Trump’s Visit to Saudi Arabia

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

Opinion

Trump’s Visit to Saudi Arabia

The White House announcement that US President Donald Trump will carry out his first foreign visit and that Saudi Arabia will be a major stop is a message on a major shift in his foreign policy priorities.

Since Obama’s term came to an end in 2016, relations with Saudi Arabia have changed. During Obama’s last visit to Riyadh, ties were at their lowest in more than half a century. With Trump in power, we are witnessing changes in all aspects: Syria, Iran, Yemen and bilateral relations.

The televised interview of Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Second Deputy Premier and Minister of Defense clarified the stances from these issues that are expected to be part of the discussions in Riyadh.

Regarding Syria, Riyadh eased its stance to reach a political solution that satisfies Russia and doesn’t grant the regime and its allies a free hand. In the Astana talks, there were two prime developments – approval to differentiate national factions from terrorists and readiness to establish safe zones, two of Trump’s pledges while campaigning for the presidency.

On the Yemeni war, the deputy crown prince was persuasive when he boldly admitted that the rush in liberating Sana’a and other cities might cause huge losses on both sides of the conflict.

“Time is in our favor and we are not in a rush. We can liberate it in two days with a costly human price or liberate it slowly with fewer losses,” he said.

Iran is a mutual huge concern for Riyadh and the US as well as other governments in the region. The deputy crown prince specified the Saudi government’s vision and its current policy. He said the history of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran leaves no doubt that Tehran has been targeting it even in times of rapprochement.

He added that the kingdom will defend its existence and will not remain in a state of defense for long. Trump has already delivered clear messages against the policies of the Tehran regime in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and the Gulf waters.

Talks on arranging regional relations meant mainly Egypt. In the televised interview, the deputy crown prince hinted to the Muslim Brotherhood’s media of standing behind growing Saudi-Egyptian differences. His statement put an end to speculations about the relations with Cairo, depicting them as a passing summer cloud.

The Muslim Brotherhood is not a problem restricted to one country. This is a political group using religion as a means to reach power and is similar to communism which puts it on collision course with the rest of the regimes in the region.

The Muslim Brotherhood is a unified group from Gulf, Egyptian, Sudanese, Tunisian and other nationalities waging collective wars. The group tried to besiege the government in Egypt through the media and by provoking the Egyptians against it as well as urging the region’s people to cut ties with it.

Though supported by dozens of TV channels, websites and social media, the group failed to achieve its objectives. The Egyptian government is now stronger than when Mohamed Morsi’s government was ousted more than three years ago.

The Muslim Brotherhood project in Egypt has failed. Its losses grew when Trump reversed the foreign policy of Obama who had boycotted the government of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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This Is A Re-blog Of A Very Serious Article; Everyone Needs To Understand Their Reality, Both Sides

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

Opinion

Final Chapter of Dialogue with Iran

While Iran is fighting Saudi Arabia and Gulf states through its militias in Yemen and directly in Bahrain, and combats for its interests in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, reconciliation and peacemaking attempts continued between Iran and the Gulf States, prominently Saudi Arabia.

Occasionally, calls for negotiations would come from former US President Barack Obama, or through European foreign ministers, and sometimes – shockingly – through Gulf countries’ efforts.

Each party credits itself for strengthening their positions even if it came on the expenses of Arab and Gulf states, though these calls would benefit Iran.

Everyone knows that Iran can’t go on with a reasonable dialogue while executing its expansion and interference in internal affairs policy.

Yet, it seems that the final chapter of these callings is irreversibly over after Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammad bin Salman explained his country’s position saying it is impossible to reach mutual understanding between Saudi Arabia and Iran: “There is no common ground between us and the Iranian regime.”

So, it is rather impossible to hold negotiations with Iran which Prince Mohammed said was busy with its “extremist ideology” and ambitions to “control the Islamic world.”

The more important and clearer message here is that the battle will be in Iran and not Saudi Arabia.

Why the final chapter?

Precisely because Gulf efforts should be exerted to stop Iran’s expansions rather than being occupied with mediations that are only exhausting and offer the Iranian regime with an opportunity to catch its breath and promote its revolution before western state, and not country, as a peace agent.

It is about time things are set straight and positions are made based on facts, reality and the consequences the area will face because of Iran’s sabotage project. It is no longer useful for the collective Gulf official statements to follow a hostile policy towards Iranian extremism, and then it all changes once the meetings are over.

Iran’s position towards Arab interests became unprecedentedly hostile that it exceeds its eight years’ war on Iraq during the eighties of the last century. Tehran’s main goal is to reach Muslims’ Qiblah, as the Saudi Deputy Crown Prince said in his televised interview.

After all the one-way hostility that spreads from the east to the west of the Gulf, is it right to accept the requests for dialogue and mediation which occupy the region rather than focusing on the real battle?

