Evaluating the Impact of President Biden’s Visit to the Middle East

On July 22, 2022, the National Council convened an online briefing program on “Evaluating the Impact of President Biden’s Visit to the Middle East.” It included Saudi Arabian and U.S. analysts, scholars, and former diplomats who reflected on the recent visit of U.S. President Joe Biden to Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and Saudi Arabia.

 

 

Joining the program were:

Context Provider:

  • Dr. John Duke Anthony, National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations Founding President and CEO; Author, inter alia, of Arab States of The Lower Gulf: People, Politics, Petroleum.

Featured Specialists:

  • Dr. Abdulaziz Sager, Gulf Research Center Founder and Chairman, and National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations International Advisory Board Member.
  • Mr. David H. Rundell, Author of Vision or Mirage: Saudi Arabia at the Crossroads, Former United States Diplomat, and National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations International Advisory Board Member.
  • Ambassador (Ret.) Michael Gfoeller, Former United States Diplomat, and Consultant on Foreign Affairs and International Security.

Moderator:

  • Colonel (Ret.) Abbas K. Dahouk, National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations Board of Directors Member; Former U.S. Department of State Senior Military Advisor; Former U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia Defense and Army Attache; HyphenPoint LLC President.

Audio and video recordings of the program are available above and below, and on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and elsewhere.

“Evaluating the Impact of President Biden’s Visit to the Middle East” podcast (.mp3)

Asir: Exploring the Cultural Heritage of the Arabian Highlands

عربی AR

Several times in the last decade, I travelled to the then-closed Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as the Executive Vice President at the Huntsman Cancer Foundation.

In 2019, the Kingdom opened its doors and actively started encouraging tourism as part of its Vision 2030 strategic initiative. Increasing numbers of visitors are now discovering that Saudi Arabia is unexpectedly diverse.

There are mountains, beaches, coral rifts, grasslands and forests. Let alone the largest sand sea in the world. It has a human history that stretches back in time more than 7000 years. Tourism and travel bridge people, time, and cultures, leading to deeper understanding.

With the encouragement of HRH Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud, Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the United States, I recently spent 10 weeks traveling throughout Saudi Arabia.

I explored the Kingdom with the purpose of photographing and writing about Riyadh, AlUla, Madain Saleh, Tabuk, Neom, Jeddah, Taif, Jubbah, Hail, Al Khobar, Dammam, Al-Hasa, and Abha in the Asir Region.

This is the first in a series of articles about the Kingdom. It begins in Southwest Arabia – The Asir Region.

Location of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on a globe

Saudi Arabia is approximately the size of France, Spain, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom (twice), Greece, and Portugal combined. In reference to the United States, its land area is roughly equal to all states east of the Mississippi River.

Administrative divisions of Saudi Arabia

The area of modern-day Saudi Arabia formerly consisted of four distinct historical regions: Hejaz, Najd, Alhasa and Asir. The Asir Mountain range runs north to south, parallel to the southwestern coast of Saudi Arabia. Asir has a short border with Yemen and a coastline on the Red Sea. It is the fourth largest region in Saudi Arabia and encompasses four thousand villages. There are more than 2.2 million residents. Asir is the size of the country of Austria.

Springtime flowers in Southwest Saudi Arabia

It’s spring in Southwest Saudi Arabia, and green buds are popping on the bushes. Bougainvillea of all colors thrive. Almond and cherry trees are in bloom.

Jacarandas in Abha, Saudi Arabia

Jacaranda trees line streets in Abha, Saudi Arabia. Photos by Nourah Ayedh Alshahrani.

When I arrived in Abha, “The High City,” I reached out to the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations’ International Advisory Board Co-Chairman, HRH Prince Abdulaziz Bin Talal Al Saud. (I am a member of the National Council’s Board of Directors.) His brother, HRH Prince Turki Bin Talal Al Saud, is the governor of the Asir Region.

