RIYADH, April 28, 2018 (Reuters) - New U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Saudi Arabia on Saturday on the first stop of his hastily-arranged visit to the Middle East as decisions on the Iran nuclear deal and a review of the U.S. role in Syria loom large.
In Riyadh, Pompeo was greeted on the tarmac by Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir. He is expected to meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and King Salman during the visit.
A State Department official said the visit to Riyadh, Jerusalem and Amman just two days after Pompeo was sworn-in as America’s top diplomat was also aimed at forging closer ties with important U.S allies in the Middle East.
Pompeo said on Friday he would discuss the future of the 2015 Iran deal in his talks.
U.S. President Donald Trump has called the nuclear agreement the “worst deal ever” and threatened to reimpose sanctions against Iran unless European allies Britain, France and Germany agree to fix it. Resuming sanctions would likely kill the deal.
Russia, China, Germany, Britain and France, which all struck the accord with Iran and the United States, see the deal as the best way to stop Iran from developing a nuclear bomb.
Speaking after a NATO foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels on Friday, Pompeo said Trump had not taken a decision on whether to abandon the deal but was not likely to stick to it without substantial changes.
“There’s been no decision, so the team is working and I am sure we will have lots of conversations to deliver what the president has made clear,” Pompeo told a news conference.
Earlier this week French President Emmanuel Macron called on the United States not to abandon the deal, although later he acknowledged he thought Trump would pull out, based on his long opposition to it.
The Trump administration is also currently reviewing the U.S.’s role in fighting Islamic State in Syria’s seven-year conflict. Trump has also called on Gulf countries to provide funding and troops to stabilize areas once controlled by the group in Syria.
Pompeo was one of the first Trump administration officials to visit Saudi Arabia early in his tenure as CIA director.
RIYADH, April 12, 2018 (Reuters) - Fashionable women, dark-haired Saudis and blonde Eastern Europeans alike, fill the gold-trimmed halls of Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel, marking the start of Saudi Arabia’s first-ever fashion week.
Models and makeup artists preparing for the inaugural Saudi episode of Arab Fashion Week said they were surprised the event was taking place in the deeply conservative Muslim kingdom.
“We are so excited because this is the first fashion week in Saudi Arabia, so we are making history,” model Anita Dmycroska said.
Strict social restrictions have eased dramatically under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has reined in religious police, introduced public concerts and lifted bans on cinemas and women driving.
Yet, restrictions persist. Tuesday’s reception was open to men and cameras, but only women are permitted at catwalk events and outside photography is barred.
Women in public places in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, wear abayas — loose-fitting, full-length robes symbolic of piety.
With recent reforms, women in some cities have begun to don more colorful abayas, sometimes trimmed with lace and velvet or left open to reveal long skirts or jeans.
No abayas will feature on the catwalk. The event hosts invitation-only fashion viewings and a Harvey Nichols pop-up store in a tent that was still being erected hours before the first show.
Another tent holds the catwalk, featuring designers from Brazil, Lebanon, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United States and the United Arab Emirates.
The event, initially scheduled for last month, was postponed because of delays in issuing visas. Industry figures from Italy, Russia and Lebanon flocked to Riyadh, many for the first time, to admire the work of local and international designers.
Layla Issa Abouzeid, Saudi Arabia country director for the Dubai-based Arab Fashion Council (AFC) organizing the event, said 1,500 people were expected to attend, including 400 from abroad.
She hopes the event will bring revenue into the kingdom and highlight local talent.
“[When] people go to Paris on the Paris Fashion week, the hotels are completely fully booked,” she said. “I want to create the same demand in Saudi Arabia, twice a year. I want to create a platform for the local designers to go worldwide.”
Lebanese designer Naja Saade came to Riyadh to display his couture collection.
“I’m very proud to participate in this first edition of Arab Fashion Week in Saudi Arabia, because it’s a part of the revolution of the women in this country,” he said.
By bringing talent from Europe and placing international brands on the same catwalk as Arab brands, he hopes to elevate local fashion designers.
AFC wants to introduce fashion courses, internships and scholarships to Saudi Arabia and develop a fashion district in Riyadh.
Jacob Abrian, AFC founder and chief executive, said many Arabs have had to leave their countries to have fashion careers, but this recurring event allows them to stay in the region.
“I was always asking myself, why do us Arabs have to travel abroad to find our future? Why can’t we find our future in our own countries?”
RIYADH, April 11, 2018 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia’s air defence forces intercepted a ballistic missile over Riyadh on Wednesday, state media said, after at least three blasts were heard and three clouds of smoke were seen in the sky above the capital.
Yemen’s Houthis has stepped up missile attacks on the kingdom in what it says is retaliation for air raids by a Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iran-aligned armed movement.
One man was killed in Riyadh last month by debris after the military shot down a flurry of missiles, the first casualty of the Yemen war in the Saudi capital.
Saudi Arabia and a coalition of mostly Gulf Arab states intervened in Yemen’s civil war in 2015 to try and push back the Houthis after the movement drove the internationally recognized government into Saudi exile.
The attack on Wednesday marked the fourth time in five months that missiles have flown over Riyadh, as the Houthis step up efforts to demonstrate they can reach the Saudi capital, and threatens to escalate a regional rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Dubai, MArch 30, 2018 - Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Friday day sounded the alarm to the international community that if action is not taken soon to rein in Iran’s mischief in the region and world, that war is inevitable.
He called on world leaders to help check Iran’s blatant violations by squeezing it economically and politically.
He urged nations to keep up sanctions on Iran
“If we don’t succeed in what we are trying to do, we will likely have war with Iran in 10-15 years,” he said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.
Prince Mohammad said failure to intervene in Yemen would have caused a bigger crisis.
“If we didn’t act in 2015 we would have had Yemen divided in half between the Houthis and al Qaeda,” Prince Mohammed said.
President Donald Trump, who met Prince Mohammad in Washington last week, has threatened to scrap the nuclear deal and has nominated critics of the pact to top positions recently, including Mike Pompeo as secretary of state and John Bolton as national security adviser.
Trump has long stated that the nuclear agreement was “the worst deal ever”.
European allies have pushed to preserve the deal but have come under increased pressure to amend some of the clauses in order to streghten it.
Prince Mohamamd also accused the Muslim Brotherhood of being “an incubator for terrorists”.
“We have to get rid of extremism. Without extremism no one can become a terrorist.”
Saudi Arabia has taken the Muslim Brotherhood threat seriously.
On June 5 of last year it severed relations with Qatar—along with Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt—accusing it of supporting extremism and giving safe haven to terrorists, including many senior members of the Muslm Brotherhood.
The crown prince is currently on a three-week visit to the US, hoping to ramp up support for Saudi Arabia, both economically and politically.