Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaks with Donald Trump on Iran

Time: June 21, 2019  

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman spoke with US President Donald Trump on Friday to about Middle East stability and the oil market.
  • Two leaders spoke a day after Trump confirmed that he canceled a military strike against Iran
  • Trump has been stepping up a “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran

WASHINGTON: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman spoke with US President Donald Trump on Friday to about Middle East stability and the oil market, the White House said, after tensions with Iran prompted a rise in oil prices.
“The two leaders discussed Saudi Arabia’s critical role in ensuring stability in the Middle East and in the global oil market. They also discussed the threat posed by the Iranian regime’s escalatory behavior,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said in a statement.

The White House says the two leaders spoke a day after Trump confirmed that he canceled a military strike against Iran on Thursday after Iran downed a US drone that it says was operating over Iranian airspace. The US says the drone had been flying over international waters when it was attacked.
Trump has been stepping up a “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran and has blamed Iran for recent attacks on oil tankers moving through the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

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Facing up to Iran’s growing maritime threat

Time: June 20, 2019  

Black smoke billows from an oil tanker after an attack in the Gulf of Oman. (Reuters)

The maritime remedies necessary to tackle the threats posed by Iran and its proxies in the waters around the Arabian Peninsula need to be forward-looking and have an edge. With a growing threat to maritime logistics, it is time to think about the broader picture. The Iranian proxy threat network in the maritime arena is a clear and present danger. Aggressive asymmetrical attacks and the spread of advanced drone and engine proliferation are making these Arabian seas highly dangerous.

Lessons learned from previous maritime threats can be taken into consideration. The manner in which states responded to piracy in key maritime routes — from the Gulf of Guinea to the Horn of Africa and the Strait of Malacca — established a model for contending with maritime threats.  Convoys in specific sea lanes are a popular method of protection. It should also be recalled that the EU Naval Force launched airstrikes on pirate enclaves in 2012.

The causes of piracy across the regions mentioned above are tied to local socioeconomic conditions. The resulting efforts in macro and micro-financing projects and local maritime training helped to stop the demand for pirate activity by substituting illicit revenue with improvements in infrastructure. The security protection industry that developed around maritime security grew too, and specialized maritime security protection services are now part of the industrial landscape as a means of protecting marine transport.

But the Iranian threat against maritime shipping now involves asymmetrical tools such as short-range missiles, drones and limpet mines. The requirements to guard against such threats require an appreciation of other factors when mitigating threats across three plains or aspects.

The first aspect involves the maritime environment itself. The waters around the Arabian Peninsula — the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman and, of course, the Strait of Hormuz — contain thousands of dhows of various sizes, as well as medium and large vessels and tankers. It is the dhow traffic that is the most difficult part of the puzzle, because the sheer number of such vessels currently outweighs the capability to monitor them. The ability for Iran and its proxies to deliver support to the Houthis to increase their technical capability and allow them to strike Saudi and American targets on land, at sea and in the sky is only possible because of the continuing ability for this network to exist. In this sense, maritime security begins on land and the sources of the threat’s capabilities need to be severed. A greater use of surveillance capabilities and monitoring, plus an increase in information sharing on specific port and maritime sea lanes, would certainly be a good start as aggressive reconnaissance is required. A regional port operators security group is key.

The second aspect goes beyond the additional deployment of US, UK and other forces into the region for maritime security, with additional observation and protection capabilities. The time is now to put all those maritime exercises between the US, UK and Gulf states to use. The reason why is that regional navies need to step up their efforts to fill the gaps in coastal protection, and also to become more fully integrated into the maritime security picture. Part of the remedy here is better use of technology: Filling those gaps requires additional solutions involving unmanned underwater vehicles and other advanced acoustic devices for forensic collection and identification. Here a coordinated effort must be used to bring about the desired results, such as better mapping of maritime assets in the region to identify threats faster. The flow of logistical chains around the Arabian Peninsula must be kept moving. This step is part of the emerging picture regarding escorting high-value vessels and protecting energy platforms, bunkering locations, and navigation lanes.

Regional navies need to step up their efforts to fill the gaps in coastal protection.