Prince Abdulaziz called his brother. The next call was from a deputy in the Governor’s office: Would I join the Governor that evening at 8 pm in his forest camp? Of course.

My driver made his way through a checkpoint. I was greeted and escorted to a large tent where twenty men were seated. They all made eye contact with me, and were warm and welcoming. I greeted them with my right hand on my heart. In turn, each put his hand on his heart. A slight bow of the head. Tradition.

I was seated next to Rahmah Yahya Alrabeai, a professor and a Ph.D. candidate in geography at King Khalid University.

Individuals sit inside a large tent

Our seats were draped in sheepskins. The design of the seating was a traditional sturdy red triangular pattern. The tent was lined in black goat hair. Rugs covered the sand. The tent was warmed by tables holding long-burning smokeless tube-shaped charcoal. A hard-black suitcase containing wireless radio communication equipment, office supplies, and personal items was set by the corner seat.

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عسير: استكشاف التراث الثقافي للمرتفعات العربية

English

سافرت عدة مرات في العقد الماضي إلى المملكة العربية السعودية التي كانت مغلقة آنذاك، بصفتي نائب الرئيس التنفيذي في مؤسسة هانتسمان للسرطان.

في عام 2019، فتحت المملكة أبوابها وبدأت بفعالية نشطة في تشجيع السياحة كجزء من مبادرتها الاستراتيجية لرؤية 2030. تُظهر الأعداد المتزايدة من الزوار حالياً تنوع بشكل غير متوقع للمملكة العربية السعودية.

هناك جبال وشواطئ وشِعب مرجانية ومراعي وغابات. علاوة عن أكبر بحر رملي في العالم. لها تاريخ بشري يعود إلى أكثر من 7000 عام. تشكل السياحة والسفر جسر بين الناس والزمن والثقافات، والذي يؤدي إلى فهم أعمق.

بتشجيع من صاحبة السمو الملكي الأميرة ريما بنت بندر آل سعود، سفيرة المملكة العربية السعودية لدى الولايات المتحدة، قضيت مؤخراً 10 أسابيع في السفر في جميع أنحاء المملكة العربية السعودية.

استكشفت المملكة بغرض التصوير والكتابة عن الرياض والعلا ومدائن صالح وتبوك ونيوم وجدة والطائف وجبة وحائل والخبر والدمام والأحساء وأبها في منطقة عسير.

هذه هي المقالة الأولى من سلسلة مقالات عن المملكة. تبدأ في جنوب غرب شبه الجزيرة العربية – منطقة عسير.

Location of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on a globe

تبلغ مساحة المملكة العربية السعودية تقريباً حجم فرنسا وإسبانيا وألمانيا وإيطاليا والمملكة المتحدة (مرتين) واليونان والبرتغال مجتمعة. وبالإشارة إلى الولايات المتحدة، فإن مساحة أراضيها تساوي تقريباً جميع الولايات الواقعة شرق نهر المسيسيبي.

Administrative divisions of Saudi Arabia

كانت منطقة المملكة العربية السعودية الحديثة في السابق تتكون من أربع مناطق تاريخية متميزة:
الحجاز ونجد والأحساء وعسير.
تمتد سلسلة جبال عسير من الشمال إلى الجنوب، بالتوازي مع الساحل الجنوبي الغربي للمملكة العربية السعودية.

عسير لها حدود قصيرة مع اليمن والساحل على البحر الأحمر. وهي رابع أكبر منطقة في المملكة العربية السعودية وتضم أربعة آلاف قرية. وهناك أكثر من 2.2 مليون نسمة. عسير هي بحجم دولة كالنمسا.

Springtime flowers in Southwest Saudi Arabia

إنه فصل الربيع في جنوب غرب المملكة العربية السعودية، حيث تظهر براعم خضراء على الشجيرات وتزدهر الجهنمية (البوغنفيلية) بجميع ألوانها وتتفتح أشجار اللوز والكرز.

Jacarandas in Abha, Saudi Arabia

أشجار الجاكرندا تصطف على شوارع أبها بالمملكة العربية السعودية. صور: نوره عائض الشهراني.

