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.

Abu Dhabi Prince Sheikh Praises Sudan’s Role In Arab Coalition With Saudi Arabia

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ASHARQ AL-AWSAT DAILY NEWS PAPER OF SAUDI ARABIA)

Middle East

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Praises Sudan’s Role in Arab Coalition

Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. WAM

Abu Dhabi- Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed has praised the role of Sudan, under the leadership of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, in joining the Arab Coalition and supporting the Saudi-led operation to bring hope to Yemen.

The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces also praised the performance of Sudanese forces in field operations alongside other Arab Coalition forces.

Sheikh Mohammed met President Bashir and his accompanying delegation at the Sea Palace in Abu Dhabi on Monday.

Sheikh Mohamed hailed President Bashir who spent part of his life in the UAE and shared his military expertise with the UAE Armed Forces and witnessed early stages of building the country.

“In the name of Emiratis, we present our salutations and appreciation for you honoring us and we renew the gratitude for this honorable stance against interventions that aim to change the identity of the region and divide its nations to serve both regional and external agendas,” Sheikh Mohammed told the President.

For his part, President Bashir said Sudan’s support for the Arab Coalition is a duty as it represents one of the requirements of Arab security.

“It is an honor for us to play a role along with our brothers in maintaining security, stability and the interests of the Arab countries,” he said.

Bashir expressed his happiness and appreciation for being honored with the Zayed Medal, and he said that it pleased all of Sudan’s people.

He also expressed his pride in the distinguished relations between the two countries’ leadership and peoples.

Egypt Is The Safest Country For Tourists In The Middle-East: U.S. Government Reports

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE EGYPT INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER OF CAIRO)

Egypt safest country in Middle East: US government report
Wed, 23/11/2016 – 16:38

Giza pyramids and Sphinx

Egypt has topped a list of Middle East (ME) countries that are safe for tourism and vacations, according to the US government. Other ME countries deemed safe include Jordan, Oman, UAE and Qatar.

In a supplement issued by the Independent ‘Indy 100’, the US government has advised citizens to review the information on the levels of safety for countries around the world, available through US embassies and consulates.
Currently, the regions of lowest safety due to terrorism by the “Islamic State” (IS) group are located in Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Whereas the US government urges citizens to be cautious while traveling anywhere in Europe due to fears of suicide attacks by the IS group.
The report comes just in time, as Egypt seeks to attract tourists from Russia and Western Europe in December, one year after the Russian airplane crash that took place in central Sinai in October 2015.
Starting last November, Russia suspended all incoming flights to Egypt. England then suspended flights going to Sharm El-Sheikh.
Russian and British flights represent around 40 percent of inbound tourism to Egypt annually.
The Egyptian government expects improvement in the tourism sector starting the new year, which will positively reflect on providing much-needed foreign currency in the wake of a decision by the Central Bank of Egypt to float the Egyptian pound against the US dollar earlier this month.
While the total capacity of hotels in Egypt is upwards of 225,000 hotel rooms, 65 percent of those are located in the Red Sea and South Sinai regions, attracting seaside tourism from around the world.

31 Yr Old Saudi Prince Shaking Up The Kingdom As He Climbs The Latter Of Success

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s deputy crown prince, has a hand in nearly all elements of Saudi policy. CreditFayez Nureldine/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

He has slashed the state budget, frozen government contracts and reduced the pay of civil employees, all part of drastic austerity measures as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is buffeted by low oil prices.

But last year, Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s deputy crown prince, saw a yacht he couldn’t resist.

While vacationing in the south of France, Prince bin Salman spotted a 440-foot yacht floating off the coast. He dispatched an aide to buy the ship, the Serene, which was owned by Yuri Shefler, a Russian vodka tycoon. The deal was done within hours, at a price of approximately 500 million euros (roughly $550 million today), according to an associate of Mr. Shefler and a Saudi close to the royal family. The Russian moved off the yacht the same day.