Dr. Theodore Karasik

The third aspect is the maritime logistics and insurance industries. Rates are already rising fast. What comes next will need to be handled with care by these industries, coordinating now instead of fighting over premiums and addendum. Again, information sharing is necessary — maybe mandatory — for transparency in the market as coverage rates shoot up. There is also the necessity, if maritime events enter a violent phase with drastic results, the reinsurance industry must be ready to play its role. The regional port operators group mentioned above would be required to interface more directly with these industries. Finally, it needs to be remembered that, as vessels are hit, the country and/or company impacted will be making claims that may go against immediate forensic evidence because of pending claims and their arguments. The politics of this specific landscape requires close observation.

Naturally, the environment is also a concern in these waterways. Iran and its proxies are able to make a toxic mess. Smoke, debris and chemical spills are the refuse of terrorist mayhem in the maritime arena. This delicate environment is part of the local diet. The ability to contain the spread of pollutants as a result of any successful attack on shipping or related infrastructure requires the latest technology. The role of crisis management and civil defense will be important too.

Overall, the maritime security environment around the Arabian Peninsula needs to coalesce around cooperation in logistics and the prevention of attacks. This mission requires cooperation and coordination in terms of the geopolitical picture involving logistical chains. Corporate entities with corporate social responsibility departments need to create joint programs with government partners for rapid information exchange in a coordinating “cell.” This effort needs to go beyond previous attempts and current efforts. The full participation of all states and corporate interests is mandatory in protecting the littoral states of the waters around the Arabian Peninsula. By advancing maritime security objectives and remedies beyond the military arena, Iran and its proxies can be pushed back so that shipping remains free and clear.

  • Dr. Theodore Karasik is a non-resident senior fellow at the Lexington Institute and a national security expert, specializing in Europe, Eurasia and the Middle East. He worked for the RAND Corporation and publishes widely in the US and international media. Twitter: @tkarasik

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‘Hypocrite’ Rouhani rejects war as Iran’s drones target Saudi civilians

Time: June 19, 2019 

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, speaking on live TV, said his country will not wage war against any nation. (AFP)
  • Tehran regime has fanned sectarian flames in region for four decades, analyst tells Arab News
  • IRGC chief says Iranian missiles capable of hitting “carriers in the sea” with great precision

Rouhani’s statement sounded a note of restraint after the United States announced more troop deployments to the Middle East.

“Iran will not wage war against any nation,” he said in a speech broadcast live on state TV. “Despite all of the Americans’ efforts in the region and their desire to cut off our ties with all of the world and their desire to keep Iran secluded, they have been unsuccessful.”

But he was also contradicted by the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Gen. Hossein Salami, who said Iran’s ballistic missile technology had changed the balance of power in the Middle East.

“These missiles can hit, with great precision, carriers in the sea … they are domestically produced and are difficult to intercept and hit with other missiles,” Salami said.

He said Iran’s ballistic missile technology had changed the balance of power in the Middle East.

Before both men spoke, Saudi air defenses intercepted and shot down two Houthi drones packed with explosives. One targeted a civilian area in the southern city of Abha, and the second was shot down in Yemeni air space. There were no casualties, the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen said.

Rouhani’s offer to avoid war was “the height of hypocrisy,” the Saudi political analyst and international relations scholar Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri told Arab News.

“Rouhani is the biggest hypocrite in the world,” he said. “On the one hand, he is saying that Iran does not seek a conflict with anybody, and on the other it is launching attacks through its militias on oil tankers, oil pipelines, civilian airports and holy cities.

“This is nothing but the height of hypocrisy. Who does he think he is fooling with those words? Why are they enriching uranium? Why are they seeking nuclear bombs? What have they done over the past four decades? They have only caused trouble. They have only fanned sectarian flames in the region.”

The Saudi Cabinet, meeting in Jeddah, also condemned the Houthi attacks on Saudi civilians, and last week’s terrorist attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman, widely blamed on Iran.

 

Confrontation fears

Fears of a confrontation between Iran and its long-time foe the United States have mounted since Thursday when two oil tankers were attacked near the strategic Strait of Hormuz shipping lane, which Washington blamed on Tehran.

Iran denied involvement in the attacks and said on Monday it would soon breach limits on how much enriched uranium it can stockpile under a 2015 nuclear deal, which had sought to limit its nuclear capabilities.

