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Audio: “Beyond the Fist Bump”: A Tale of Two Cities (and Two Meetings): Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and Teheran Iran. KGNU Hemispheres Middle East Dialogues. July 26, 2022

July 27, 2022

Biden-bin Salman “bump fist” – the highlight of an otherwise vapid meeting. Iphoto credit – Reuters)

KGNU – Hemispheres – Middle East Dialogues – July 26, 2022 – Part One. Audio: “Beyond the Fist Bump”: A Tale of Two Cities (and Two Meetings): Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and Teheran Iran. KGNU Hemispheres Middle East Dialogues. July 26, 2022

I am far from the only one who concluded Biden’s trip was a flop. During the time of Biden’s visit, the newspapers of the entire Middle East has similar conclusions. Within a day of Biden’s visit al Jazeera had an article about it as did the Israeli media. The Jerusalem Post – and others – clearly noted that Biden’s visit to the Middle East was a flop. Why? Because when it comes to what the Israelis hoped the visit would accomplish, it achieved nothing. The Israelis had their own list of demands – or hopes – that Washington would address to influence Israeli interests – support their concerns about Iran – as well as their concerns about Hezbollah. These concerns were not addressed.

Then Biden had this idea in his head that he was going to go to Saudi Arabia and talk to states historically friendly to Washington and that they would listen to “Uncle Biden”, increase oil production, fall in line with the United States (concerning the war in Ukraine, isolating Russia) – but the U.S. president came away with nothing.

— Ibrahim Kazerooni – KGNU – Hemispheres – Middle East Dialogues – July 26, 2022 —

Jim Nelson: Good evening.

Thanks for tuning in to this edition of Hemispheres, Tuesday, July 26, 2022. I’m your host, Jim Nelson, and thanks for tuning in to listener community radio – KGNU, Boulder, Denver and Ft. Collins and at www.kgnu.org.

This evening on Hemispheres we continue with the Middle East Dialogues. As usual joining me in these dialogues, as always, are Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince.

This evening we’ll be discussing and analyzing President Biden’s visit to the Middle East concentrating on the meeting that took place in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Much of the U.S. media focused on the exchange between President Biden and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The crown prince is well known for having orchestrated the October 2, 2016 brutal murder and dismemberment of Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.

The media highlighted the famous “fist bump” between the two. We’re calling this program “Beyond the Fist Bump” or “A Tale of Two Cities”. During the 2020 presidential campaign Biden referred to the the crown prince as “a pariah” with whom he would never meet. But here he was in Jeddah meeting with bin Salam, appearing to be something approaching begging bin Salman to press Saudi Arabia to release more oil on the increasingly tight global oil market. But that didn’t happen.

If I’ve learned anything over the years from hosting this program, there is always more to the story than that which appears in the mainstream media states’ side. Although the fist bump between Biden and Salman caught the U.S. media’s attention, Ibrahim and Rob were not particularly impressed with this media moment and will cover what the U.S. media failed to report upon. They’ll analyze the media reports from the region (the Middle East).

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Ibrahim Kazerooni: Something that we all have learned by now over the years is that promises are made during election campaigns that turn out to be nothing more than hype. Better not to believe any western politician, or for that matter, any eastern politicians. They promise you a huge amount of whatever, they you get nothing.

Rob Prince: Rob Prince: Yes,. We could retitle the program “Beyond the Fist Bump” or the “Tale of Two Cities” – not the Charles Dickens’ London and Paris of his famous novel. These two meetings took place much further east, one in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and the other one in Teheran, Iran.

Taken together these two meetings reflect the changing balance of power in the Middle East and quite frankly on a broader, more global scale as well.

Our argument is that the Jeddah and Teheran meetings are a part of a new Middle East geopolitical dynamic that is taking place. It is a part of a movement of peoples and countries trying to adjust to a more multipolar world, one that is coming into being. While the West, led by the United States and NATO, is still clinging to a U.S. dominated unipolar approach. These changes that we’re witnessing will take time to come to fruition historically but they have begun. They are nothing short of tectonic geopolitical shifts.

Getting right into our subject – Ibrahim, I am not sure that most Americans are even aware that after Biden travelled to the Middle East, in part to meet with U.S. allies in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Getting right into it – Ibrahim, I am not sure that most Americans are even aware that after Biden travelled to the Middle East, in part to meet with U.S. allies in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia that Russian President, Vladimir Putin spent a day in Iran. Can you briefly compare and contrast the purpose and the results of both of these visits?

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Yes, but prior to doing that Rob, I would like to point out something else in response to your opening remarks.

You raised a critical issue – that most Americans are unaware of the Teheran meeting because most Americans get their information from what we call “the embedded media” of the West that emphasizes their own narrative. They beef up their own narrative and they are not prepared to really think about alternative possibilities.

There was an article a couple of days ago in one of the Ukrainian newspapers. It was a scathing attack against a British newspaper, an embedded newspaper, on how they (the British) beef up news about Ukraine, about Russia – all negative reports about Russia – that Russia is facing the likelihood of regime change, economic collapse, if one Ukrainian tank fires a whole battalion of Russian troops are allegedly destroyed, etc., etc. This same British source keeps its readers in the dark concerning the advances of the Russian military, of the fact that Putin is in much better health than the buffoons that exist elsewhere. Russia’s economy seems to be thriving as well.

