Tag Archives: Persian Gulf

Jared Kushner says US partnerships strengthened under Trump

Amid rising economic uncertainty and global trade tensions Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to US President Donald Trump, on Tuesday spoke to the Future Investment Initiative (FII) on how the US will look to define the global agenda in the medium- to long-term.

Kushner featured in a session moderated by the Chairman, CEO, and Co-Founder of US asset management firm Blackstone, Stephen Schwarzman, at the third edition of the FII held in Riyadh.

Kushner said that he thinks there is “a lot of positive potential” for solving global trade problems, adding that partnerships have strengthened under US President Donald Trump’s tenure.

Trade has been a persistent global challenge throughout 2019 as China and the US have engaged in a tit-for-tat trade war with escalating tariffs.


Europe Welcomes New Saudi Tourist Visas

A number of businessmen, media figures and citizens in Europe welcomed Saudi Arabia’s unveiling of its fresh online tourist visa program. This came during a ceremony attended by Saudi Ambassador to Switzerland, Prince Mansour bin Nasser bin Abdulaziz.

“There is no doubt that such a big step is not limited to tourism only, but it opens the door to investment in Saudi Arabia,” the ambassador told Asharq Al-Awsat on the sidelines of an embassy presser.

“Great opportunities are available for investment in tourism, and this supports the realization of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 under the guidance of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz,” he added.

The diplomat stressed that the Saudi people are known for being good and generous hosts to visitors and that this will help tourists get acquainted with the cultural depths of all parts of Saudi Arabia.

He also underscored that the launch of the new tourist visa scheme is an important event in which the Kingdom opens its diverse horizons and ancient heritage treasures to tourists from around the world.

Considered a new step towards achieving the objectives set by the Kingdom’s ambitious development vision, Vision 2030, the new plan holds opportunities for communication among the peoples of the world, building bridges between cultures, and supporting development and economic diversification efforts for the well-being and prosperity of future Saudi generations.

Businessman and international tourism expert Nick Sloane, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, positively reviewed the new plan, saying that Saudi Arabia’s geographic and natural diversity qualifies it to become a global tourism hotspot.

The one-year, multiple-entry visa scheme unveiled late Friday allows for stays of up to 90 days at a time, and marks the first time the country is allowing foreigners to visit solely for the purpose of tourism.


Iran president warns of a region on the edge of collapse

Iran’s president used the world’s stage on Wednesday to warn that security in the Persian Gulf could unravel with a “single blunder” and its fragile peace be guaranteed only by the region’s countries, not through US intervention or Washington’s “merciless economic terrorism.”

President Hassan Rouhani accused the United States of engaging in “international piracy” against his country by re-imposing economic sanctions after Washington withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

Tehran “will never negotiate with an enemy that seeks to make Iran surrender with the weapon of poverty,” Hassan Rouhani said in his highly anticipated speech at the UN General Assembly. “Stop the sanctions so as to open the way for the start of negotiations.”

His words came shortly after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced additional US sanctions targeting Iran’s ability to sell its oil, this time imposing penalties on six Chinese companies and their chief executives for continuing to transport Iranian crude.

“We’re telling China and all nations, know that we will sanction every violation of sanctionable activity,” Pompeo said at an event for United Against a Nuclear Iran, a lobby group opposed to the nuclear deal, a few blocks from where Hassan Rouhani was speaking at the United Nations’ headquarters.

Tensions in the Middle East have risen as the nuclear deal unravels under US pressure and Iran turns back to expanding its nuclear enrichment program, despite previous compliance with it for up to a year after Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the accord.

The escalating crisis has raised concerns of a direct conflict – a scenario that all parties, including bitter rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia, have stressed they want to avoid. The United States, meanwhile, has sent military reinforcements and heightened its security presence around the Persian Gulf.

In his UN speech on Tuesday, Donald Trump described Iran as “one of the greatest threats” to the planet.

Hassan Rouhani said US wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria had failed, with Washington “unable to resolve the more sophisticated issues” plaguing the Middle East.

“Security shall not be supplied with American weapons and intervention,” he said. “Security cannot be purchased or supplied by foreign governments.”

While Hassan Rouhani’s manner was measured, his words were ominous.

“Our region is on the edge of collapse, as a single blunder can fuel a big fire,” he said, adding that it will become secure only when US troops withdraw.

The vast divide between the Washington and Tehran runs right through the narrow Strait of Hormuz, a critical shipping waterway at the mouth of the Persian Gulf where a fifth of the world’s oil passes each day.

Months of lower-level attacks on oil tankers near the strait and Iran’s shooting down of a US surveillance drone over the waterway have been blamed on Iran.