Exceeding the uranium cap at the heart of the accord would prompt a diplomatic crisis, forcing the other signatories, which include China, Russia and European powers, to confront Iran.

The standoff drew a call for caution from China. Its top diplomat warned that the world should not open a “Pandora’s Box” in the Middle East, as he denounced US pressure on Iran and called on it not to drop out of the landmark nuclear deal.

Russia urged restraint on all sides.

On Monday, Iranian officials made several assertive comments about security, including the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, who said Tehran was responsible for security in the Gulf and urged US forces to leave the region.

Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on Monday announced the deployment of about 1,000 more troops to the Middle East for what he said were defensive purposes, citing concerns about a threat from Iran.

The new US deployment is in addition to a 1,500-troop increase announced last month in response to tanker attacks in May. Washington previously tightened sanctions, ordering all countries and companies to halt imports of Iranian oil or be banished from the global financial system.

‘Nuclear blackmail’

Iran’s announcement on Monday that it would soon breach limits on how much enriched uranium it can stockpile under the deal was denounced by a White House National Security Council spokesman as “nuclear blackmail.”

The move further undermines the nuclear pact, but Rouhani said on Monday the collapse of the deal would not be in the interests of the region or the world.

The nuclear deal seeks to head off any pathway to an Iranian nuclear bomb in return for the removal of most international sanctions.

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese State Councilor Wang Yi said the United States should not use “extreme pressure” to resolve issues with Iran.

Wang told reporters China, a close energy partner of Iran, was “of course, very concerned” about the situation in the Gulf and with Iran, and called on all sides to ease tension.

“We call on all sides to remain rational and exercise restraint, and not take any escalatory actions that irritate regional tensions, and not open a Pandora’s box,” Wang said.

“In particular, the US side should alter its extreme pressure methods,” Wang said. “Any unilateral behavior has no basis in international law. Not only will it not resolve the problem, it will only create an even greater crisis.”

Wang also said the Iran nuclear deal was the only feasible way to resolve its nuclear issue, and urged Iran to be prudent.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the EU would only react to any breach if the International Atomic Energy Agency formally identified one.

The Trump administration says the deal, negotiated by Democratic President Barack Obama, was flawed as it is not permanent, does not address Iran’s missile program and does not punish it for waging proxy wars in other Middle East countries.

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South Korea halts Iranian oil imports as sanction waivers cease

Time: June 17, 2019  

South Korea’s top refiner SK Energy’s main factory is seen in Ulsan, about 410 km (southeast of Seoul. (REUTERS/File Photo)
  • Government plans to extend freight rebates for shipments of non-Middle East crude to the end of 2021

SEOUL: South Korea has turned to alternative sources to replace its oil imports from Iran, which were halted in May when waivers on US sanctions against the Islamic republic expired, officials told Arab News on Sunday.

South Korea is the world’s fifth-largest crude oil importer, and was one of the countries granted a waiver by the US when President Donald Trump’s administration re-imposed sanctions on Iran last November.

Customs data shows South Korea’s imports of Iranian crude for January through May were 3.87 million tonnes, or 187,179 barrels per day (bpd), compared to 5.45 million tonnes over the same period last year.

South Korea is the biggest buyer of Iranian condensate, an ultra-light oil that is low in sulfur and produces no residue, and is used as a raw material for the manufacture of petrochemicals. Iranian condensate is also cheaper than condensate from other countries, such as Qatar, and provides a higher yield of heavy naptha — , a raw material for the production of petrochemicals including paraxylene, which is used the manufacture of plastic bottles.

SK Incheon Petrochem, Hyundai Oilbank and Hanwha Total Petrochemical have turned to other countries, including Qatar and Russia, to replace Iranian condensate, according to industry sources.

Last year, South Korea bought and tested as many as 23 different types of condensate from 15 countries as possible substitutes for condensate from Iran, at a cost of around $9 billion, government and trade data
showed.

South Korean petrochemical makers bought condensate from gas fields in Africa and Europe, in addition to tapping more supplies from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the US and Australia.

“We’ve increased imports of condensate from Qatar, Australia and Russia,” an employee of Hanwha Total Petrochemical told Arab News, on condition of anonymity. “We also started buying oil from the Republic of Equatorial Guinea.”

The refiner has also raised its imports of heavy naphtha in the absence of Iranian condensate, he added.