عندما وصلت إلى ابها “المدينة العالية” تواصلت مع صاحب السمو الملكي الأمير عبد العزيز بن طلال آل سعود، الرئيس المشارك للمجلس الاستشاري الدولي للمجلس الوطني للعلاقات العربية الأمريكية، (أنا عضو في مجلس إدارة المجلس الوطني). وشقيقه صاحب السمو الملكي الأمير تركي بن طلال آل سعود أمير منطقة عسير.

اتصل الأمير عبد العزيز بشقيقه. وكانت المكالمة التالية من مكتب المحافظ يسألني المندوب: هل سأنضم واشارك المحافظ في مخيمه بالغابة في ذلك المساء الساعة 8 مساءً؟ بالطبع نعم.

مضى السائق في طريقه الى المكان. تم الترحيب بي واصطحبوني إلى خيمة كبيرة كان يجلس فيها عشرون رجلاً. رحبوا بي جميعهم، وكانوا لطفاء ومرحبين. حييتهم بوضع يدي اليمنى على قلبي. في المقابل وضع كل واحد يده على قلبه مع انحناءة خفيفة للرأس (من التقاليد).

جلست بجانب رحمة يحيى الربيعي. أستاذة ومرشحة لدرجة الدكتورة في الجغرافيا بجامعة الملك خالد.

Individuals sit inside a large tent

كانت مقاعدنا مغطاة بجلود الغنم وكان تصميم المقاعد على شكل مثلث أحمر قوي تقليدي. كانت الخيمة مبطنة بشعر الماعز الأسود والسجاد يغطي الرمال. تم تدفئة الخيمة بواسطة طاولات تحمل فحماً على شكل أنبوب لا يدخن طويلًا. تم وضع حقيبة سوداء صلبة تحتوي على معدات اتصالات لاسلكية ولوازم مكتبية وأغراض شخصية بجوار مقعد الزاوية.

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President Biden’s Visit to Saudi Arabia: Implications and Opportunities

On June 24, 2022, the National Council convened an online briefing program “President Biden’s Upcoming Visit to Saudi Arabia: Implications and Opportunities for the U.S.-Saudi Arabia Relationship.” Specialists with decades of experience navigating day-to-day aspects of the U.S.-Saudi Arabia relationship discussed dynamics affecting the various parties ahead of the trip.

 

 

Joining the program were:

Context Provider:

  • Dr. John Duke Anthony, National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations Founding President and CEO; Author, inter alia, of Arab States of The Lower Gulf: People, Politics, Petroleum.

Featured Specialists:

  • Mr. David H. Rundell, Author of Vision or Mirage: Saudi Arabia at the Crossroads, Former United States Diplomat, and National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations International Advisory Board Member.
  • Ambassador (Ret.) Michael Gfoeller, Former United States Diplomat, and Consultant on Foreign Affairs and International Security.

Moderator:

  • Colonel (Ret.) Abbas K. Dahouk, National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations Board of Directors Member; Former U.S. Department of State Senior Military Advisor; Former U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia Defense and Army Attache; HyphenPoint LLC President.

Audio and video recordings of the program are available above and below, and on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and elsewhere.

“President Biden’s Visit to Saudi Arabia: Implications and Opportunities” podcast (.mp3)

A Conversation About Humanitarian Aid With His Excellency Dr. Abdullah Al Rabeeah

On May 31, 2022, the National Council convened an online briefing program “A Conversation About Humanitarian Aid with His Excellency Dr. Abdullah Al Rabeeah.” The featured specialist was the leader of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid & Relief Centre (KSRelief), Saudi Arabia’s leading aid organization that serves people and communities in more than fifty countries around the world.

 

 

Joining the program were:

Context Provider:

  • Dr. John Duke Anthony, National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations Founding President and CEO; Author, inter alia, of Arab States of The Lower Gulf: People, Politics, Petroleum.

