A visit by an Israeli far-right leader to Al-Aqsa sparks outrage and calls for a UN meeting

U.S. President Barack Obama and Middle East Security Analysts: Saudi Arabia’s Oil Cut and the Problem with the Bush Expenditure

The president told CNN that there will be consequences for Saudi Arabia after the group of oil- producing countries made a reduction in oil output.

“This move will cause a great deal of trouble between the US and Saudi Arabia, and will cause a great deal of backlash from both sides of the aisle in Washington DC,” says the director of Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy.

Firas Maksad, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, a think tank in D.C., says Saudi Arabia has legitimate business reasons for the cut. It wants higher fuel prices now because of a global recession.

It wasn’t just the sheer size of the cut in oil production by OPEC+. It was also the timing — coming less than three months after Biden visited Saudi Arabia to lobby against such a reduction, and just ahead of the U.S. midterm elections where prices at the gas pump could have an effect on voters.

Jonathan Panikoff, an expert on middle east security at the Atlantic Council and a former United States intelligence analyst on the region, says that it feels to punish the Biden administration.

“I think it’s hard to think it’s otherwise because the Saudis aren’t naive about the U.S. political situation,” Panikoff says. “It may not have been the core reason for doing it, but they absolutely were happy to do it.”

Source: https://www.npr.org/2022/10/13/1128523146/saudi-arabia-russia-opec-oil-cut-biden-congress-washington

OPEC, the Middle East and the Atlantic Council: How should the U.S. behave in the context of the oil crisis? A Commentary from Maksad

This week, OPEC — which stands for the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries — lowered its forecasts for crude oil demand in the coming months because of global inflation, soaring interest rates and geopolitical tensions.

Maksad says the U.S. officials were in contact with their counterparts in the Gulf region before the meeting. He says there was a lot of knowledge of what the U.S. administration was talking about.

But the Atlantic Council’s Panikoff says freezing weapons sales to Saudi Arabia may not be the wisest move as it could allow China to fill that void. He says instead, the U.S. needs to be “smarter” about how it approaches the Saudis.

I don’t think we have accepted the idea that he is different from other leaders. And so we’re going to have to have a different relationship,” he says.

“Maybe we don’t sell the more advanced aircraft” he says. We might remove some batteries and say, “Look we recognize your security, we’re not trying to diminish it.” We have to balance our security goals as well.'”

“And so they are building bridges to China, which, by the way, accounts for over a quarter of oil exports from Saudi Arabia,” he says, “and also with Russia, that had been sort of expanding its role in the Middle East.”

Ben-Gvir’s visit to the Al-Aqsa Mosque: Israel’s support of the Palestinians in the Middle East

Israel is lobbying against calls for an urgent session of the United Nations Security Council after far-right national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, visited a sensitive holy site in Jerusalem.

The hilltop compound where the Al-Aqsa Mosque is located was visited on Tuesday just days after the new ultranationalist government took office. The site is revered in Islam as the Noble Sanctuary, where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven, but in Judaism it is called the Temple Mount, because it was the location of the biblical Temples.

Ben-Gvir, previously convicted in an Israeli court of ties to an anti-Arab racist organization, has long called for expanded access and rights for Jews on the hilltop. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended Ben-Gvir’s visit, saying there would be no change to the status quo of the holy site. Changes to the way the religious site is run could cause bloodshed, warned Arab countries and the US.

The first Arab country to criticize Ben-Gir’s visit to the compound was the US, which held calls with Turkey and Jordan. Many of the countries said the visit was “provocative” and slammed it.

Elham Fakhro says that the public in the Gulf does not like Israeli actions against the Palestinians, but that ties with Arab states can theoretically change Israel’s policies.

“I think what’s happening now is there’s been a maturing of the relationship between the two sides. I think the Emiratis are more confident in the relationship with Israel,” says Fakhro, author of a forthcoming book on the U.S.-brokered deals that formalized ties between Israel and the Gulf Arab states of Bahrain and the UAE in 2020.

She says that the U.S. is trying to use their influence. Whether or not Netanyahu is going to be willing partner in that is a different question.

“That’s completely out of line.” “It’s not normal.” It’s totally intolerable,” former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert tells NPR. “I understand how the international community feels.”

CNN’s Meanwhile in the Middle East newsletter, a three-time-a-week look inside the region’s biggest stories, first published this version of the story. Sign up here.

“Back in the day, you would have negative discussions about Saudi Arabia affiliated to human rights abuses,” said Andreas Krieg, research fellow at the King’s College London Institute of Middle Eastern Studies. “But now they’re trying to push new narratives of being a country of development and one that can build futuristic cities.”

The kingdom is building a new downtown in the capital Riyadh, its sovereign wealth fund announced on Friday. The new square project is being Spearheaded by the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, which will accommodate hundreds of thousands of residents.

At the heart of the project is the “Mukaab,” a 400-meter (1,312-foot) high, 400-meter wide and 400-meter-long cube that is big enough to fit 20 Empire State buildings. Public Investment Fund, a $620-billion sovereign wealth fund, says it offers “an immersive experience” with landscapes changing from outer space to green vistas. The project is due to be completed in 2030.

The hologram technology is meant to offer a new reality for consumers as they shop and dine. The building also includes recreational facilities as well as hotels and residential units.

