Washington, Manama… Ending the Six-Year Strain

U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa at the Gulf Cooperation Council leaders summit in Riyadh

With six years of ongoing negligence of a key ally and overlooking Iranian interference to its record, US former president Barack Obama’s foreign policy chipped away at Bahrain’s security the most.

Following the Bahrain 2011 unrest and pursuant demands of overthrowing its monarchy, the Obama administration gave its Gulf ally a cold shoulder, allowing for a boundless inflow of Iranian propaganda, the spread of extremism and armament of militias.

Not only that, but Washington also loudly opposed and ‘aborted’ a Gulf intervention by the Peninsula Shield Force tasked with tuning the situation in Bahrain and preventing it from spiraling out of control.

To say the least, US disregard was a miscalculation given that its vital Middle East naval garrison –the Fifth Fleet– is based in Bahrain waters.

In her memoir, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton cites that the Peninsula Shield Force was the only force standing against Iran torching the entire region with anarchy that holds the potential to reign uncontained.

WikiLeaks also disclosed on illicit emails sent by Clinton showing negative meddling in the work of Bahrain’s independent investigation committee looking into the 2011 uprisings. Kindly put, declassified documents show that the Obama administration had fallen short on supporting an ally. Not to mention that it had conspired against Bahrain in a way that benefited Iran, a common foe!

President Donald Trump’s visit to Riyadh showed that his administration has caught up to Obama’s catastrophic blunders in Bahrain and would make amends by restoring the century-old relation to its pre-Obama norm.

Vowing to mend the strained ties, Trump held talks with Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa in which he outlined a new framework that focuses on backpedaling from Obama’s policy and on strengthening US-Bahrain ties. More so, Trump went as far as describing relations between the two countries as ‘wonderful.’

Restoring US-Bahraini relations is a strategic demand not for Bahrain alone, but for all Gulf states. The Kingdom of Bahrain has always been the seen as the first chip in a domino effect that would compromise the security and stability of neighboring countries. The Obama administration was sending mixed signals when failing to actively support its strategic ally, Bahrain.

Some Gulf States saw that it was a tactical pressure mechanism meant to influence policy—how else could it have been for the US to abandon the security of a key factor to regional stability and security?

The two countries have decided on extending their defense cooperation agreement—a critical step that the former US administration would have opted out on.

Trump seeks to salvage whatever is left of US alliances.

“Our countries have a wonderful relationship together, but there has been a little strain, but there won’t be strain with this administration,” Trump said during a photo session with Sheikh Al Khalifa in Riyadh.

“We’re going to have a very, very long-term relationship. I look forward to it very much – many of the same things in common.”

Despite Bahrain being the most to suffer from recent US policy, it wasn’t the only one affected by rising tensions.

It remains to be said that despite the bitter crisis, Bahrain sought serious reform to its security services. The kingdom has also pursued the option of holding discussions with the opposition, a way rare to the region.

However, the Obama administration turned a blind eye to all these efforts.

Bahrain’s Foreign Minister said that his country felt it was being persecuted for no clear reason, but for the mere risk we took for tackling issues encountered by all countries.

While the Obama administration suspended a central Bahrain arms deal, the Trump US administration dropped the inhibiting clause and announced its intentions to proceed with a sale worth up to five billion dollars of F-16 interceptors, 23 engines, and other related equipment.

Such a step confirms that Washington is on the right track to radically restore its relations with allies.

The historical Arab-Islamic-US summits recently held in Riyadh were not at the level of rudimentary protocol as many had hoped, but had carried new American weight and action 180 degrees different from than that of the Obama era– the era that had hurt Gulf people, as did no other US presidency.

Will Trump’s Visit Change the Region?

Trump during the Arab-Islamic-American Summit in Riyadh

All the consecutive events indicate a new phase looms ahead for the region. The signs are many, including US President Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia, his important speech before the Islamic summit and the announcement of series of measures to confront Iran.

In his speech, Trump equated Hezbollah with al-Qaeda, initiated military cooperation with the coalition in Yemen to deal with Houthi insurgents, and instated the role of US military troops in Syria. During his meeting with the King of Bahrain in Saudi Arabia, Trump conveyed that the US altered its policy and and will no longer pressure the Bahraini government concerning the opposition.

Iran is the common factor in all those causes and all of these are an indication of important changes and their effect will be clear to us within the coming few months.

What really happened? Saudi diplomacy became active in Washington and what we are witnessing today is the result of that movement.

Saudi Arabia and the US agreed to cooperate against two threats: terrorism as an international organization and the Iranian expansion in other countries. The Saudi King’s speech during the Araba-Islamic-US Summit focused on those two issues.