It is the paradox of the brash, 31-year-old Prince bin Salman: a man who is trying to overturn tradition, reinvent the economy and consolidate power — while holding tight to his royal privilege. In less than two years, he has emerged as the most dynamic royal in the Arab world’s wealthiest nation, setting up a potential rivalry for the throne.

He has a hand in nearly all elements of Saudi policy — from a war in Yemen that has cost the kingdom billions of dollars and led to international criticism over civilian deaths, to a push domestically to restrain Saudi Arabia’s free-spending habits and to break its “addiction” to oil. He has begun to loosen social restrictions that grate on young people.

The rise of Prince bin Salman has shattered decades of tradition in the royal family, where respect for seniority and power-sharing among branches are time-honored traditions. Never before in Saudi history has so much power been wielded by the deputy crown prince, who is second in line to the throne. That centralization of authority has angered many of his relatives.

His seemingly boundless ambitions have led many Saudis and foreign officials to suspect that his ultimate goal is not just to transform the kingdom, but also to shove aside the current crown prince, his 57-year-old cousin, Mohammed bin Nayef, to become the next king. Such a move could further upset his relatives and — if successful — give the country what it has never seen: a young king who could rule the kingdom for many decades.

Crown Prince bin Nayef, the interior minister and longtime counterterrorism czar, has deep ties to Washington and the support of many of the older royals. Deciphering the dynamics of the family can be like trying to navigate a hall of mirrors, but many Saudi and American officials say Prince bin Salman has made moves aimed at reaching into Prince bin Nayef’s portfolios and weakening him.

This has left officials in Washington hedging their bets by building relationships with both men, unsure who will end up on top. The White House got an early sign of the ascent of the young prince in late 2015, when — breaking protocol — Prince bin Salman delivered a soliloquy about the failures of American foreign policy during a meeting between his father, King Salman, and President Obama.

Many young Saudis admire him as an energetic representative of their generation who has addressed some of the country’s problems with uncommon bluntness. The kingdom’s news media have built his image as a hardworking, businesslike leader less concerned than his predecessors with the trappings of royalty.

Others see him as a power-hungry upstart who is risking instability by changing too much, too fast.

Months of interviews with Saudi and American officials, members of the royal family and their associates, and diplomats focused on Saudi affairs reveal a portrait of a prince in a hurry to prove that he can transform Saudi Arabia. Prince bin Salman declined multiple interview requests for this article.

But the question many raise — and cannot yet answer — is whether the energetic leader will succeed in charting a new path for the kingdom, or whether his impulsiveness and inexperience will destabilize the Arab world’s largest economy at a time of turbulence in the Middle East.

Prince Mohammed bin Salman, left, and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef of Saudi Arabia. Many Saudis and foreign officials believe Prince bin Salman’s goal is to become the next king.Credit Faye Nureldine/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Tension at the Top

Early this year, Crown Prince bin Nayef left the kingdom for his family’s villa in Algeria, a sprawling compound an hour’s drive north of Algiers. Although he has long taken annual hunting vacations there, many who know him said that this year was different. He stayed away for weeks, largely incommunicado and often refusing to respond to messages from Saudi officials and close associates in Washington. Even John O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director, whom he has known for decades, had difficulty reaching him.

The crown prince has diabetes, and suffers from the lingering effects of an assassination attempt in 2009 by a jihadist who detonated a bomb he had hidden in his rectum.

But his lengthy absence at a time of low oil prices, turmoil in the Middle East and a foundering Saudi-led war in Yemen led several American officials to conclude that the crown prince was fleeing frictions with his younger cousin and that the prince was worried his chance to ascend the throne was in jeopardy.

Since King Salman ascended to the throne in January 2015, new powers had been flowing to his son, some of them undermining the authority of the crown prince. King Salman collapsed the crown prince’s court into his own, giving Prince bin Salman control over access to the king. Prince bin Salman also hastily announced the formation of a military alliance of Islamic countries to fight terrorism. Counterterrorism had long been the domain of Prince bin Nayef, but the new plan gave no role to him or his powerful Interior Ministry.