According to customs data, South Korea’s Qatari crude oil imports rose 10.1 percent year-on-year to 660,752 tonnes, or 155,596 bpd in May, while oil shipments from Saudi Arabia rose 5.1 percent to 3.39 million tonnes, or 798,695 bpd. Meanwhile, imports of crude oil from the US more than tripled.

In an effort to help local refiners find alternative oil supplies, the South Korean government plans to extend freight rebates for shipments of non-Middle East crude to the end of 2021, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

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Responsibility ‘almost certainly’ lies with Tehran, says Jeremy Hunt

Time: June 17, 2019  

Britain’s prime ministerial candidate Jeremy Hunt appears on BBC TV’s The Andrew Marr Show in London on Sunday. (Reuters)
  • “We have done our own intelligence assessment and the phrase we used is almost certain,” Hunt said
  • Blast-hit tankers to be assessed off UAE coast before their cargos are unloaded

LONDON/DUBAI: British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned on Saturday there was a “great risk” of escalation in the Gulf, adding that Washington wanted the situation to end in negotiations.The two oil tankers crippled in attacks in the Gulf of Oman last week that Washington and Riyadh have blamed on Iran are being assessed off the coast off the UAE before their cargos are unloaded, the ships’ operators said on Sunday.
A Japanese-owned tanker, the Kokuka Courageous, and a Norwegian-operated one, the Front Altair, were attacked on Thursday and left ablaze as they were passing through the Gulf of Oman. Britain has concluded that responsibility “almost certainly” lies with Iran. Asked on BBC television about the possibility of escalation, he said: “This is the great risk of the situation that we are in. “Both sides in this dispute think that the other side wouldn’t want a war. We are urging all sides to de-escalate.
“Having spoken to President Trump, I am absolutely clear that for America they want this to end in negotiations. “Let’s see Iran stop its destabilizing activities in Lebanon through Hezbollah, in Yemen where they are firing missiles into Saudi Arabia, on the Gulf as we have seen. That is the long-term solution.”
The damaged Kokuka Courageous arrived on Sunday at a UAE anchorage site as Saudi Arabia accused Iran of being behind the attack. US President Donald Trump has said the twin attacks had Iran “written all over it” — rejecting Tehran’s vehement denial. Hunt defended his assertion that Iran was “almost certain” to blame for the attacks.
“We have done our own intelligence assessment. We have got videos of what happened. We have seen evidence. We don’t believe anyone else could have done this,” he said.
The owner of the Japanese vessel said Friday in Tokyo however that the crew saw a “flying object” prior to a second blast on board citing two apparent attacks.
He added he believed initial reports suggesting a torpedo was involved in the attack were incorrect as the damage was above the sea surface not below water, which would have suggested a torpedo.

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Iran behind tanker attacks, Strait of Hormuz not at risk, says Trump

Time: June 15, 2019  

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An oil tanker is seen after it was attacked at the Gulf of Oman, in waters between Gulf Arab states and Iran, June 13, 2019. (Reuters)
  • CENTCOM releases video showing Revolutionary Guard removing mine from stricken ship

WASHINGTON, DUBAI: Calling Iran “a nation of terror,” US President Donald Trump on Friday publicly accused the country of responsibility for recent attacks on oil tankers near the strategic Strait of Hormuz. Trump said Iran’s culpability was “exposed” by the US.

Britain also blamed Iran, saying no other state or non-state actor could have been responsible.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt called on Iran to stop all forms of destabilizing activity.

“These latest attacks build on a pattern of destabilizing Iranian behavior and pose a serious danger to the region,” he said.

In this Powerpoint slide provided by US Central Command damage from an explosion, left, and a likely limpet mine can be seen on the hull of the civilian vessel M/V Kokuka Courageous in the Gulf of Oman, June 13, 2019, as the guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge (DDG 96), not pictured, approaches the damaged ship. (AFP /US NAVY)

US Central Command released footage it said shows Iran’s Revolutionary Guard removing an unexploded limpet mine from the Japanese-owned tanker Kokuka Courageous.

“Iran did do it,” Trump told the “Fox and Friends” show. “You know they did it because you saw the boat. I guess one of the mines didn’t explode and it’s probably got essentially Iran written all over it.”