The most stunning attack unfolded earlier this month when drones and missiles struck key oil sites in Saudi Arabia, jolting global oil prices and temporarily knocking out nearly 6% of daily global crude oil production.

Iran has denied any involvement in the attacks, and says any strikes by the US or Saudi Arabia will lead to “all-out war.” Saudi Arabia has invited UN investigators to assess where the strikes were launched from, and says Iranian weapons were used.

Hassan Rouhani used his time at the podium to appeal to Iran’s neighbors, saying their destinies are intertwined. The free flow of oil “could be guaranteed,” he said, when there is security for all the region’s countries.

He also talked about Iran’s proposal for a Coalition for Hope, or the Hormuz Peace Initiative, that Tehran envisions would be formed under a UN umbrella and involve Middle Eastern countries.

“Neighbor comes first; then comes the house,” he said. “We are neighbors with each other and not with the United States.”

Iranian state television broadcast Hassan Rouhani’s speech live across the country of 80 million people, many of whom are struggling under the weight of crippling US sanctions that have sent the Iranian economy into freefall and limited Tehran’s ability to sell its oil abroad.

Diplomatic efforts in Europe have scrambled to preserve the nuclear deal by searching- still unsuccessfully- for ways around the US sanctions. Just before his speech, the remaining signatories to the accord – Russia, China, Britain France, Germany and Iran – stressed they are trying to preserve it.

Despite months of diplomatic frenzy, Hassan Rouhani said Iran has “only heard beautiful words.”

“Europe is unable and incapable of fulfilling its commitments,” he said, warning: “Our patience has a limit.”

The European position appears to have shifted after the Sept. 14 attack on Saudi oil sites. In a joint statement, Britain, France and Germany joined the US this week in blaming Iran for the attack and in saying that the time had come for Iran to accept negotiations on its missile program and issues of regional security. These are two key main issues Donald Trump says the nuclear deal did not address when it was completed under the Obama administration.

In his speech at the UN, Donald Trump left open the possibility of diplomatic engagement with Iran. As Hassan Rouhani ended his remarks, he also suggested there was still room for diplomacy.

“Let’s return to justice, to peace, to law, commitment and promise and finally to the negotiating table,” he said.


Kuwaiti army places some units in a ‘state of combat readiness’

Kuwait’s army said Wednesday it was raising its readiness levels and carrying out military exercises, amid soaring regional tensions after neighboring Iran was accused of attacking Saudi oil infrastructure.

Kuwait also said it was investigating accounts that a drone intruded into its airspace and flew over the royal palace on Saturday, the same day an assault on two oil facilities knocked out half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production.

“In view of the escalating situation in the country, the General Staff of the Army announces the lifting of the combat readiness of some of its units,” it said in a statement posted on Twitter.

It said it was aiming to reach the “highest levels of readiness and combat efficiency” in order to “preserve the security of the country and the safety of its lands, waters, and airspace from any potential dangers.”

Yemen’s Iran-allied Houthi militia group claim to have carried out Saturday’s strike, but the United States has blamed Iran and there has bee speculation the assault was launched from Iraq.

Saudi’s defense ministry said Wednesday that the drones and cruise missiles struck from the north, ruling out Yemen as the source.

Iraq on Sunday denied any link, saying it is “constitutionally committed to preventing any use of its soil to attack its neighbors”.


OIC Emergency Meeting Urges UN Action on Israeli Aggression

Foreign ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries, in an emergency meeting on Sunday in Jeddah, urged the United Nations Security Council to step in on Israel’s continued provocations against Palestinians.

They reaffirmed their stand in solidarity with the Palestinian cause and the need to end all Israeli occupation. Iran, a member of the OIC, did not attend the meeting.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday he would annex the Jordan Valley, a large swathe of the occupied West Bank that Israel captured in 1967 and which Palestinians want as part of a future state.

Middle East nations and European powers have expressed alarm at the plan, which Netanyahu said he would implement if he wins a closely contested election next week.

Middle East nations and European powers have expressed alarm at the plan, which Netanyahu said he would implement if he wins a closely contested election next week.

Ibrahim al-Assaf, the Saudi Foreign Minister, said the Israeli plans are “null and void”.

Although Arabs are facing many other challenges, al-Assaf said, Palestine will remain the central cause for them.

He emphasized that Saudi Arabia, under all circumstances and by all means available, has not hesitated in supporting the Palestinian people to restore their rights and establish an independent state with full sovereignty in Palestinian territories demarcated by the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as a capital.

