Kushner set to travel to Saudi Arabia, with eyes on Israel normalization Outgoing White House adviser said seeking additional Mideast wins before Biden’s January inauguration; will meet crown prince in Neom, where Netanyahu, Pompeo met him last week

White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner during a meeting in the Cabinet Room at the White House in Washington, DC on October 23, 2017. Right: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends a meeting with Lebanon's Christian Maronite patriarch on November 14, 2017, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Photos by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images; Fayez Nureldine/AFP/Getty Images)

White House adviser Jared Kushner will travel to Saudi Arabia this week, in an apparent last-ditch effort to broker a normalization deal between the kingdom and Israel, according to a report on Sunday.

Kushner will meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Neom — the Red Sea city where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week held a secret rendezvous with the prince, alongside US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

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Saudi Arabia prefers to normalize ties with Israel under Biden – report Under the US-brokered Abraham Accords, Israel has already signed normalization deals with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Saudi Arabia appears to have delayed plans to normalize ties with Israel until after US President-elect Joe Biden enters office on January 20, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

It speculated that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “pulled back from a deal, according to the Saudi advisers and US officials, largely because of the US election result.”

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Report: Netanyahu took part in effort with US, Saudi Arabia to pressure Jordan

Washington Post says Israeli intelligence agencies told King Abdullah II they weren’t involved in alleged plot against him, appeared to suggest the PM was to blame

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was involved in efforts by the United States and Saudi Arabia to pressure Jordan’s King Abdullah II as part of the Trump administration’s promotion of its Middle East peace plan, the Washington Post reported Saturday.

The report described the efforts as having challenged Abdullah’s domestic political standing in recent years, culminating in the exposure in April of an alleged plot to “destabilize” Jordan that ensnared the king’s half-brother Prince Hamza and former senior officials Bassem Awadallah and Sharif Hassan bin Zaid.

Much of the pressure reportedly concerned Jerusalem, where Abdullah is recognized as the custodian of the Temple Mount and other Muslim sites in the Old City, which Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War. Israel recognized the Jordanian monarchy’s status as custodian in the 1994 peace agreement between the countries.

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Saudi Arabia says it foiled new Houthi strike, as US set to lift ‘terror’ tag

Officials say drone rigged with explosives was launched against airport near border

RIYADH — Saudi Arabia said Saturday it foiled a Houthi drone attack on a southern airport just days before the new US administration is to stop designating the Yemeni rebels as a “terror” group.

Saudi air defenses “intercepted and destroyed a drone rigged with explosives which had been launched by the Houthis against Abha airport,” the Saudi-led coalition fighting the rebels said in a statement quoted by state television.

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Saudi human rights under new spotlight in Biden era

By Frank Gardner
BBC security correspondent

Activists say Saudi Arabia should be held to account over its human rights record

The Trump administration, according to President Biden’s campaign team, “wrote Saudi Arabia a blank cheque”. It accused it of turning a blind eye to human rights abuses and prolonging a disastrous war in Yemen where tens of thousands have been killed in six years of conflict.

The new team in the White House has promised a complete reset of relations with Saudi Arabia where human rights will now feature prominently. President Biden has signalled he will end US military support for the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen. Already, after just one week into his term, the US has suspended billions of dollars’ worth of arms sales to both Saudi Arabia and the UAE, pending a review.

But is anything really going to change in the long term? Will the Biden administration’s much-publicised intentions have any practical effect on the numerous human rights abuses in the kingdom or on its war in neighbouring Yemen?

After all, Saudi Arabia is America’s closest security partner in the Arab world, a vital strategic ally in confronting the expansion of Iranian-backed militias across the Middle East, and a major customer for US arms sales.

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Biden presidency ‘may herald new start for Saudi-Iranian relations’

Existing quiet cooperation has been under way for months, say authors of Guardian comment article

Reading the news in Tehran about the presidential election in the US. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty

An opportunity for a new beginning between Saudi Arabia and Iran has been presented by Joe Biden’s presidency, two leading Saudi and Iranians close to their diplomatic leaderships are proposing in an article in the Guardian today.