Trump dismissed previous threats by Tehran that in case of conflict it could block the Hormuz Strait — a narrow seaway vital to the world’s oil supplies.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Britain says no other state or non-state actor could have been responsible.

• The UAE calls tanker attacks a ‘dangerous escalation.’

• UN chief Antonio Guterres calls for an independent probe.

“They’re not going to be closing it,” he said. Trump said the US has been “very tough on sanctions. They’ve been told in very strong terms we want to get them back to the table.”

The black-and-white video of the Iranians alongside the Kokuka Courageous came after its crew abandoned ship after seeing the undetonated explosive on its hull, said Capt. Bill Urban, a spokesman for CENTCOM.

Embedded video

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In the video, the boat from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard pulls alongside Kokuka Courageous at 4:10 p.m. on Thursday. The Iranians reach up and grab along where the limpet mine could be seen in the photo. They then sail away.

A US official said Iranian military fast-boats in the Gulf of Oman were preventing two privately owned tugboats from towing away the Norwegian-owned Front Altairan oil tanker.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an independent investigation to establish the facts.

Guterres said he was available to mediate if the parties agreed, however he added that “at the present moment we don’t see a mechanism of dialogue possible to be in place.” Guterres said the world could not afford a major confrontation in the Gulf.

In this Powerpoint slide provided by US Central Command damage from an explosion, left, and a likely limpet mine can be seen on the hull of the civilian vessel M/V Kokuka Courageous in the Gulf of Oman, June 13, 2019, as the guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge (DDG 96), not pictured, approaches the damaged ship. (AFP /US NAVY)

The UAE said that the attacks just weeks after four ships were damaged off the UAE marked a “dangerous escalation.”

“The attack against the tankers in the Gulf of Oman is a worrying development and a dangerous escalation,” Anwar Gargash, UAE minister of state for foreign affairs, tweeted.

In another tweet, Gargash said Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s “credibility (is) diminishing. Public relations is no real substitute to constructive policies. De-escalation in (the) current situation requires wise actions not empty words.”

Oil prices have surged in response to the geopolitical tension.

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih said the Kingdom was monitoring the situation with “great concern.” He “called upon the international community to assume its joint responsibility and take firm action to secure maritime traffic in the region’s waterways.”

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Yemen vice president praises coalition’s efforts against Iran’s interference

Time: June 09, 2019  

Yemeni Vice President Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar said he was appreciative of the Saudi-led Arab coalition for its part in defending Yemen against what he called ‘Iran’s destructive influence in the country.’ (File/AFP)
  • Houthis killed eight civilians during Eid
  • The militia have suffered heavy losses in recent fighting

JEDDAH: Yemeni Vice President Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar said on Saturday that he was grateful for the Saudi-led Arab coalition in defending Yemen from “Iran’s destructive influence in the country.”

His comments came during a discussion with military commanders in Yemen as they spoke about the progress made in the fight against the Iran-backed Houthi militia, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Al-Ahmar called on the residents of Hajjah to support the efforts of the army to establish security and stability ion the province.

Meanwhile, the Yemeni army launched a military operation targeting sites in the east of Sanaa.

Army units and forces of the Popular Resistance carried out a surprise attack on the positions of the Houthis.

According to sources, the militia suffered heavy losses, while no injuries were recorded among the units of the attacking army.

In Taiz, the Houthi snipers shot and killed a woman and wounded another, local sources reported.

During Eid, eight civilians were killed by Houthi militia in Taiz.

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Qatar condemned after backtracking on Makkah summits declaration

03/06/19

  • Qatar’s foreign minister said Doha could not support the communique because it contradicted Qatar’s ‘foreign policy’
  • The UAE and Bahrain accused Qatar of backtracking on what had been agreed at the meetings

JEDDAH: Qatar on Sunday said it rejected the final declaration of Arab and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summits held in Makkah last week, despite originally endorsing the statement.

Doha could not support the communique because it contradicted Qatar’s foreign policy, the Qatari foreign minister said.

Saudi Arabia’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Adel Al Jubeir, accused Qatar of distorting the facts, while the UAE and Bahrain said Doha had gone back on what had been agreed at the meetings

“Qatar had reservations today about two statements that reject Iranian interference in the affairs of the regional states, and the Arab summit’s statement confirmed the centrality of the Palestinian cause and the establishment of a Palestinian state in accordance with the borders of 67, with East Jerusalem as the capital. Everyone knows that Qatar’s distortion of the truth is not surprising,” Al-Jubeir said on Twitter.