Surely it is understandable for every country to run its policies based on its own interests. It is also clear that no state can force its own statements on another that doesn’t share the same ideas. But, it is important that the old tools of diplomatic exploitation be stopped, like this endless boring tale of dialogue. It is also crucial to end Iranian regime’s penetration of the Gulf system in a way that helps Tehran proceed with its extreme strategies.

It is about time policies match the reality of the stances given that Iran is literally waging wars on its neighbors via sending weapons and training militias.

Those who believe that their interest doesn’t include collectively fighting the Iranian regime should at least let someone else do this mission in a way that doesn’t complicate the decisive confrontation and thus lessen its strategic success once in a while.

No one wants to go into war with Iran or any other for that matter. Stopping Iran’s extremist project surely doesn’t mean anyone is banging the drums for war. But at the same time, an easy policy is never productive with a state like Iran. The administration of former US President Obama followed that policy for eight years and failed catastrophically.

The issue is now clearer to end Iran’s expansion. Offense is the best defense. It began with putting an end to Iran’s external interventions and exposing the Tehran regime for its domestic reality after it had deprived its people of development for over thirty years. Or, as the Saudi Crown Prince said: “We know we are a main target of Iran. We are not waiting until there becomes a battle in Saudi Arabia, so we will work so that it becomes a battle for them in Iran and not in Saudi Arabia.”

Salman Al-dossary

Salman Al-dossary

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

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Should The Middle-East Countries Negotiate With The Terrorist State Of Iran And Their Revolutionary Guard?

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

Opinion

Should the Gulf Negotiate Iran or De Facto Aggressor: ‘The Revolutionary Guard’?

Iran’s elite revolutionary guard, an armed force intended to protect Tehran’s theocratic regime, has registered disruptive and intrusive activity in 14 regional states. The guards operations in Syria alone cost the cleric-led regime some $100 billion.

A paper written by two Brussels-based human rights groups presented, in detail, all unwarranted intrusions and funding of terror groups carried out by the guard in order to achieve the regime’s expansionist ambitions.

All the more, the research shows Iran’s elite guard stepping up its meddling in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon ever since Tehran went into its nuclear talks with the world’s super powers.

Anyone, party or nation who had firsthand experienced Iran’s bitter attitude and aggressive behavior hardly finds the abovementioned revelations a surprise.

And as positive indicative point towards the United States President Donald Trump seriously considering to enlist Iran’s revolutionary guard as a terrorist organization, it is very embarrassing for any party that still has faith in composed and rational talks being held between Gulf states and Iran.

Iran and Gulf states cannot be seen as counterparts to an argument, as one party orients itself towards delivering progress to its people and stabilizing the region whilst the other is a self-styled state that aims to destabilize the region, spreading terrorism everywhere. The latter cannot be simply rewarded a seat to negotiate what can possibly adhere to its hostility.

Struan Stevenson President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association, who’s body published the study on the revolutionary guard concluding that “[Iranian] meddling in the affairs of other regional countries is institutionalized and the IRGC (the revolutionary guard) top brass has been directly involved,” the report said, directly implicating the Iranian military and state apparatus in destabilization operations around the Middle East.”

The report also criticizes the guard for undertaking a “hidden occupation” of four countries, namely Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon.

The European study said: “Every month, hundreds of forces from Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan and Lebanon – countries where the [Iranian] regime is involved in frontline combat – receive military training and are subsequently dispatched to wage terrorism and war.”

With all that being said, it is clear that the struggle with Iran is that the problem lies not with its people or its limited-power government or unproductive parliament, but with its guard serving a bellicose expansionist agenda as stipulated in the national constitution.

The guard is placed just under the upper hand of the supreme leader which positions it at a place of unconstrained jurisdiction and power and just above Iran’s national army.

More so, the study revealed that the guard operates some 90 dummy companies that control 90 Iranian ports – making up for 45 percent of national ports – and which run a whopping $12 billion in annual revenue.

The elite guard uses the very same ports to import arms to its militias in neighboring countries that upon delivery aid in further destabilizing security of their respective states.

It cannot be trusted that Iran is serious with its negotiations whilst it fosters a home militia (the revolutionary guard) that has literally been placed itself above the law.

Iran is far and foremost the greatest winner in the recent calls for negotiations with Gulf states.

After having exploited the talks, Iran will employ a stronger expansionist agenda, buying itself more time to extend profits it reaps from regional states.

More so, Iran will not stop at the talks failing but will relish in having branded itself a peaceful negotiable state as opposed to Gulf states being the ones having ‘refused’ to instate peace and stability.

Should we blame Iran? Of course not, its transgressions had gone beyond that– blocs that allowed for such a cliché and fruitless rhetoric to go into a vicious cycle are those who should be held accountable.