The article is co-written by Abdulaziz Sager, the Saudi Arabian chairman and founder of the Gulf Research Center, and Hossein Mousavian, a former senior Iranian diplomat and now a nuclear specialist based at Princeton University.

Their proposals are the fruit of a track 2, or backchannel initiative that has been under way privately for months.

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Biden Sends B-52 Bomber Over Persian Gulf After Missile Fired On Riyadh

On Wednesday The Wall Street Journal revealed that the Biden administration for the first time sent a B-52 bomber in a long range flight from the US to the Persian Gulf on Tuesday.

It’s the first such “warning” message to Iran under the Biden White House, in continuation of similar recent moves by Trump, and the sixth such B-52 operation over the Persian Gulf in only a few months. WSJ reports:

The B-52H Stratofortress, a long range heavy bomber, flew from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana on Tuesday and was expected to make a continuous flight across Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and down the eastern Saudi coastline near the United Arab Emirates and Qatar before returning to the U.S., a senior military official said.

The official said further that “Our intent is to maintain that enduring defensive posture, to deter any aggression in the region, promote regional security and assure our allies.”

Multiple Royal Saudi Arabian Air Force F-15 jets were seen escorting the bomber in photos posted by US CENTCOM.

The provocative flyover appears to be in response to the two latest attacks on the Saudi capital of Riyadh. On Tuesday a ‘mystery’ inbound projectile, likely a missile, exploded over Riyadh’s city center when it was reportedly intercepted by Saudi anti-air defense systems.

It followed a prior Saturday projectile fired at the city from outside the country, widely reported to have been a drone, which also seems to have been shot down before doing any damage.

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Ending regional rift with a public embrace, Saudi Arabia and Qatar restore ties

As kingdom hosts Qatari emir at Gulf nations summit, Saudi foreign minister says agreement represents ‘turning of the page on all points of difference’

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, welcomes Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani upon his arrival to attend the Gulf Cooperation Council’s 41st Summit in Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia, January 5, 2021. (Saudi Royal Court via AP)

AL-ULA, Saudi Arabia — Full ties have been restored between Qatar and the four nations that severed relations with Doha in a rift that began over three years ago, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said Tuesday, after the parties signed new agreements.

Saudi state media said that de facto leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met separately with Qatar’s ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, after the pair publicly embraced at the airport.

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Israel, Saudi Arabia reportedly pressuring Trump to strike Iran in final days

According to Arab media’s report, which is based on anonymous US sources, Riyadh and Jerusalem want to sabotage Biden’s plan to re-enter negotiations with the ayatollah regime.

 By  Daniel Siryoti  Published on  12-31-2020 17:47 Last modified: 12-31-2020 17:51

Israel and Saudi Arabia are pressuring the Trump administration to carry out a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities before President-elect Joe Biden takes office, the Arabic-language newspaper Dar Al-Hayat reported on Thursday. 

According to the report, which is based on anonymous US sources, Riyadh and Jerusalem have “exerted heavy pressure on the president to take out Iran’s nuclear installations in a surgical strike” in order to sabotage Biden’s plan to re-enter negotiations with the ayatollah regime on a long-term deal regarding its atomic project and other matters. 

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When Israel and Arab nations unite, world should take note, says UN ambassador

 Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan reflected on 2020 and how “Israel’s future looks brighter than ever” in his address on Sunday night at the Zionist Organization of America’s Virtual Superstar Gala.

Erdan, also Israel’s incoming ambassador to the United States, received the ZOA’s Woo KaiSheng Lifetime Achievement Award for Outstanding Diplomacy. In his acceptance speech, he said that while this past year “supplied a fair amount of hate, it also delivered a fair amount of peace.”

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