Al-Jubeir said Qatar should have made its position clear during the meeting. “Countries that make their own decisions when participating in conferences and meetings announce their positions and reservations in the context of meetings and in accordance with norms, not after the meetings,” he said.

Anwar Gargash, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said Qatar’s change of position pointed to weakness and a lack of credibility.

“It seems to me that to attend and agree in meetings then retract what was agreed upon is either the result of pressure on the vulnerable who lost their sovereignty, bad intentions or lack of credibility, and these factors could be combined,” he tweeted.

Bahrain’s Foreign Minister, Sheikh Khalid Al-Khalifa, said the move demonstrated the weakness of Qatar’s relations with its neighbors.

In a statement, he said “Qatar’s unresponsiveness to the fair demands that were presented by our countries has led to the persistence of its crisis and prolongation.”

“We have no interest in prolonging Qatar’s crisis, but it does not want a solution after it disagreed with its brothers, a matter that absolutely does not redound to the benefit of brotherly Qatari citizens who will remain an integral part of the Gulf’s society whose countries and people are linked by the unity of purpose and a shared destiny,” he said.

Qatar has been boycotted by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt since June 2017 over its support for extremist groups and for its close relations with Iran.

Despite the breakdown in relations, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman invited Doha to attend emergency meetings of the GCC and Arab League last week in Makkah. The meetings were called in response to an increase in tensions with Iran.

The communique released Friday strongly condemned Iran for destabilizing the region and said Tehran “posed a direct and serious threat.”

“The statements of the Gulf and Arab summits were ready in advance and we were not consulted on them,” Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani told Al-Araby broadcaster. “Qatar has reservations on the Arab and Gulf summits because some of their terms are contrary to Doha’s foreign policy.”

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At Islamic Summit, King Salman slams terror, extremism

Time: June 02, 2019  

1 / 4
OIC leaders pose for a group photo in Makkah. (SPA)
  • Monarch expresses support for ‘legitimate rights’ of ‘brotherly Palestinian people’
  • Says OIC restructuring and reforming crucial to address the challenges facing the Muslim world

MAKKAH: Extremism and terrorism are “the most serious scourge” facing the world, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman said on Friday at the 14th Islamic Summit, organized by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Makkah.

The summit’s theme was “Hand in Hand Toward the Future,” and was chaired by the king, who received leaders and heads of Muslim-majority countries.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Makkah Gov. Prince Khalid Al-Faisal also received the guests.

In his speech, King Salman thanked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for his efforts as chairman of the previous summit.

The king also thanked OIC Secretary-General Yousef Al-Othaimeen for his efforts to promote Islamic cooperation.

“The Palestinian cause is the cornerstone of the OIC’s work, and is the focus of our attention until the brotherly Palestinian people get all their legitimate rights,” King Salman said.

Efforts must be made to combat extremism and terrorism, expose their supporters, and dry up their financial resources in all available ways, he added.

FASTFACT

• The OIC secretary-general has congratulated King Salman on assuming the presidency of the Islamic Summit.

• The OIC Summit denounced US moves to transfer its embassy to Jerusalem and recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

• The OIC called for a ‘boycott’ of countries that have opened diplomatic missions in the city.

• The OIC condemned the inhumane situation of Rohingya Muslims, urging a halt to violence.

“During this holy month (of Ramadan), commercial vessels, including two Saudi oil tankers, were subjected near the UAE’s territorial waters to terrorist sabotage. This poses a serious threat to the security and safety of maritime traffic, and to regional and international security,” he said.

“Also, two oil facilities in Saudi Arabia were attacked by drones launched by Iranian-backed terrorist militias … These subversive terrorist acts not only target the Kingdom and the Gulf region, but also the security of navigation and world energy supplies,” he added.

“It is painful that Muslims make up the highest proportion of displaced people and refugees worldwide due to unrest, wars, and a decline in safe living opportunities in their countries,” King Salman said.

