riyadh, Trump made an impassioned appeal to Arab and Islamic leaders to “drive out” terrorists, while singling out Iran as a key source of funding and support for militant groups.

SEEKING RECONCILIATION

U.S. officials in multiple agencies stressed their desire to promote a reconciliation between the Saudi-led group and Qatar, a state of 2.5 million people with vast natural gas reserves.

“We don’t want to see some kind of permanent rift and I suspect we won’t,” said the senior Trump administration official on condition of anonymity, adding the United States would send a representative if the Gulf Cooperation Council nations met to discuss the rift with Qatar. [nL1N1J21IX]

The GCC includes six wealthy Arab nations: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman.

“There’s an acknowledgement that a lot of Qatari behavior is quite worrisome not just to our Gulf neighbors but to the U.S.,” said the senior administration official. “We want to bring them in the right direction.”

Marcelle Wahba, a former U.S. ambassador to the UAE and the president of the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington think tank, said the United States had leverage but would use it discreetly.

“The U.S. will step up to the plate. How we will do it? I think it will be very quiet and very much in the background,” she said. “I doubt very much we will sit on the sidelines and let this crisis get more serious.”

Qatar’s backing of Islamists dates to a decision by the current ruling emir’s father to end a tradition of automatic deference to Saudi Arabia, the dominant Gulf Arab power, and forge the widest possible array of allies.

Qatar has for years presented itself as a mediator and power broker for the region’s many disputes. But Egypt and the Gulf Arab states resent Qatar’s support for Islamists, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, which they see as a political enemy.

“We are engaging with all of our partners … to find a way to reassemble some GCC unity to support regional security,” said another U.S. official, saying it was critical to “maintain the fight against terrorism and extremist ideology.”

(Additional reporting by Yara Bayoumy, Mark Hosenball, Phil Stewart and Matt Spetalnick; Writing by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Yara Bayoumy and Peter Cooney)

Anger from Qatar

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Anger from Qatar

In May 2014, Bloomberg published statements of former Qatari prime minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim: “It is our right to make Qatar seem as the most important country in the world. But the problem is that some Arab countries did not play their role properly so when we played our role some thought that we are taking theirs.”

These statements were reiterated since the former emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa took over the rule in the country in 1995 – they brief the strategic targets of the Qatari foreign policy but the political reality says that no state can do the role of another.

Bahrain, for example, can’t do Egypt’s role and Saudi Arabia can’t do the role of UK. Doha continued through its endless provoking and throughout the past twenty years it was in a quest to achieve its goal in becoming a regional power even if at the expense of the Gulf countries and the region’s security and stability.

Aside from statements claimed to be said by Emir of Qatar and that Doha is denying, they actually represent the Qatari policy since Qatar has always used contradictions as a way to deal with brotherly countries.

The Gulf countries – including Qatar – take strict stances towards Iran during the meetings of the GCC to stop its intervention and to face its expanding project. In October 2015, Doha signed with Tehran a military security agreement. Qatar participates in the Decisive Storm in Yemen that has a major goal to put an end to the Iranian power.

Few months later on, the emir said in the UN that the relation with Tehran is developing and growing continuously based on common interests and good neighborliness. When the Gulf summit was held in Doha, leaders were surprised by the attendance of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad upon a Qatari invitation as an honor guest.

Bahrain is suffering turbulence that has exceeded demands of reforms and constitutional kingship into aborting it and establishing a republican regime in the country. The Gulf countries refuse these acts because any chaos in a country would sure transfer to the neighboring ones.

But Doha is being impartial and is suggesting initiatives that go in favor of the militias supported by Iran. Al Jazeera, the diplomatic media arm of Qatar, has continued to support the chaotic forces in Bahrain and described them as a “national revolution”.

The Gulf countries fight terrorism fiercely while Doha – unfortunately – has a different agenda. It hosts the Muslim Brotherhood and funds it. It granted al-Qaeda leaders a media platform they used to dream of. It also presented al-Nusra Front as a “moderate force” and promoted for its separation from the terrorist al-Qaeda group.

Recently, the agreement to release Qatari captives from Iraq took place and displaced four Syrian towns as a price.

Guarantors of the agreement included Iran and Nusra Front. In 2014, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain summoned their ambassadors from Doha after accusing it of threatening the security and political stability of the Gulf countries through supporting Muslim Brotherhood figures in the Gulf.

Also, the Qatari funds have threatened the whole region after reports that have proven Qatar’s support to Nusra Front. It also backed the anti- Saudi, Emirate and Bahraini media through transforming Qatari institutions into platforms to attack them. Qatar also funded figures that object over the ruling regime in these countries in addition to recruiting political funds and public relations companies in the US and West to damage the Gulf interests.