The exact personal relationship between the two men is unclear, fueling discussion in Saudi Arabia and in foreign capitals about who is ascendant. Obscuring the picture are the stark differences in the men’s public profiles. Prince bin Nayef has largely stayed in the shadows, although he did visit New York last month to address the United Nations General Assembly before heading to Turkey for a state visit.

His younger cousin, meanwhile, has worked to remain in the spotlight, touring world capitals, speaking with foreign journalists, being photographed with the Facebook chairman Mark Zuckerberg and presenting himself as a face of a new Saudi Arabia.

“There is no topic that is more important than succession matters, especially now,” said Joseph A. Kechichian, a senior fellow at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh, who has extensive contacts in the Saudi royal family. “This matters for monarchy, for the regional allies and for the kingdom’s international partners.”

Among the most concrete initiatives so far of Prince bin Salman, who serves as minister of defense, is the Saudi-led war in Yemen, which since it was begun last year has failed to dislodge the Shiite Houthi rebels and their allies from the Yemeni capital. The war has driven much of Yemen toward famine and killed thousands of civilians while costing the Saudi government tens of billions of dollars.

Saudi troops along the country’s border with Yemen. The war in Yemen has cost the kingdom billions and led to international criticism. Credit Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times, via Getty Images

The prosecution of the war by a prince with no military experience has exacerbated tensions between him and his older cousins, according to American officials and members of the royal family. Three of Saudi Arabia’s main security services are run by princes. Although all agreed that the kingdom had to respond when the Houthis seized the Yemeni capital and forced the government into exile, Prince bin Salman took the lead, launching the war in March 2015 without full coordination across the security services.

The head of the National Guard, Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah, had not been informed and was out of the country when the first strikes were carried out, according to a senior National Guard officer.

The National Guard is now holding much of the Yemeni border.

American officials, too, were put off when, just as the Yemen campaign was escalating, Prince bin Salman took a vacation in the Maldives, the island archipelago off the coast of India. Several American officials said Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter had trouble reaching him for days during one part of the trip.

The prolonged war has also heightened tensions between Prince bin Salman and Prince bin Nayef, who won the respect of Saudis and American officials for dismantling Al Qaeda in the kingdom nearly a decade ago and now sees it taking advantage of chaos in Yemen, according to several American officials and analysts.

“If Mohammed bin Nayef wanted to be seen as a big supporter of this war, he’s had a year and a half to do it,” said Bruce Riedel, a former Middle East analyst at the C.I.A. and a fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Near the start of the war, Prince bin Salman was a forceful public advocate for the campaign and was often photographed visiting troops and meeting with military leaders. But as the campaign has stalemated, such appearances have grown rare.

The war underlines the plans of Prince bin Salman for a brawny foreign policy for the kingdom, one less reliant on Western powers like the United States for its security. He has criticized the thawing of America’s relations with Iran and comments by Mr. Obama during an interview this year that Saudi Arabia must “share the neighborhood” with Iran.

This is part of what analysts say is Prince bin Salman’s attempt to foster a sense of Saudi national identity that has not existed since the kingdom’s founding in 1932.

“There has been a surge of Saudi nationalism since the campaign in Yemen began, with the sense that Saudi Arabia is taking independent collective action,” said Andrew Bowen, a Saudi expert at the Wilson Center in Washington.

Still, Mr. Bowen said support among younger Saudis could diminish the longer the conflict dragged on. Diplomats say the death toll for Saudi troops is higher than the government has publicly acknowledged, and a recent deadly airstrike on a funeral in the Yemeni capital has renewed calls by human rights groups and some American lawmakers to block or delay weapons sales to the kingdom.

People who have met Prince bin Salman said he insisted that Saudi Arabia must be more assertive in shaping events in the Middle East and confronting Iran’s influence in the region — whether in Yemen, Syria, Iraq or Lebanon.