“Emanating from this, Saudi Arabia has been seeking to reconcile different viewpoints to serve Islamic countries and their peoples, while continuing to provide assistance … through humanitarian and relief efforts in order to maintain the sovereignty, security and stability of Islamic countries.”

Restructuring, developing and reforming the OIC is crucial to address the challenges facing the Muslim world, the king added.

“Through its presidency of the summit, Saudi Arabia will endeavor to work with OIC member states and the OIC General Secretariat … to achieve (people’s) aspirations,” he said.

Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir said the Kingdom has always worked for the stability of all Arab and Muslim peoples.

“It always tries to build bridges of investments, commerce, empower women and youths. It continually does its best to create an environment where technology and innovation prevail, not only in Saudi Arabia but also everywhere in the Muslim world,” he added.

Al-Othaimeen said he received a cable message from Chinese President Xi Jinping that read: “The OIC represents a symbol of solidarity among Muslim countries, and it has been making important contributions to promote cooperation among its member states for 50 years, and that is really appreciated.”

The message added: “The Chinese side attaches great importance to its friendly relations with Muslim countries, and the OIC is an important bridge for cooperation between China and the Islamic world.”

The cable continued: “We are also keen to work with Muslim countries to promote mutual political trust, promote practical cooperation, intensify civilizational dialogue, open up wider horizons for friendly relations between China and the Islamic world, and contribute to build a society of common destiny for mankind.”

Al-Jubeir said the Islamic world is facing many challenges, but “there are even more opportunities to develop. The challenges are in extremism, terrorism, sectarianism and conflicts.”

It is painful that Muslims make up the highest proportion of displaced people and refugees worldwide due to unrest, wars and decline of safe living opportunities in their countries.

King Salman

The Islamic world has tremendous natural resources, he added. “The Muslim world makes up a third of the whole world, but unluckily there are some parties that work on hindering these opportunities and damaging the Muslim world’s capabilities,” he said.

“Some others spread sectarianism, while others do their utmost to support terrorism. Others provide terror militias with ballistic missiles and drones,” Al-Jubeir added.

“The country that does that all is Iran … The GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) states, Arab and Muslim countries will never accept such acts and behaviors,” he said.

“The whole Islamic world is now saying to Iran: Adopt policies that lead to respecting other people if you want to be respected,” he added.

“Supporting terror militias, bombing embassies, making clandestine terrorist cells, and smuggling weapons and explosives to other countries — these cannot be the behaviors of a country that wants to live peacefully and gain its neighbors’ respect,” he said, adding that Iran is the world’s top sponsor of terrorism.

The solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “should be based on international resolutions, the Arab Peace Initiative, and the establishment of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital,” Al-Jubeir said.

Jerry Maher, former CEO of Radio Sawt Beirut, told Arab News: “Arab and Muslim countries will review their policies and relations with Iran if it continues to escalate tensions in the region. Confrontation is possible.”

He said: “The message from the Arab and Muslim worlds to Iran is clear: That 1.5 billion Muslims stand behind Saudi Arabia and its leadership. They also reject these continuous threats and attacks against civilian areas (in the Kingdom).”

He added: “They (Tehran) didn’t expect the Arab and Muslim worlds to respond that quickly. Iran’s foreign minister and his deputy are visiting countries in the East and West in an attempt to find a solution, after they realized that something unexpected could happen.”

Saudi columnist Khalid Al-Sulaiman told Arab News that the Kingdom “is looking for active roles to be played by (Muslim) countries … to counter challenges in the region.”

He said: “Saudi Arabia has warned against Iranian expansionism, but that warning wasn’t taken seriously. Now Saudi Arabia is putting the Muslim world face to face with its responsibilities. Saudi Arabia today is the last line of defense for the Arab world.”

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‘Criminal’ Iran condemned at Makkah summit

Time: June 01, 2019  

King Salman said: “Iran’s criminal acts… require that all of us work seriously to preserve the security and achievements of GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council).” (SPA)
  • With the exception of Iraq, participants urge world to curb Tehran

JEDDAH: Arab and Muslim states rallied solidly behind Saudi Arabia on Friday as King Salman presented a foolproof case against Iran for its “criminal” actions in the region and beyond.

King Salman told an emergency Arab summit in Makkah on Friday that decisive action was needed to stop Iranian “escalations” following attacks on Gulf oil installations.