Because of such coverage – or non coverage – people have no real or accurate information about what is going on.

You are quite right. At the same time, or consecutively with an overlap, Biden went to the Middle East with clearly stated goals – defense of human rights, protecting American interests, etc. But he literally left the region having accomplished absolutely nothing.

I am far from the only one who concluded Biden’s trip was a flop. During the time of Biden’s visit, the newspapers of the entire Middle East has similar conclusions. Within a day of Biden’s visit al Jazeera had an article about it as did the Israeli media. The Jerusalem Post – and others – clearly noted that Biden’s visit to the Middle East was a flop. Why? Because when it comes to what the Israelis hoped the visit would accomplish, it achieved nothing. The Israelis had their own list of demands – or hopes – that Washington would address to influence Israeli interests – support their concerns about Iran – as well as their concerns about Hezbollah. These concerns were not addressed.

Then Biden had this idea in his head that he was going to go to Saudi Arabia and talk to states historically friendly to Washington and that they would listen to “Uncle Biden”, increase oil production, fall in line with the United States (concerning the war in Ukraine, isolating Russia) – but the U.S. president came away with nothing.

The concept that was organized for the Middle East – the so-called “Arab NATO” had the Israelis in command and integrated in the military program against Iran. This program did not materialize at Jeddah.

And yet when we examine the other meeting – at Teheran – a part from the Syrian issue, all the goals were, at least partially, achieved. Iranian economic and military ties with Russia were strengthened; Russian investment in Iranian oil production increased substantially; commitments of greatly increase commercial relations with Russia to the tune of from $200 – 300 billion; the investment of Russian oil and gas companies into Iranian gas for $40 billion. Many other deals were also consummated.

One could identify the success of the Teheran meeting by the fact that Erdogan attended at all. Given that Turkey is in NATO, one would have expected Erdogan to be in Jeddah with “the rest of the cronies”. Yet, he decided to go to Teheran rather than go to Jeddah. That clears speaks volumes about the themes you earlier developed, the emergence of a regional Middle Eastern dynamic that is picking up steam and taking place.

Do you want to add anything, Rob?

Rob Prince: Yes, a couple of points Ibrahim …

First I want address Jim’s introduction, concerning the Jeddah meeting, whatever we did here in the media here was about the Khashoggi murder. What I want to emphasize is – as awful as that assassination was – that for this meeting it was a sideshow, a diversion. Jeddah was a meeting about “big time” geopolitical issues – increasing oil production, getting the “Arab NATO” off the ground, Washington getting support from its Arab allies on Ukraine and more broadly, them making a commitment to stand by the U.S. as the world bifurcates into two zones..

By fixating only the Khashoggi question, or predominantly on that issue, it became a way for the media here to avoid, hide the meeting’s actual content (or lack thereof) Listeners should take that into consideration.

Concerning the Jeddah meeting…

Looking at the responses of some of the commentators – ithe Jeddah meeting wasn’t just called “a failure” but worse. That a Saudi member of the royal family, even one like bin Salman would “stick it” to an American president, even one like Joe Biden, this is unprecedented. Alex Christopforou, a Greek-American commentator on the Duran, referred to it as “something approaching a farce.” Brian Becker, national director of the ANSWER Coalition, commented, “I think we have to say that Biden’s trip was pretty much a colossal failure and a clear indicator of the diminished position of the United States and perhaps globally.”

When we look more closely at the Biden Jeddah visit there are both personal and political aspects that were quite embarrassing:

  • Biden’s Middle East tour was ridiculed across the board in the region’s media for his performance in Jeddah in a way that rarely happens to an American president – and this in the media of U.S. allies
  • Unlike the other delegate participating in the meeting, he was not met at the airport by the Saudi leadership
  • Immediately after the Jedah meeting, bin Salman placed a telephone calls “his good friend,” Vladimir Putin, – what for? – to assure the Russians that the OPEC Plus oil agreements were still in force and that no anti-Russian deal was made behind Putin’s back.ie, that nothing was agreed to in Jeddah that the Russians need to be concerned about.

As for the “fist bump,” what was that about? It was a feeble attempt to suggest that Washington and Riyahd are still buddy-buddy if you like. But the gesture had no substance when it is placed with in the context of the meeting itself and its results or lack thereof.

What can we conclude about this meeting, as it concerns Saudi Arabia? That Saudi Arabia is looking east more and more. It hopes to join the BRICS. It’s trying to improve and maintain its relations with Russia and China. In both cases these relations have become quite important. Even a country as conservative as Saudi Arabia, as strong a historic ally of Washington as Saudi Arabia – which for its entire existence has been a pawn, a puppet first of Great Britain and then of the United States – even this Saudi Arabia is trying to create a balancing act between the U.S/NATO on the one hand and CHina/Russia/Iran on the other. Such dynamics are happening not just in Saudi Arabia but all over the Global South.

(To see the rest of this interview – it goes on for close to an hour – click on the audio link above; go to 14 minutes and 50 seconds. It continues there.)

 

 

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