Salman Al-dossary

Salman Al-dossary

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

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Pakistan And India: Can There Ever Be True Peace Between Them

(This article is courtesy of the Pakistan Observer News Paper)

A mature policy towards India

Masood Khan

Tension between India and Pakistan, and the hostility that goes with it, is a ‘constant’ not a ‘variable’. This is what our history of the past seven decades has manifested. This evaluation is neither negativist nor pessimistic. It captures a reality and a trend that has proved to be enduring.
Of course, from time to time nations have transcended their past to seek peace but conditions are not ripe for such a breakthrough between India and Pakistan. Pakistan would not abandon its stance on Kashmir, India would not address it the way Pakistan wants, and India would continue to use its new-found diplomatic space and economic prowess to isolate and undermine Pakistan. India would not let go of its accusations of terrorism against Pakistan to delegitimize the Kashmir issue and Pakistan’s nuclear programme. The UN, in this fight, will remain a bystander and India would use its clout with the US, Europe and the Gulf states to diminish Pakistan’s outreach and deny it opportunities to develop its economic and military strength.
Pakistan has secured itself by acquiring nuclear capability and its economy is showing promise. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) alone has given a big boost to Pakistan’s economy and the good news is that many global investors are also taking keen interest in Pakistan.
Pakistan has also pursued a very sophisticated and constructive policy towards India in the past several years. The crux of the policy is: try to engage but do not compromise on the core principles.
But quite a few of Pakistan’s flanks remain vulnerable involving the Indian factor. In Afghanistan, India’s influence, among others, hampers normalization and reconciliation and that has a direct bearing on Pakistan. Indian commander Kulbhushan Jadhav’s arrest confirms that India has been using Iran’s territory to plan and execute terrorist and subversive activities in Pakistan. In the US, Indian lobby has become so powerful that, in many areas, it holds a veto over the United States’ Pakistan policy. This past week, for instance, pro-India US legislators have been objecting to a sale of F-16 aircraft to Pakistan. The voices are American; but the agenda is India’s. Delhi is making new inroads into the Gulf region among the nations disaffected with Pakistan because of its rather balanced position on Iran-Gulf relations. It is also working constantly on China to dilute its positions in the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the UN Security Council that seem to help Pakistan; and India has protested to China for taking the CPEC through Gilgit-Baltistan. India is demonstrating its ability to hurt Pakistan beyond South Asian borders and shrink its space.
In the first few months of 2016, some new patterns have emerged. After the terrorists attack, the Pathankot airbase in India, there wasn’t a general break-drown though this scuttled the proposed talks between foreign secretaries of the two countries. Pakistan’s Joint Investigation Team to look into to the leads on the Pathankot incident was received in India but the team was given limited access defeating the very purpose of the visit. After the arrest of Jadhav, a serving Indian naval officer, Pakistan did not cut off communication with India. Ranking foreign ministry officials have been meeting on the sidelines of multilateral conferences. So a model of grudging, cautious cooperation, albeit fragile and brittle, seems to be emerging.
Pakistan should take the following steps to deal effectively with the emerging scenarios:
One, it should not take its strong ties with China for granted. There should be no complacency in promoting and expanding ties with our closest strategic cooperative partner. The onus for sustaining and strengthening the relationship is not just on China, but on Pakistan too. Pakistan should have its own people to people contact policy towards China so as to give depth to our ties.
Two, do not neglect the US. Though, over the decades, we have lost ground in Washington, the situation is not irredeemable. Pakistan too should use its expanding Diaspora community in the US. A new base has been furnished by the recent high-level bilateral contacts to broaden our relationship to non-security areas. In that realm, development of the Knowledge Corridor will be most productive.
Three, through quiet diplomacy repair the damage in the Gulf region and the Middle East. The Gulf countries, though annoyed, still have a bond with Pakistan that would not be snapped, ever. In the Arab Street, Pakistan is seen as a beacon of hope for the Muslims. Besides, today we need Arabs, tomorrow they would need Pakistan, for sure, for economic progress and linkages.
Four, Pakistan should explore two new corridors. One should go through Iran branching off to Turkey, the Caucuses, and Europe, in the west, and to Central Asia and Russia, in the north, the other should be our corridor to Africa, the most underutilized potential of our external policy.
Five, we should realize that Afghanistan will take a long time to settle down. This year and in 2017, we should brace for a civil war that would have adverse consequences for Pakistan. The Afghan factions would continue to drag Pakistan into their fights and then berate it for all their troubles. So Pakistan should take a very patient and resolute approach. Afghans are now saying that they do not need Pakistan for facilitating peace and reconciliation process; all they want is that we start military operations against Afghan Taliban. At least one Afghan official has said that Afghanistan would send its own squads for attacks on Pakistani soil. This may not just be bluster.
Six, with India we should continue to give signals for engagement in a dignified manner. The prospects of resolving problems with India are very slim. There would be escalation whether or not we like it, but we should never let it spin out of control. We need a period of relative calm till 2030 to develop economically and militarily. This is a critical transformative phase in our history as a nation. We should not let it be disrupted by tensions with India; and we should not squander this precious opportunity.
Investors are coming to Pakistan; they should not flee.