Brian Katulis, a Middle East expert at the Center for American Progress in Washington, who met the prince this year in Riyadh, said his agenda was clear.

“His main message is that Saudi Arabia is a force to be reckoned with,” Mr. Katulis said.

Prince bin Salman at a news conference in April for Vision 2030, his plan to transform Saudi life by diversifying its economy away from oil, increasing Saudi employment and improving education, health and other government services. Credit Fayex Nureldine/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A Swift Ascent

Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s few remaining absolute monarchies, which means that Prince bin Salman was given all of his powers by a vote of one: his own father.

The prince’s rise began in early 2015, after King Abdullah died of lung cancer and King Salman ascended to the throne. In a series of royal decrees, the new king restructured the government and shook up the order of succession in the royal family in ways that invested tremendous power in his son.

He was named defense minister and head of a powerful new council to oversee the Saudi economy as well as put in charge of the governing body ofSaudi Aramco, the state oil company and the primary engine of the Saudi economy.

More important, the king decreed a new order of succession, overturning the wishes of King Abdullah and replacing his designated crown prince, Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, with Prince bin Nayef.

While all previous Saudi kings and crown princes had been sons of the kingdom’s founder, Prince bin Nayef was the first of the founder’s grandsons to be put in line. Many hailed the move because of the prince’s success at fighting Al Qaeda and because he has only daughters, leading many to hope he would choose a successor based on merit rather than paternity.

The bigger surprise was that the king named Prince bin Salman deputy crown prince. He was 29 years old at the time and virtually unknown to the kingdom’s closest allies.

This effectively scrapped the political aspirations of his older relatives, many of whom had decades of experience in public life and in key sectors like defense and oil policy. Some are still angry — although only in private, out of deference to the 80-year-old king.

Since then, Prince bin Salman has moved quickly to build his public profile and market himself to other nations as the point man for the kingdom.

Domestically, his focus has been on an ambitious plan for the future of the kingdom, called Vision 2030. The plan, released in April, seeks to transform Saudi life by diversifying its economy away from oil, increasing Saudi employment and improving education, health and other government services. A National Transformation Plan, laying out targets for improving government ministries, came shortly after.

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Read in one way, the documents are an ambitious blueprint to change the Saudi way of life. Read in another, they are a scathing indictment of how poorly the kingdom has been run by Prince bin Salman’s elders.

Official government development plans going back decades have called for reducing the dependence on oil and increasing Saudi employment — to little effect. And in calling for transparency and accountability, the plan acknowledges that both have been in short supply. Diplomats and economists say much about the Saudi economy remains opaque, including the cost of generous perks and stipends for members of the royal family.

The need for change is greater now, with global oil prices less than half of what they were in 2014 and hundreds of thousands of young Saudis entering the job market yearly. Prince bin Salman has called for a new era of fiscal responsibility, and over the last year, fuel, water and electricity prices have gone up while the take-home pay of some public sector employees has been cut — squeezing the budgets of average Saudis. He has also said the government will sell shares of Saudi Aramco, believed to be the world’s most valuable company.

Many Saudis say his age and ambition are benefits at a time when old ways of thinking must be changed.

“He is speaking in the language of the youth,” said Hoda al-Helaissi, a member of the kingdom’s advisory Shura Council, which is appointed by the king. “The country for too long has been looking through the lenses of the older generation, and we need to look at who is going to carry the torch to the next generation.”

Some of his initiatives have appeared ham-handed. In December, he held his first news conference to announce the formation of a military alliance of Islamic countries to fight terrorism. But a number of countries that he said were involved soon responded that they knew nothing about it or were still waiting for information before deciding whether to join.

Others have been popular. After Prince bin Salman called for more entertainment options for families and young people, who often flee the country on their vacations, the cabinet passed regulations restricting the powers of the religious police. An Entertainment Authority he established has planned its first activities, which include comedy shows, pro wrestling events and monster truck rallies.