The US adopted those positions quickly and unexpectedly. Trump appointed in his government prominent political and military officials who are experts in the region as they understand it well since they’ve worked in it and are aware of the actual facts. This explains the US’ swift shift and condemnation against Iran for the chaos in Syria and Yemen.

After Trump’s arrival in Riyadh, Tehran announced Hasan Rouhani as its president for a second term. It seemed like a reconciliation message from the regime. The coming days will prove whether the Iranian government adopted some positive steps and tangible measures or things would remain as they were.

Iran is in big trouble because of its fast actions against it in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon. If Tehran tried to escalate its activity, more sanctions will be imposed.

An example is Iran’s trouble is its purchase of 80 US Boeing airplanes for $16 billion. In case sanctions were imposed, which will most likely include spare parts and maintenance, Tehran will be unable to use those airplanes.

Rouhani may be the only good figure in that regime. But the Revolutionary Guard is an evil machine and partner in murdering about half a million Syrian. They are accomplices in assassinations in Lebanon and responsible for marginalizing the central authority in Iraq by supporting militias that are against it.

The Revolutionary Guard also supported, trained, and armed Houthi troops that staged a coup against the Yemeni government.

All of that is part of Tehran’s project to besiege Saudi Arabia and Gulf countries and dominate the region.

Instability in the Middle East threatens the whole world’s interests and causes chaos, as it has been the case over the past six years. The US wants Iran to realize that the world will not tolerate chaos and will not remain silent over anything that threatens its interests.

Are we happy that President Trump changed his country’s policy and is supporting the camp of moderate Muslim and Arab countries?

Surely, this is an important and crucial development. But, we mustn’t forget that for thirty years we were facing a radical Iranian regime, spearhead of terrorism as described by King Salman bin Abdulaziz in his speech before the Arab-Islamic-US Summit.

We previously fought this regime without the US, especially during the final chaotic years. Without Washington, we confronted Iran in Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen. Now, the US can participate in pressuring the Ayatollah regime in Tehran in hopes it will reconsider continuing with its adventures and chaos which would be costly.

President Rouhani is faced with a new situation that requires a lot of thinking. He should devise a reconciliation plan that ends his country’s interferences. It is about time Ayatollah Khomeini’s project announced in 1979 is over. It is about time his promise to export Iran’s revolution to the region be terminated and we move into a new regional phase.

US State of Department: Riyadh Summits Stand Against Iran’s Malign Influence

Part of US-Saudi meetings during Riyadh Summit

Riyadh – The outcomes of the Riyadh summits lie in the interest of both Saudi Arabia and the United States and enhance the Gulf’s capabilities in facing Iran’s interferences through increasing their military potentials, according to a US State Department official.

US State Department Spokesperson Nathaniel Tek stated that US-Saudi cooperation is at the highest level, adding that both countries are coordinating fully in countering terrorism and extremism.

Tek pointed out that the cooperation between the US and the Gulf will deter Iran’s “malicious” actions in the region.

The spokesperson told Asharq al-Awsat newspaper that outcomes of the Riyadh summits will form the needed front to put an end to Iran’s interventions in Syria, Yemen, and Iraq.

He reiterated that President Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia as his first abroad visit sends a clear message to both countries’ enemies and a positive one to the friendly countries. He stated that the US doesn’t abandon its friends and will exert all possible efforts to support to the Gulf in order to establish security and peace in the region.

“It is not strange that US President Trump chose Saudi Arabia as his first visit. Washington regards Riyadh as the center of the Islamic world. President Trump regards all other religions with respect and appreciation just as he mentioned in his speech,” Tek explained.

When asked whether Trump’s visit will promote the positive image of the region inside of the US, Tek said that the US government views Saudi Arabia as the backbone of stability in the Middle East. He added Washington wants to ensure stability in the region, especially in the Kingdom.

The US official confirmed that both Riyadh and Washington are coordinating to stand against all challenges that might face both countries whether economically, security or politically.

Earlier, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that Washington is fully intended to support Riyadh “in particular in the face of malign Iranian influence and Iranian-related threats which exist on Saudi Arabia’s borders”.

Saudi Cabinet Underlines Strategic Importance of Riyadh Summits

Saudi Cabinet Underlines Strategic Importance of Riyadh Summits

Riyadh – Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz said that talks and meetings held during the visit of US President Donald Trump to Saudi Arabia have “embodied the great concern and determination of all participating countries to confront different challenges and strengthen the foundations of peace, security and stability”.

King Salman chaired the Cabinet session at Al-Yamamah Palace in Riyadh on Monday.