After Qatari pledges, the three ambassadors returned after nine months under one condition that Doha abides by Riyadh Agreement. However, Qatar did not – a Gulf official told me that the former Qatari Foreign Minister Khaled al-Attiyah considered that the agreement was over with the death of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud who sponsored the agreement.

The justifications that pushed Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain to summon their ambassadors then still exist today, nothing has changed.

Every state has the right to follow policies that comply with their interests and there is no condition in the international policy that imposes identical stances among countries. However if these policies damaged the regional security, led to chaos and shook stability then no state would be as patient as Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.

If Doha doesn’t change its policies that are damaging its neighbors and threatening their national security then any return would be useless and a dead end would be reached.

Salman Al-dossary

Salman Al-dossary

Salman Aldosary is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.

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Toyota May Build Its First Factory In Saudi Arabia: Allowing Women To Drive Would Double Market

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Riyadh – Attesting to the undeniable investment attraction that is Saudi Arabia, Japan’s market giant motor corporation, Toyota, announced plans to launch its first ever production factory in the Kingdom.

Such an announcement confirms that grand-scale companies trust in Saudi economy and view it with optimistic potential.

Speaking at a Japan-held forum, Chairman of the Japanese Business Federation Sadayuki Sakakibara, explored economic and investment cooperation between the Kingdom and Japan.

Sakakibara stressed the importance of the Kingdom’s economic role for Japan and the keenness of the Japanese business sector toward the achievement of the strategic economic and developmental objectives of the Saudi-Japanese Vision 2030 that aims to bolster bilateral cooperation

Earlier, a memorandum of understanding was signed by the National Industrial Cluster Development Program (NICDP) and the Toyota Motor Corporation for the feasibility study of an industrial project to produce vehicles and parts in the Kingdom.

“The study would take into account the evaluation of development of a local supply base using materials produced by major Saudi companies like Sabic, Maaden, Petro Rabigh, and other major industrial companies in the Kingdom,” the official Saudi state news agency reported.

It further aims to enhance the development and attraction of a Saudi workforce and put in place the adequate training programs.

Abdul Latif Jameel, as a local distributor for Toyota, will be also taking part in the joint feasibility study.

Toyota remains the leader in Saudi and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) car markets with more than 500,000 units sold in the GCC in 2016, according to SPA.

Moreover, on the third day of the fourth leg of a seven-nation Asian tour, the king attended the Saudi-Japanese Vision 2030 business forum aimed at strengthening bilateral ties.

King Salman was received at the forum by Minister of Economy and Planning Adel Fakeih and Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko.

ARAB NATIONS FACE STARK CHOICE: ISRAEL OR IRAN

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NEWSWEEK)

ARAB NATIONS FACE STARK CHOICE: ISRAEL OR IRAN

This article first appeared on the Atlantic Council site.

Two very different dialogue proposals are on the table for the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, one from a historic enemy, Israel, proposed in conjunction with a crucial partner, the United States. The other is from a historic rival, Iran, which shares the same neighborhood and faith.

The choice the Arab countries ultimately make could determine the future peace and prosperity of the region.

On February 15, President Donald Trump met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House and during a press conference, both leaders hinted at an approaching Arab-Israeli cooperation.

A few days later, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif reiterated Iran’s previously proposed regional platform for dialogue between the Islamic Republic and its Persian Gulf neighbors during a speech at the Munich Security Conference.

The U.S.-Israel proposal encompasses almost all Arab States, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, as well as Egypt, Jordan and possibly Lebanon and Tunisia.

This proposal’s principal objective is a wider Arab-Israeli peace agreement and an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, the key selling point behind this initiative is mutual concerns regarding Iran, and the proposal has a goal to present a unified front against the Islamic Republic.

Netanyahu stated during the press conference that “for the first time in my lifetime, and for the first time in the life of my country, Arab countries in the region do not see Israel as an enemy, but, increasingly, as an ally.” He further stated that “the great opportunity for peace comes from a regional approach involving our newfound Arab partners in the pursuit of a broader peace with the Palestinians.”

Related: Michael Dorf: Trump’s Deal-Making Skills Won’t Help Israel

While there has been no official confirmation of back channel talks between Israel and the UAE, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states, Trump and Netanyahu’s statements indicate that previous reports alleging secret direct interactions between high-level Israeli and GCC officials have indeed taken place in the past six years if not longer.

The perception left by the Barack Obama administration, that the United States is leaving the region and that an increasingly emboldened Iran is exerting power across the Middle East after the implementation of the 2015 nuclear agreement, has revived longstanding hostilities between Arabs and Persians, and presented an opening to realize mutual interests and foster cooperation between Arabs and Israelis.