The Challenges of Saudi Arabia’s Implications for Tourism and Investment in the Gulf and Middle East: Recent Developments on the Line and Other Future Projects

Saudi Arabia, which has been the subject of bad press for decades due to human rights violations, has embarked on an ambitious project to diversify the economy away from oil and shed its image as a conservative, closed-off state.

But some analysts say Saudi Arabia has serious regional competition from neighboring Dubai and the Qatari capital Doha, both of which have for decades tried to position themselves as regional tourism and investment hubs.

“Being second in the race is always a tough place to start when you want to become the leader,” said Simon Henderson, director of the Gulf and Energy Policy program at The Washington Institute. He added that it is particularly difficult for Saudi Arabia because “they’ve spent decades not attracting foreign, non-Muslim visitors.”

Some have doubts about whether the project will come to fruition. Work on some of the mega projects announced by Saudi Arabia has been slow.

A $500 billion futuristic city with a giant artificial moon and robot maids was announced by the leader of Saudi Arabia in 2021, according to a report. The Line, a giant linear city, was unveiled last year, and it was intended to house 9 million people.

Saudi media say the kingdom wants to double the capital’s size in the next ten years and transform it into a cultural and economic hub for the region.

DanaAhmed, a Gulf researcher at theAmnesty International, wrote on the social network that the more absurd and futuristic these projects get, she can’t help but imagine how much more dystopia they will bring.

Source: https://www.cnn.com/2023/02/20/middleeast/saudi-arabia-mukaab-mime-intl/index.html

The New City, Accra: The fate of the Mukaab building, the smallest mosque in the Middle East, as declared by the UNCTAD

PIF told CNN that details about the cost and financing plans have not been revealed and that more information will be announced in due course.

Saudi Arabia is hoping to raise its FDI to 388 billion riyals ($103 billion) annually by the year 2030. According to the UNCTAD, the kingdom has $19 billion of foreign direct investment as of 2021.

The price per barrel is currently in the low $80s, he said, noting that the kingdom may need oil prices to pass the $100-mark in order to finance national megaprojects.

Some ridiculed the new city while others pointed out its similarity to the holiest site in Islam, Mecca.

The Kaaba, the name of which comes from the same root as the name of the new Mukaab building, is the structure that billions of Muslims turn to for prayer five times a day, and to which millions make pilgrimage every year.

Two weeks after the Turkey-Syria earthquake, the death toll increased as Turkey ended its search and rescue operations.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration said that the body of Christian Atsu had arrived in his native country on Sunday evening after it was flown from Turkey. Ghana’s Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia and a large military procession met the coffin on arrival in Accra.

Turkey’s Vice President Fuat Oktay stated that more than 105,000 buildings were either collapsing or about to collapse.

Source: https://www.cnn.com/2023/02/20/middleeast/saudi-arabia-mukaab-mime-intl/index.html

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is accused of attacking a tanker ship in the Persian Gulf region with an airborne object involving the Campo Square

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Iran of attacking a tanker ship in the Persian Gulf region, apparently referring to a Campo Square which was lightly damaged on February 10.

Background: The Campo Square “was hit by an airborne object while in the Arabian Sea approximately 300 nautical miles off the coasts of India and Oman” on the night of February 10, ship management company Eletson said in a statement, adding that there was minor damage to the vessel. The ship “is owned by a Liberian company which is linked to the British company Zodiac Maritime Ltd.,” Zodiac Maritime told CNN Sunday. The company’s chairman, Eyal Ofer, is Israeli.

Why it matters: It’s the second time in less than three months that a tanker linked to Israel has been attacked off the coast of Oman. The United States claimed that it struck the Pacific Zircon on November 15.

Iran International TV gained significance after the anti-government protests broke out across Iran, and Tehran restricted the internet and information in the country. Iran has accused Saudi Arabia of funding the channel.

Why it matters: Iran has sanctioned Iran International’s parent company Volant Media for “supporting terrorism.” The channel was previously warned by UK authorities in November that their reporters were under increasing threats. A man was arrested near the London station on February 11 and charged with a terrorism offense.

Source: https://www.cnn.com/2023/02/20/middleeast/saudi-arabia-mukaab-mime-intl/index.html

The Saudi Foreign Minister in Tunisian Civil War: The Hijab, or What is a personal choice of a man? Comment on the comments of Prince Faisal bin Farhan

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said at a Munich security forum on Saturday that consensus was building in the Arab world that isolating Syria was not working and that dialogue with Damascus was needed “at some point” to at least address humanitarian issues, including a return of refugees, Reuters reported.

The minister spoke of a change in the policy of Saudi Arabia and other Arab states during Syria’s civil war. Assad has been supported by Arab states that normalized relations with him in recent years after being snubbed by the West.

There is a right to not be convinced by the hijab or anything else, but you do not have the right to say what you think, because at the least it is a lack of knowledge.

The head covering is a personal choice according to other guests on the television show. Many more people took to social media to accuse the actor of inciting against hijab-wearing women. A clip of his comments posted on Facebook by the channel attracted over 12,000 comments, many opposing his position.

The hijab is an issue that is very controversial in Tunisia. Prior to the Arab Spring, the covering was extremely restricted by the country’s rulers. The new government, led by the moderate Islamist Ennahda party, lifted the restrictions.

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