At the outset of the session, the King expressed his thanks and appreciation to the US president and leaders of Arab and Islamic countries, who took part in the 17th consultative meeting of leaders of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) for Arab States, Gulf-American Summit and Arab-Islamic-American Summit hosted by the Kingdom on Sunday.

The Saudi monarch underlined the importance of the “historic agreement” signed between the GCC and the US to fight terrorism financing by establishing a center for combating such acts in Riyadh.

The King noted that the agreement was the result of joint efforts to combat terrorism. He also lauded the announcement of the establishment of the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology, which is aimed at spreading the principles of moderation and strengthening families and societies against extremist ideologies.

King Salman added that discussions with Trump touched on historical relations between the two countries and means to promote cooperation in the different fields.

He added that latest developments in the Middle East and the world were reviewed, as well as efforts to establish stability and security in the region.

Highlighting the importance of the joint strategic vision, which was announced at the end of the two-day meetings, the King said that Saudi and US officials have exchanged a number of trade agreements and investment opportunities that exceeded the value of $280 billion.

King Salman stressed that the meetings with Trump, in addition to discussions between senior officials of the two countries and the economic forums held on the sidelines of the visit were considered a turning point in relations between Saudi Arabia and the United States.

In a statement following the session, Minister of Culture and Information Awwad bin Saleh Alawwad said that the Cabinet highlighted the valuable contents of the speech delivered by King Salman at the Arab-Islamic-American Summit.

The Cabinet pointed to the King’s emphasis on the common responsibility of Arab and Islamic states to be united in the fight against the forces of extremism in compliance with the teachings of the Islamic religion and the values of peace, tolerance, and moderation.

Riyadh, Washington Agree on Need for ‘Regional Security Structure’

Riyadh – Saudi Arabia and the United States agreed in a joint statement issued at the end of US President Donald Trump’s visit to the Kingdom on the need to form a “strong united regional security structure.”

A joint statement issued by Riyadh and Washington on Monday stressed the need to “contain Iran’s evil interference in regional countries” and review some of the articles of the nuclear deal signed between the West and Tehran in 2015.

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz and US President Donald Trump announced that they stand together “to confront common enemies” through “new initiatives aimed at confronting violent extremist rhetoric, cutting the financing of terrorism and bolstering defense cooperation.”

They agreed on a new strategic partnership for the 21st century in the interest of both countries.

The statement said that during the Saudi-US summit held in Riyadh, “the two leaders reviewed the strong historical and strategic relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States, which have grown and flourished over the past eight decades in the political, economic, cultural military, security, energy, and other fields. The leaders observed that the two countries have developed a productive partnership built upon trust, cooperation, and shared interests.”

The two countries announced their plan to form a Strategic Joint Consultative Group, hosted by King Salman and the US president, or their appropriate designees, to chart the course of this strategic partnership.

King Salman and Trump also “stressed that Iran’s interference poses a threat to the security of the region and the world, and that the nuclear agreement with Iran needs to be re-examined in some of its clauses.”

They said the Iranian ballistic missile program poses a threat to global security.

The statement also called for disarming terrorist organizations such as Lebanon’s “Hezbollah”, and integrating efforts between the US-led Global Coalition against ISIS with Saudi Arabia and the Saudi-led Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism.

The two sides stressed the need to work on resolving the crisis in Yemen and emphasized the importance of reaching a permanent solution to the conflict in Syria based on the Geneva declaration and Security Council resolution 2254.

GCC-US Leaders Committed to Opposing Iran’s ‘Malign Interference’

The leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council and the United States have expressed commitment to oppose Iran’s meddling in the region, prevent the supply of arms to Yemen’s Houthi insurgents and confront terrorism.

The final statement issued following the summit that the GCC leaders held with US President Donald Trump in Riyadh on Sunday, said there was commitment to tackle “the root causes of crises in the Middle East, as well as taking more urgent steps to intensify efforts to defeat ISIS and al-Qaeda,” and “oppose Iran’s malign interference.”

The statement, which was issued on Monday, also said that the summit’s participants “stressed strengthening the ability of GCC countries to address threats wherever they originate, confront Iran’s destabilizing activities and work together to reduce sectarianism and regional tensions that fuel instability.”

“They expressed their condemnation of Iran’s interference in the internal affairs of the countries of the region, in violation of the sovereignty of the GCC States, and its attempt to spread division and stir sectarian strife among their citizens, including in the Kingdom of Bahrain, by supporting violent extremists, training proxies, smuggling weapons and explosives, inciting sectarian strife, and making statements at various levels to undermine security, order and stability.”