Arab foreign ministers at the OIC also condemned Netanyahu’s plan as “aggression” and undermined any chances of a peace settlement with the Palestinians. Sounding the alarm, they held the Israeli government liable for all consequences entailed upon such decision.

Demanding a strong response to Netanyahu’s plan, OIC ministers called for taking all possible political and legal actions and involving the UN Security Council, the General Assembly, international tribunals, and any other relevant international organizations and bodies to counter what they labeled a colonial and expansionist policy.

OIC Secretary General Yousef Al-Othaimeen, in his opening speech, called “to put in place mechanisms to hold Israel accountable for its aggression against the Palestinians.”

Arab foreign ministers at the OIC also condemned Netanyahu’s plan as “aggression” and undermined any chances of a peace settlement with the Palestinians. Sounding the alarm, they held the Israeli government liable for all consequences entailed upon such decision.

Demanding a strong response to Netanyahu’s plan, OIC ministers called for taking all possible political and legal actions and involving the UN Security Council, the General Assembly, international tribunals, and any other relevant international organizations and bodies to counter what they labeled a colonial and expansionist policy.

OIC Secretary General Yousef Al-Othaimeen, in his opening speech, called “to put in place mechanisms to hold Israel accountable for its aggression against the Palestinians.”


Iran Guards Commander Threatens US Forces In The Persian Gulf

An Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander has repeated a threat on Sunday that U.S. bases and aircraft carriers were within range of Iranian missiles, a day after Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group attacked two Saudi Aramco plants.

“Everybody should know that all American bases and their aircraft carriers in a distance of up to 2,000 kilometers around Iran are within the range of our missiles,” said the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps Aerospace Force Amirali Hajizadeh.

In the past year, Iranian officials have repeatedly threatened U.S. bases and other Persian Gulf countries of retaliation if U.S. sanctions are not lifted.

After the attack on Saudi oil installation on Saturday, U.S. officials, including President Donald Trump strongly voiced support for Riyadh. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo directly blamed Iran and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham called for attacking Iran’s oil refineries if provocations continue.

But there were other voices warning against a rush into escalation. Senator Chris Murphy tweeted that the situation in the Middle East is not so simple to say “Houthis=Iran” and called Pompeo’s tweet “irresponsible simplification.”

The semi-official Tasnim news agency also quoted him saying that “Iran has always been ready for a “full-fledged” war.”


UN Security Council condemns escalating Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia

The UN Security Council condemned “in the strongest terms” on Thursday the escalation of Houthi attacks on civilian infrastructure in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and called on the militias “to cease such attacks immediately and without preconditions.”

In a statement approved by all 15 Council members, the Security Council said such attacks, which have killed, injured and endangered civilians, posed a serious national security threat to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as well as a wider threat to regional security, and threaten to undermine the UN-led political process.

The Council underlined its full support for Martin Griffiths, the UN Special Envoy for Yemen, and called on the Government of Yemen, the Houthis and all other parties to engage constructively and continuously with him. 

The Council commended the tireless efforts of the Special Envoy to support the parties to implement the Stockholm Agreement and to achieve a political solution to the conflict in Yemen. 

The statement expressed particular concern regarding recent developments in South Yemen, citing attempts to seize the State’s institutions using violence, calling on all involved parties to observe self-restraint and to preserve Yemen’s territorial integrity.

The Security Council welcomed and fully supported the efforts by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to convene a dialogue in Jeddah to resolve the situation, and called on all parties “to engage constructively to make those efforts a success.”

The Security Council expressed its deep concern at the escalation in violence and the loss of life and injuries in Aden, Saa’da, Sanaa, Shabwa and other parts of Yemen. 

It called on all parties to fulfil their obligations under international humanitarian law, including in relation to ensuring the protection of civilians, particularly to children and access for humanitarian organizations, and their obligations under international human rights law, as applicable. 

The Security Council underlined the need to ensure accountability for violations in Yemen.

The Security Council also underscored the importance of accelerating steps to put the al-Hodeidah agreement in force, calling for free movement of UN mission personnel and equipment without any obstacles.


UK calls for broad support to tackle Gulf shipping threats

British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab will call for more international support to protect shipping in the Strait of Hormuz when he meets his French and German counterparts later on Friday for talks about Iran.

Last month, Iran seized a British-flagged oil tanker in the strait, the Gulf’s outlet to the open seas, in apparent retaliation for Britain’s seizure in Gibraltar of an Iranian ship accused of violating European sanctions by taking oil to Syria.

Britain joined a US-led mission to escort merchant vessels through the Strait of Hormuz at the start of August but Germany and France declined to take part amid fears that it could increase the chance of open conflict with Iran.