Photo

The Serene, a 440-foot yacht Prince Mohammed bin Salman spotted while vacationing last year. He dispatched an aide to buy it; the deal was done within hours, at a price of about 500 million euros (roughly $550 million today). CreditPhil Walter/Getty Images

The prince has kept his distance from the Council of Senior Scholars, the mostly elderly clerics who set official religious policy and often release religious opinions that young Saudis mock as being out of touch with modern life.

Instead, he has sought the favor of younger clerics who boast millions of followers on social media. After the release of Vision 2030, Prince bin Salman held a reception for Saudi journalists and academics that included a number of younger, tech-savvy clerics who have gone forth to praise the plan.

Prince bin Salman’s prominence today was difficult to predict during his early years, spent largely below the radar of Western officials who keep track of young Saudi royals who might one day rule the kingdom.

Several of King Salman’s other sons, who studied overseas to perfect foreign languages and earn advanced degrees, built impressive résumés. One became the first Arab astronaut, another a deputy oil minister, yet another the governor of Medina Province.

Prince bin Salman stayed in Saudi Arabia and does not speak fluent English, although he appears to understand it. After a private school education, he studied law at King Saud University in Riyadh, reportedly graduating fourth in his class. Another prince of the same generation said he had gotten to know him during high school, when one of their uncles hosted regular dinners for the younger princes at his palace. He recalled Prince bin Salman being one of the crowd, saying he liked to play bridge and admired Margaret Thatcher.

King Salman is said to see himself in his favorite son, the latest in the lineage of a family that has ruled most of the Arabian Peninsula for eight decades.

In 2007, when the United States ambassador dropped in on King Salman, then a prince and the governor of Riyadh Province, to say farewell at the end of his posting, the governor asked for help circumventing America’s stringent visa procedures. His wife could not get a visa to see her doctor, and although his other children were willing to submit to the visa hurdles, “his son, Prince Mohammed, refused to go to the U.S. Embassy to be fingerprinted ‘like some criminal,’” according to a State Department cable at the time.

Prince bin Salman graduated from the university that year and continued to work for his father, who was named defense minister in 2011, while dabbling in real estate and business.

Many members of the royal family remain wary of the young prince’s projects and ultimate ambitions. Some mock him as the “Prince of the Vision” and complain about his army of well-paid foreign consultants and image-makers.

Other are annoyed by the media cell he created inside the royal court to promote his initiatives, both foreign and domestic. Called the Center for Studies and Media Affairs, the group has focused on promoting a positive story about the Yemen war in Washington and has hired numerous Washington lobbying and public affairs firms to assist in the effort.

Inside the kingdom, the government has largely succeeded in keeping criticism — and even open discussion — of the prince and his projects out of the public sphere. His family holds sway over the parent company of many Saudi newspapers, which have breathlessly covered his initiatives, and prominent Saudi editors and journalists who have accompanied him on foreign trips have been given up to $100,000 in cash, according to two people who have traveled with the prince’s delegation.

Meanwhile, Saudi journalists deemed too critical have been quietly silenced through phone calls informing them that they are barred from publishing, and sometimes from traveling abroad.

In June, a Saudi journalist, Sultan al-Saad al-Qahtani, published an article in Arabic on his website, The Riyadh Post, in which he addressed the lack of discussion about Prince bin Salman’s rise.

“You can buy tens of newspapers and hundreds of journalists, but you can’t buy the history that will be written about you,” he wrote.

He said that the prince’s popularity among Saudis was based on a “sweeping desire for great change” and that they loved him based on the hope that he would “turn their dreams into reality.”

In that lay the risk, Mr. Qahtani wrote: “If you fail, this love withers quickly, as if it never existed, and is replaced by a deep feeling of frustration and hatred.”

The site was blocked the next day, Mr. Qahtani said, for the third time in 13 months. (It is now back up, at a new address.)