They also affirmed their full commitment to Yemen’s unity, respect for its sovereignty and independence, and the rejection of any meddling in its internal affairs.

They stressed the importance of finding a political solution to the country according to the Gulf Initiative and its executive mechanism, and implementation of Security Council decisions.

The leaders expressed their great appreciation for the efforts of the United Nations Special Envoy to Yemen to resume consultations between the Yemeni parties with a view to reaching a political solution according to these references.

The statement also said that the leaders were committed to working with the international community to prevent the continued supply of weapons to Iran-backed Houthi insurgents and their allies in Yemen.

They also stressed the need for collective efforts to confront the affiliates of al-Qaeda and ISIS in the Arabian Peninsula.

“It was agreed to strengthen and support economic relations in various fields, including trade and investment, energy and alternative energy, industry, technology, agriculture, transportation and infrastructure development, in line with the development visions adopted by GCC countries,” the final statement said.

On Syria, the leaders affirmed their firm position to preserve the unity, stability and territorial integrity of the war-torn country and expressed their support for the efforts of the UN chief’s envoy to find a political solution based on Geneva 1 Communique and UN Security Council Resolution 2254.

“They stressed the need to lift the siege on besieged Syrian cities, the delivery of humanitarian aid to affected areas and besieged civilians, the cessation of shelling of civilian areas, and release of detainees.”

The GCC and US leaders hoped that the process of liberating the northern Iraqi city of Mosul will lead to the return of the displaced persons to their cities and villages. They also hoped for finding “a comprehensive political reform process that brings together the Iraqi people without exclusion or dispersion to meet the aspirations of the Iraqi people.

US-Arab Chambers of Commerce: Riyadh, Washington to Take Relations to a New Scale

Saudi

Riyadh – David Hammoud, President and CEO of the Washington-based National US Arab Chamber of Commerce, said that the visit of US President Donald Trump to Saudi Arabia would contribute to forging constructive links between the US Administration and the Saudi leadership, noting that economic and political relations between the two countries would be promoted to a new scale.

In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, Hammoud said that many companies, which fall under the umbrella of the US-Arab Chamber of Commerce, were part of Trump’s accompanying delegation.

“The extensive presence of these US companies in Riyadh during this visit would convey a strong message on the importance of commercial relations” between the two countries, according to Hammoud.

Asked to evaluate the Saudi-US economic relations and the main goal behind the visit of US businessmen to the Kingdom, Hammoud said: “For many centuries, commercial relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia were the bases of trade and investments with the Arab world.”

According to Hammoud, both Riyadh and Washington established these special relations on common goals and interests, as well as long-term commitments.

“These relations have promoted strong, stable and consolidated partnerships even during times of challenges and difficulties in the Middle East and North Africa,” he stated.

The head of National US Arab Chamber of Commerce went on to say that bilateral partnerships have contributed to the creation of major employment opportunities.

As for US exports to the Kingdom, Hammoud said that Saudi Arabia and the UAE top the list of importers of US products in the Middle East and North Africa.

He also underlined the importance of Saudi Vision 2030 in further promoting Saudi-US trade relations.

Saudi Minister of Energy: The Kingdom is the Best Choice for Investors

Saudi

Riyadh – Saudi Arabia’s latest efforts whether with US or during King Salman’s visit to Asia all aim to establish a strong economy unaffected by oil prices, according to Minister of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources Engineer Khalid al-Falih.

Falih said the deals will have a positive impact both on the economy and the people of the Kingdom, as hundreds of thousands of jobs will be created for the Saudi youth. He pointed out that the Kingdom made important steps regarding generating power and oil, adding that renewable resources like solar and wind energy will be an essential part of Saudi’s energy system.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Gulf-US and the Arab-Islamic-US Summits, the minister said that the National Transformation Program and Vision 2030 both include important aspects of enhancing the energy sector of all of its sides.

Earlier, Aramco signed at least 10 agreements with 10 companies of $22 billion value. The company also announced a new Saudi company that manages the projects.

Speaking on the oil sector, the minister said the Kingdom believes that extending the oil-cut agreement is enough to drain oil inventories.

“Extending the current agreement on global oil supply cuts until March next year, and adding one or two small producers to the pact, should be enough to reduce oil inventories,” he said.

“We believe that continuing the same level of cuts, plus eventually adding one or two small producers, will be more than adequate to bring the five-year balance to where it needs to be by the end of the first quarter of 2018,” he emphasized.

The minister welcomed the Russian position on the call for a reduction in production for another nine months. He pointed out that the suspension of oil dealing with Iran is due to the sanctions imposed since last October.

He said that the kingdom produces about 10 million barrels of crude oil per day, pointing to the improvement in the kingdom’s financial index.