Featured Specialist:

  • His Excellency Dr. Abdullah Al Rabeeah, King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre Supervisor General; Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Royal Court Advisor; Former Saudi Arabia Minister of Health.

Moderator:

  • Colonel (Ret.) Abbas K. Dahouk, National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations Board of Directors Member; Former U.S. Department of State Senior Military Advisor; Former U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia Defense and Army Attache; HyphenPoint LLC President.

Audio and video recordings of the program are available above and below, and on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and elsewhere.

“A Conversation About Humanitarian Aid With His Excellency Dr. Abdullah Al Rabeeah” podcast (.mp3)

The Legacy of King Abdulaziz and The Ramifications for Saudi Arabia Today

On March 23, 2022, the National Council convened an online briefing program, “The Legacy of King Abdulaziz and The Ramifications for Saudi Arabia Today,” examining the dynamics of state formation in Saudi Arabia with two historians of the Kingdom.

 

 

Joining the program were:

Context Provider:

  • Dr. John Duke Anthony, National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations Founding President and CEO; Author, inter alia, of Arab States of The Lower Gulf: People, Politics, Petroleum.

Featured Specialists:

  • Dr. Joseph Kéchichian, King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies Senior Research Fellow; Author, inter alia, of The Arab Nationalist Advisor: Shaykh Yusuf Yassin of Sa’udi Arabia (forthcoming) and From Alliance to Union: Challenges Facing Gulf Cooperation Council States in the Twenty-First Century (2016).
  • Dr. Joshua Yaphe, U.S. Department of State Arabian Peninsula Analyst; Author of Saudi Arabia and Iraq as Friends and Enemies (2022); Former National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations Scholar-in-Residence.

Audio and video recordings of the program are available above and below, and on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and elsewhere.

“The Legacy of King Abdulaziz and The Ramifications for Saudi Arabia Today” podcast (.mp3)

An Emerging Axis: Strategic Trends Between Saudi Arabia, Russia, and China

On February 24, 2022, the National Council convened an online program exploring “An Emerging Axis: Strategic Trends Between Saudi Arabia, Russia, and China, and What it Means for the Middle East.”

 

 

Joining the program were:

Context Provider:

  • Dr. John Duke Anthony, National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations Founding President and CEO.

Featured Specialists:

  • Mr. David H. Rundell, Author of Vision or Mirage: Saudi Arabia at the Crossroads, Former United States Diplomat, and National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations International Advisory Board Member.
  • Ambassador (Ret.) Michael Gfoeller, Former United States Diplomat, and Consultant on Foreign Affairs and International Security.

Audio and video recordings of the program are available above and below, and on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and elsewhere.

“An Emerging Axis: Strategic Trends Between Saudi Arabia, Russia, and China, and What it Means for the Middle East” podcast (.mp3)

Examining Saudi Arabia’s Humanitarian Outreach: A Conversation with H.E. Dr. Abdullah Al Rabeeah

On April 15, 2021, the National Council convened an online program, “Examining Saudi Arabia’s Humanitarian Outreach: A Conversation with H.E. Dr. Abdullah Al Rabeeah.”

 

 

Joining the program were:

Featured Specialist:

  • His Excellency Dr. Abdullah Al Rabeeah, King Salman Humanitarian Aid & Relief Centre Supervisor General; Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Royal Court Advisor; Former Saudi Arabia Minister of Health.

Moderator:

  • Colonel (Ret.) Abbas K. Dahouk, Former U.S. Department of State Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs Senior Military Advisor; Former Embassy of the United States in Saudi Arabia Defense and Army Attaché; HyphenPoint LLC President; National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations Board of Directors Member.

Welcome and Context Provider:

  • Dr. John Duke Anthony, National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations Founding President and CEO.

Audio and video recordings of the program are available above and below, and on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and elsewhere.

“Examining Saudi Arabia’s Humanitarian Outreach: A Conversation with H.E. Dr. Abdullah Al Rabeeah” podcast (.mp3)