Israel has long seen Iran as its major adversary because of Iran’s support for Hamas and Hezbollah as well as Iran’s ballistic missile program and nuclear advances.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia along with its GCC partners were alarmed when Iran took advantage of the US invasion of Iraq to become influential in Baghdad. The GCC states also grew intolerant of Iran’s perceived links to the uprisings in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province as well as Iran’s support for the regime of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and for the Houthis in Yemen.

03_03_Iran_Israel_01Deputy Crown Prince, Second Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Muhammad bin Salman Al Saud of Saudi arrive at the Hangzhou Exhibition Center to participate in the G20 Summit on September 4, 2016, in Hangzhou, China. Mehran Haghirian writes that if the United States goes forward with plans to move the U.S. Embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, or gives a carte blanche for further Israeli settlements in the West Bank, while abandoning the goal of a two-state solution, there will be no domestic support for Arab rapprochement with Israel.ETIENNE OLIVEAU/GETTY

At the Munich conference, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman quoted without naming him an old remark by U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis that “in the Middle East we are facing three challenges: Iran, Iran and Iran…and I can only repeat and confirm this approach.” Lieberman reiterated that Israel would continue efforts to hinder the Islamic Republic’s reintegration into the international community in the aftermath of the nuclear agreement.

Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir also reaffirmed his country’s objections to Iranian actions across the region. “The Iranians do not believe in the principle of good neighborliness or non-interference in the affairs of others,” Jubeir told the Munich conference. “This is manifested in their interference in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan.”

While the prospect for Iran-Saudi détente looks dim at present, it is crucial to remember that the future of Palestine is an issue that not only unites Iran and the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, but all people in the Muslim world. The outlook for the US-Israeli proposal to solve the Palestinian issue is unclear and most likely not possible to be implemented.

If the United States goes forward with plans to move the US Embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, or gives a carte blanche for further Israeli settlements in the West Bank, while abandoning the goal of a two-state solution, there will be no domestic support for Arab rapprochement with Israel.

Countering the US-Israeli proposal, Zarif reiterated the Islamic Republic’s proposition for creation of a regional platform for dialogue between Iran and its Persian Gulf neighbors, or as he called them “brothers.”

“Countries in the Persian Gulf region need to surmount the current state of division and tension and instead move in the direction erecting realistic regional arrangements,” Zarif told the Munich conference. To implement this proposal, he said it must start with a regional dialogue forum that encompasses the littoral neighbors of the Persian Gulf, and under the framework of shared principles and objectives.

The primary goal of Iran’s proposal is to decrease tensions and increase cooperation between neighbors.

“The forum can promote understanding under a broad spectrum of issues, including confidence and security building measures, and combating terrorism, extremism, and sectarianism,” Zarif said. “It could also encourage practical cooperation in areas ranging from the protection of the environment to join investments and tourism. Such a forum could eventually develop into a more formal non-aggression and security cooperation arrangements.”

This proposal is not new. Zarif put it forward shortly after finalizing the nuclear deal in an article on Al-Monitor titled “Choose your neighbors before your house,” and traveledto Qatar and Kuwait shortly afterward.

More recently, on January 24, the foreign minister of Kuwait met with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani to deliver a letter on behalf of the GCC. While the details of the letter have not been made public, Rouhani followed with state visits to Oman and Kuwait on February 15, coincidentally the same day Trump and Netanyahu held talks.

Oman and Kuwait, which historically have had less troubled relations with Iran than other GCC members, have indicated a desire to take part in the dialogue forum with Iran, and have repeatedly attempted to mediate tensions between the Islamic Republic and Saudi Arabia.

The disagreements between rival powers should not preclude comprehensive and inclusive arrangements that address mutual concerns, and that benefit all participating countries. The Iranian proposal will ensure a sustainable relationship between neighboring states based on mutual respect, and eventually, the cooperation could facilitate an end to the civil wars in Yemen and Syria.

The Israeli proposal might lead to a wider peace agreement between Arab states and Israel. However, it will most definitely exacerbate tensions with Iran and increase the chances of a wider military conflict.

There has been no substantial conflict between the Arab States of the Persian Gulf and Israel in the past decade or more, and while a wider Arab-Israeli peace would undoubtedly have a positive impact in the region, it is contingent on a Palestinian-Israeli agreement.

Meanwhile, the rise in contention between some GCC states and Iran in the past decade has arguably had more dire consequences for the region than the absence of Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Agreeing to sit at the same table with Iran for dialogue based on a mutually acceptable and beneficial outlook will lead to greater peace in the region and beyond. It is crucial for the Arab states of the Persian Gulf to weigh the rewards and consequences of each proposal before going forward with either approach.

Mehran Haghirian is an Iranian Graduate Student at American University’s School of International Service in Washington D.C., and he is currently a Project Assistant at Atlantic Council’s Future of Iran Initiative.

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