According to the minister, investors have no better choice than investing in the Saudi market.

Falih dealt with the friendship between the Kingdom and the US which extends for eight decades. The friendship between the two countries contributes in achieving prosperity for the international community in general and the two countries in particular.

The minister disclosed that the relationship in the fields of trade and investment between the Kingdom and the US is a part of the close friendship between the two countries, pointing out that there are many great opportunities to move the relationship between the two countries to higher levels.

Princess Reema bint Bandar, Vice President of Women’s Affairs at the General Sports Authority, said that Vision 2030 granted women a greater role, and there should be impartiality when discussing gender equality. She expressed her pleasure that President Trump visited Saudi Arabia and assured that opportunities in Vision 2030 are real.

Aviation Sector Occupies Central Role in US-Saudi Relations

Boeing

Riyadh – The aviation sector played a central role in strategic and commercial relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia.

Since the birth of commercial air travel in the Kingdom in 1945, Boeing Company has established “a strong and long-standing relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the company says on its website.

The partnership in the aviation sector began on February 14, 1945 when US President Franklin D. Roosevelt presented a twin-engine DC-3 Dakota airplane to Saudi King Abdul Aziz Al Saud, according to a report by Boeing.

The event marked both the beginning of the Boeing relationship with Saudi Arabia and the birth of commercial air travel in the Kingdom, the company added.

“Since then, Boeing has developed and expanded relationships with the Saudi civilian and defense sectors as well as with the private sectors,” the report also said.

The company underlined Saudi Arabia’s importance to Boeing, which was reaffirmed in 1982, with the establishment of Boeing Middle East Limited in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, as a 100 percent Boeing-owned commercially registered company, with full commercial contracting and employee sponsorship rights equal to any other Saudi-owned and registered company.

“In 2013, the company was renamed Boeing Saudi Arabia to reflect the broad scope of Boeing activities; today, Boeing Saudi Arabia supports the execution of all Boeing Defense, Space & Security and Boeing Commercial Airplanes programs in Saudi Arabia,” the company said.

It added that in February 2016, the Saudi Arabia Airlines (Saudia) received its first three 787-9s along with a 777-300ER at a high-profile delivery ceremony at Boeing’s site Seattle.

“Over the years Saudia has taken delivery of more than 135 Boeing airplanes including 707, 737, 747, 777, 787, MD-11F, DC-3, DC-4, DC-9 and MD-90 models. It currently operates many different types of Boeing airplanes, including 747-300SP, 777-200ER, 777-300ER and 787-9 Dreamliner,” it stated.

Emir of Kuwait Stresses Protection of Saudi Border from Houthi Attacks

Riyadh – Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah has stressed the importance of safeguarding Saudi Arabia’s border against continuous attacks by Houthi insurgents in Yemen.

Speaking before the Gulf-US summit held in Riyadh, the Emir said that developments in Yemen pose a threat to security and stability in the region, especially Saudi Arabia.

“We do not deny here the urgent need for help from our allies topped by the United States of America, as the conflict is not only with Yemen, but there is an outside party that provides them with weapons and money to kill the people of Yemen and neighboring countries”.

The Emir stressed that a solution would only be political and through pressure on the warring parties to return to the negotiating table.

He mentioned that Kuwait hosted the Yemeni peace consultations for more than three months, but unfortunately they did not produce any positive results. Things became more complicated as a result of external interventions.

The Emir pointed out that the deteriorating situation in Syria forces everyone to move as quickly as possible to end the disaster there.

“We believe that the United States of America has a great role in putting an end to this conflict while at the same time we appreciate its efforts in this regard,” the Emir stated.

With regards to the Middle East peace process, the Emir highlighted that the impasse necessitates a breakthrough, to avoid its negative repercussions on the region.

The Kuwaiti Emir urged Washington to exert pressure on the Palestinian and Israeli sides to find a just and comprehensive solution.

“We believe that the relations between states of the region must be based on the basic rules of international law, foremost of which is respect for the sovereignty and systems of states and non-interference in their internal affairs under any pretext and the deepening of good-neighborliness,” he said.

He hoped that the new Iranian presidency will embody the foundations of non-interference in order to achieve security and stability in the region.

The Emir said that more efforts need to be exerted to eliminate ISIS, making it a priority for the world to enjoy security and peace.

“The achievements of the coalition countries and the US-led forces to liberate Mosul and the city of Raqqa reflect this cooperation and coordination,” he said.

The Emir expressed his aspirations for working together to strengthen strategic partnership in all its dimensions, and concluded: “Together we can face the challenges that surround our region and our world.”