President Obama welcoming Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, center, and Prince bin Salman to the White House in May 2015. Officials in Washington have been hedging their bets by building relationships with both men, unsure who will end up on top. CreditChip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Future

As sweeping and long-term as Prince bin Salman’s initiatives are, they may hang by the tenuous thread of his link to his father, who has memory lapses, according to foreign officials who have met with him. Even the prince’s supporters acknowledge that they are not sure he will retain his current roles after his father dies.

In the meantime, he is racing against time to establish his reputation and cement his place in the kingdom’s power structure.

His fast ascent, and his well-publicized foreign trips to Washington, Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere in Asia, have led senior Obama administration officials to consider the prospect that he could step over Prince bin Nayef and become Saudi Arabia’s next king.

This has led to a balancing act for American officials who want to build a relationship with him while not being used as leverage in any rivalry with Prince bin Nayef. Obama administration officials say relations with Prince bin Salman have generally improved, but only after a rocky start when he would routinely lecture senior Americans — even the president.

In November, during a Group of 20 summit meeting at a luxury resort on the Turkish coast, Prince bin Salman gave what American officials described as a lengthy speech about what he saw as the failure of American foreign policy in the Middle East — from the Obama administration’s restraint in Syria to its efforts to improve relations with Iran, Saudi Arabia’s bitter enemy.

Personal relationships have long been the bedrock of American-Saudi relations, yet the Obama administration has struggled to find someone to develop a rapport with the prince. The job has largely fallen to Secretary of State John Kerry, who has hosted the prince several times at his home in Georgetown. In June, the two men shared an iftar dinner, breaking the Ramadan fast. In September 2015, dinner at Mr. Kerry’s house ended with Prince bin Salman playing Beethoven on the piano for the secretary of state and the other guests.

In May, the prince invited Mr. Kerry for a meeting on the Serene, the luxury yacht he bought from the Russian billionaire.

His desire to reimagine the Saudi state is reflected in his admiration — some even call it envy — for the kingdom’s more modern and progressive neighbor in the Persian Gulf, the United Arab Emirates.

He has influential supporters in this effort, particularly the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who for more than a year has been promoting Prince bin Salman in the Middle East and in Washington.

Crown Prince bin Zayed, the United Arab Emirates’ de facto ruler, is a favorite among Obama administration officials, who view him as a reliable ally and a respected voice in the Sunni world. But he also has a history of personal antipathy toward Prince bin Nayef, adding a particular urgency to his support for the chief rival of the Saudi crown prince.

In April of last year, Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, Susan E. Rice, led a small delegation of top White House officials to visit Prince bin Zayed at his home in McLean, Va. During the meeting, according to several officials who attended, the prince urged the Americans to develop a relationship with Prince bin Salman.

But all questions about Prince bin Salman’s future are likely to depend on how long his father lives, according to diplomats who track Saudi Arabia.

If he died soon, Prince bin Nayef would become king and could dismiss his younger cousin as a gesture to his fellow royals. In fact, it was King Salman who set the precedent for such moves by dismissing the crown prince named by his predecessor.

“If the king’s health starts to deteriorate, Mohammed bin Salman is very likely to try to get Mohammed bin Nayef out of the picture,” said Mr. Riedel, the former C.I.A. analyst.

But the longer King Salman reigns, foreign officials said, the longer the young prince has to consolidate his power — or to convince Prince bin Nayef that he is worth keeping around if Prince bin Nayef becomes king.

Most Saudi watchers do not expect any struggles within the family to spill into the open, as all the royals understand how much they have to lose from such fissures becoming public or destabilizing their grip on the kingdom.

“I am persuaded as someone who focuses on this topic that the ruling family of Saudi Arabia above all else puts the interest of the family first and foremost,” said Mr. Kechichian, the analyst who knows many royals.

“Not a single member of the family will do anything to hurt the family.”

Syria: Once Again The U.S. Is In A War We Should Not Be In!