“We…need the broadest international support possible to tackle the threats to international shipping in the Strait of Hormuz,” Raab said in a statement before he attends a meeting of European foreign ministers in Helsinki.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said a possible separate European maritime defense operation would be discussed in Helsinki, though her foreign minister Heiko Maas previously acknowledged it would be slow to get off the ground.

French defense minister Florence Parly told AFP on Thursday that she would back an EU-led “dissuasive presence”.

Last week, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said international waterways would be less secure if his country’s oil exports faced complete sanctions.

Raab reiterated Britain’s commitment, alongside Germany and France, to a 2015 nuclear deal that US President Donald Trump pulled out of last year, reimposing sanctions on Iran.

“The nuclear deal is the only deal on the table that prevents Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and we will continue working together to encourage Iran to uphold the agreement in full,” Raab said.

The 2015 deal between Iran and six world powers, reached under former US President Barack Obama, aimed to curb Iran’s disputed uranium enrichment program in exchange for the lifting of many international sanctions on Tehran.

Trump said on Monday at a G7 summit in Biarritz, France, that he might be willing to meet Rouhani in the coming weeks to end confrontation over the deal.


UAE affirms right of self-defense against threats targeting Coalition forces

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the UAE issued on Thursday a statement published by WAM news agency on the developments in Yemen .

In response to the Yemeni Foreign Ministry’s statement, the UAE said it affirms its “right of self-defense against all threats targeting the Arab Coalition forces.”

The recent aggravation in offensives against the Arab Coalition forces and civilians pose a menacing threat to the security of the coalition, it stated. “This in turn has necessitated precise and direct air strikes on the 28th and 29th August, 2019, against terrorist militias as per the rules of engagement of the Geneva Convention and international humanitarian law.”

“The military operation against the terrorist militias was based on confirmed field intelligence that the militias prepared to target the coalition forces – a development which required a preemptive operation to avert any military threat.”

ALSO READ: UN Security Council condemns escalating Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia

The strikes against the Arab Coalition were launched by armed groups affiliated with terrorist organizations, it said.

These armed groups attacked the Arab Coalition at Aden Airport, causing two injuries to the coalition forces.

“Accordingly, the Coalition responded as per their right of self-defense to protect the security of their forces.”

The UAE reaffirmed that it will never hesitate to protect the Arab Coalition forces “whenever necessity arises and retains its right of response and self-defense.”

The statement said: “The UAE intelligence departments observed over the past weeks that terrorist cells started to accelerate their activity across Yemeni territories in a way that poses menacing threat to the strides made by the Arab Coalition to uproot the scourge of terrorism in Yemen. This also threatens the efforts made by the coalition to combat the Houthi militia, which is benefiting from the spread of instability and terrorism.

The UAE, therefore, expresses deep concern over the current troubling conditions in Yemen in light of the resumption of terrorist offenses after the success made by the coalition over the past years to confront terrorism in Yemen, primarily al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is considered among the most dangerous terrorist groups and whose influence has been significantly curbed thanks to the Arab Coalition’s efforts.”


Shooting US drone removed specter of war: Gen. Hajizadeh

Commander of IRGC Aerospace Force Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh made the remarks at a military gathering in Tehran on Thursday.

Noting that the enemies had launched an extensive propaganda campaign to threaten Iran with war, General Hajizadeh said even the intelligence services of the friendly countries were warning Tehran about a looming military action.

He added that Tehran was mindful that such measures were a trick to force the country to sit down at the negotiating table, adding that the specter of war was removed when the IRGC shot down the American RQ-4 Global Hawk.

“We were confident that if the enemies were to make the first mistake, we would attack their bases and stations around us,” he added.

On June 20, In June, Iran’s IRGC downed a US Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk spy drone after it had violated Iranian airspace. Despite the US claims that the drone had been flying over international waters, Iran said it had retrieved sections of the drone in its own territorial waters where it was shot down.

The intruding drone was shot by Iran’s homegrown air defense missile system “Khordad-3rd”.

US President Donald Trump said afterward that he aborted a military strike to retaliate against Iran’s downing of the US drone because it could have killed 150 people, and signaled he was open to talks with Tehran.

Chief of General Staff of Iranian Armed Force, Major General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, said on Wednesday that the US was on the verge of attacking Iran but called off the plans after Iran downed the intruding drone.

“The US was to take a practical measure [military strike] against us but in the name of a high number of probable victims, it overturned the decision,” he said, adding, “The main reason, however, was Iran’s deterrence power.”

These are the result of the Iranian thought and the commands of the Revolution Leader, he said, noting that despite all problems, Iran enjoys great capabilities in the defense sector and the Iranian nation will not let eruption of another war.