A joint statement issued by Arab leaders condemned “acts by the terrorist Houthi militias supported by Iran who (sent) aircraft that crossed into Saudi Arabia to two oil pumping stations and acts of sabotage that affected commercial ships in territorial waters of the United Arab Emirates.”

They said Iran’s behavior “poses a direct and serious threat” and called on “the international community to take a firm stand to confront Iran and its destabilizing acts in the region.”

The summits convened by Saudi Arabia in the holy city of Makkah saw near total isolation of Iran.

“The absence of a firm deterrent stance against Iranian behavior is what led to the escalation we see today,” King Salman told the two late-night consecutive meetings.

King Salman said: “Iran’s criminal acts… require that all of us work seriously to preserve the security and achievements of GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council).”

King Salman called on the international community to thwart Iran’s behaviors and for “using all means to stop the Iranian regime from interfering in the internal affairs of other countries, harboring global and regional terrorist entities and threatening international waterways.”

The right of Saudi Arabia and the UAE to defend their interests after the attacks on the oil pumping stations in the Kingdom and tankers off the UAE were supported in a Gulf Arab statement and a separate communique issued after the wider summit.

He added that Saudi Arabia is keen to protect the region from the scourge of war and that its “hand remains extended for peace.”

“The kingdom is keen to preserve the stability and security of the region, to spare it the scourge of war and to realize peace and stability,” King Salman said.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi told the summit that this month’s attacks provided an impetus to renew discussions on joint Arab defense mechanisms.

The Gulf Arab communique, carried by Saudi state news agency SPA, said the six nations had discussed the GCC defense mechanism during their meeting.

The unified Arab stand was welcomed by security and international affairs analysts.

Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri, a Riyadh-based Saudi political analyst and international relations scholar, said Iran faced total isolation in the Muslim world.

“A message has gone to Iran that it stands isolated for what it has unleashed in the Arab and Muslim world. Iran is responsible for the chaos in many Arab and Muslim states. Its militias have created havoc. It poses a great danger to the safety and security of the region and the world at large,” he told Arab News. “King Salman has made a good case against Iran and explained to the Arab and Muslim world how Iran is sowing division and playing with fire.”

Al-Shehri said he was happy to see the Arab and Muslim world putting up a united front against Iran and its machinations. “Iraq was the only exception last night, but by and large the Arab and Muslim world have stood by Saudi Arabia. To have assembled the leaders of the Arab and Muslim world at such a short notice is a great diplomatic achievement of Saudi Arabia and indicates the respect that Saudi Arabia commands in the Arab and Muslim world.”

Salman Al-Ansari, president and founder of the Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee (SAPRAC), said the criucial summits in Makkah highlighted a kind of political diplomacy, particularly in regard to sending clear messages to those — foremost Iran — who threaten regional and global security.

“Iran continues its hostile policy of feeding and fuelling sectarianism and spreading unrest among the countries of the region including Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and others. Violations are apparent to every observer in the world. The danger posed by Iran goes beyond the Gulf and threatens the security of the whole world,” he said.

Driving his point home, he said: “I would like to ask a question of European and American citizens with Arab citizens listening: Can you imagine awakening one day to the news of no oil in your country when you know that oil is the most important fuel in your daily life? The answer will certainly be a nightmare, especially since all the elements of life in the world depend mainly on energy, and basically on oil.”

He said all Saudi Arabia was doing was trying to tell the world that the Iranian threat is not only affecting the Kingdom but also threatens the most important sources of energy in the world.

“The Tehran regime threatens the most important international shipping lanes in the world through which giant oil tankers move to provide European countries, America and the rest of the  world with the necessities for maintaining the sustainability and continued growth of their countries.”
He said the Iranian threat was not only affecting Saudi Arabia or the Gulf region but also affecting everyone in the world. “The Iranian regime is behaving irresponsibly by threatening the largest and most important sources of energy and oil in the world. The threat comes from Iranian ballistic missiles which support the terrorist militias in Yemen. Iran threatens the oil tankers in the Bab Al-Mandab and the Strait of Hormuz which are “the most important international shipping lanes in the world.”

“Iran’s behavior amounts to a confrontation of the international community and its major responsibility. Do you want peace, security, and development? Or ruin, poverty, and disorder? The answer is yours.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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