 

Once again the U.S. finds itself in a war that we have no business being in. This time it is the Civil War in Syria. When a country has a Civil War all other Nations should keep their noses their money and their people out of it. A Civil War is an internal war, a war between the people/government within that particular country. Was the kick-start of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ really started when the U.S. decided to remove Saddam in Iraq? Did this ‘kick start’ the idea within the ‘Arab world’ that they too might be able to remove their own dictators? Do not get me wrong, I am no fan of dictators, I am no fan of any violence no matter whom is committing it. Yet if we step back to 1979, I am not fan of the former Shaw of Iran either. The U.S. has a history of propping up such despicable ‘leaders’ via giving them military aid and training which they use to murder their own people with, then we tend to wonder why the people of those countries hated us. Why can’t we assist a dictator with humanitarian aid? Why couldn’t we help these leaders with means of doing things to help their people to grow their own food, improve their power grids and to make their own cars? Why must we always ‘help’ them with guns, bombs, tanks and military jets?

 

Our foreign policy decisions have fed the wrath of the people of many Nations. Our foreign policy issues have been particularly damaging toward the relations with people who by their Religious beliefs hate our Nation, our people. Obviously I am speaking today of the people who believe in Islam. For the past five years the country of Syria has been fighting a civil war and it is a war that we were/are wrong for being involved in. Our policies in Iraq and in Syria have helped in the creating of the group of mass murderers we call ISIS here in the States. Our Government has hated the al-Assad Regime there in Syria for decades and our Government Leaders (President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) decided to help the ‘Rebels’ to over through that Government when their Civil War started. We have spent several billion dollars and some of our own blood in this horrible war. We say we are fighting ISIS there with our bombing raids which is the least that we can do being our policies helped this group get their foothold there. When Russia’s President Putin decided to back their Allie there in Syria as any sane person should have known they would, it made it an ‘unwinnable’ war for the U.S.. Russia, Syria, and the U.S. are trying to kill off all of the ISIS fighters yet we are not supposed to be trying to kill any Syrian troops directly with our bombs like we did about a week ago when we killed over 80 Syrian troops. That event was the beginning of the end of the ‘humanitarian aid truce’.

 

The U.S. is involved in a war that can not be won there in Syria as the ‘President’ Mr. al-Assad with the aid of President Putin is going to remain in power no matter what the U.S. or the UN wish. All of the military players in Syria today have mixed agendas with mixed Allies. In almost all of the issues there are proxy wars being fought within this Civil War but the single biggest issue is the Islamic Civil War that has been raging for almost 1,400 years. This is the Civil War between the two main factions of Islam, the Sunni’s and the Shiite’s. Arab and Persian Country’s are divided via those two sects of Islam and they always will be until one kills of and or enslaves the other. Russia has for many decades had a large Naval Base in Syria and has been their Allie, we were ignorant to think that Russia would not step in to help them. The President of Syria is a Shiite so the other Shiite Countries are backing him. This includes Iran, Iraq and Lebanon via Hezbollah. The Sunni Countries fighting against Syria include Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and the UAE. There are many other players involved there also, like the Kurd’s of Northern Iraq and Eastern Turkey.

 

There is no way for the U.S. to stay in this war and not lose face in the Sunni Arab world just as getting out of it that won’t make our Government ‘lose face’ also. Simply put, we should never ever have gotten involved in training ‘rebels’ and or supplying them. What we have done is to Allie ourselves with the Sunni faction of Islam against the Shiite Syrian Government while the Russian Government has aligned themselves with the Shiite faction of that religion. Also, there is the fact that everyone there is fighting against the Sunni ISIS mass murderers. The U.S. opened the floodgates for a group like ISIS to step through with our very failed policies in Iraq and in Syria. These mistakes are directly at the feet of the Republican President George W. Bush and the Democratic President Barack Obama. There is also the reality that the Shiite sect of Islam would form their own version of ISIS if they could but it is more difficult for them to do so as they are only about 20% of Islam, the Sunni are the other 80%. As far as world peace goes though one must understand that even though these two sects hate each other they hate all the ‘infidels’ even more. In case you are unaware of it the word infidel means ‘unbeliever’, as on not a believer of Islam. As I have said to you very plainly, this Civil War in Syria is one that the U.S. can not win unless we commit to an all our nuclear war against Russia and the Arab/Persian people who I hope that our so-called Leaders aren’t stupid enough to do. So, what are the options of the U.S. Government when it comes to our military actions in Syria? I personally believe that there is no way to not infuriate the Saudi Royal Family no matter what we do or don’t do but I believe that once ISIS is ran out of Syria our Government must stop all its actions there and declare the Syrian Government the winner. This will be a great victory for President Putin of Russia but it is our own Government that facilitated this result in the first place.

Chinese Visitors Given Long Over Due Courtesy In UAE

(This article is courtesy of the Shanghai Daily News Paper)

UAE offers China visa-free privileges

CHINESE visitors to the United Arab Emirates will now be granted visas on arrival, the Gulf state’s prime minister announced yesterday, in a new bid to boost tourism.

“We have approved a decision to grant visas on arrival at the country’s airports to visitors from the Republic of China,” said Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, who is also the ruler of Dubai.

“Our relations with China are strategic and a priority,” he added in remarks published on his official Twitter account.

Chinese tourists previously had to obtain visas before travelling to the UAE.

The UAE has invested billions of dollars over more than a decade to put itself on the map as a regional business and tourism hub.

Among the UAE’s seven emirates, Dubai is the most attractive for tourists.

More than 14.2 million people visited Dubai in 2015, but the target is 25 million by 2020 when the Gulf emirate hosts the global trade fair Expo 2020.

In February, local media quoted Dubai tourism chief Issam Kazim as saying that 450,000 Chinese visitors made the trip to the emirate in 2015, a 29 percent increase over the previous year.

Nationals of 47 countries, mainly western states, can obtain a visa on arrival.

The History Of The United Arab Emirates (UAE) (Antiquity)

(This article is courtesy of Wikipedia’s web-site)

Antiquity[edit]

It appears that the land of the Emirates has been occupied for many thousands of years. Stone tools recovered from Jebel Faya in the emirate of Sharjah reveal a settlement of people from Africa some 127,000 years ago and a stone tool used for butchering animals discovered at Jebel Barakah on the Arabian coast suggests an even older habitation from 130,000 years ago.[22] There is no proof of contact with the outside world at that stage, although in time it developed with civilization in Mesopotamia and Iran. This contact persisted and became wide-ranging, probably motivated by trade in copper from the Hajar Mountains, which commenced around 3000 BCE.[23] In ancient times, Al Hasa (today’s Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia) was part of Al Bahreyn and adjoined Greater Oman (today’s UAE and Oman). From the second century AD, there was a movement of tribes from Al Bahreyn towards the lower Gulf, together with a migration among the Azdite Qahtani (or Yamani) and Quda’ah tribal groups from south-west Arabia towards central Oman. Sassanid groups were present on the Batinah coast. In 637, Julfar (in the area of today’s Ra’s al-Khaimah) was an important port that was used as a staging post for the Islamic invasion of the Sassanian Empire.[24] The area of the Al Ain/Buraimi Oasis was known as Tu’am and was an important trading post for camel routes between the coast and the Arabian interior .[25]

The earliest Christian site in the UAE was first discovered in the 1990s, an extensive monastic complex on what is now known as Sir Bani Yas Island and which dates back to the 7th century. Thought to be Nestorian and built-in 600 AD, the church appears to have been abandoned peacefully in 750 AD.[26] It forms a rare physical link to a legacy of Christianity which is thought to have spread across the peninsula from 50 to 350 AD following trade routes. Certainly, by the 5th century, Oman had a bishop named John – the last bishop of Oman being Etienne, in 676 AD.

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