US Mideast envoy hopeful Saudi-Iran détente will help region

Mar 30, 2023, 10:34 AM

KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) — The Biden administration is hopeful that warming ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia will help deescalate conflicts and crises across the Middle East, a senior U.S. diplomat said Thursday.

The détente between the two regional heavyweights could help bring Yemen’s nine-year civil war to an end, Barbara Leaf said. Earlier this month, Riyadh and Tehran agreed to re-establish diplomatic relations after seven years of rupture — a move that stirred cautious optimism across the region.

“The first order is to see whether Iran will live up to its commitments in terms of Yemen,” Leaf said, stressing that Tehran needs to stop the “lethal aid” it provides its allies.

Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal reported that Iran had agreed to stop arming Tehran’s allies in Yemen — the Shiite Houthi rebels who are fighting a Saudi-led coalition in the Arab world’s most impoverished country — as part of the deal.

In 2014, the Iran-backed Houthis seized Yemen’s capital of Sanaa and much of the country’s north, forcing the internationally recognized government into exile. Saudi Arabia entered the conflict on the side of the government in March 2015.

The Saudi-Iran rapprochement could also help cash-strapped Lebanon, Leaf said, where both Riyadh and Tehran wield political and economic influence.

The tiny Mediterranean country is in the grips of the worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history, rooted in decades of corruption and mismanagement.

Leaf, the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, called on Lebanon to follow through on economic reforms it had agreed to with the International Monetary Fund over a year ago.

“There is no escaping the fact Lebanon is sinking into a deeper and deeper economic crisis,” Leaf said. She spoke at a virtual news conference after visiting Jordan, Egypt, Libya, Lebanon and Tunisia.

Since securing the deal, Lebanese officials have made limited progress in fixing the ailing banking system and reforming the country’s barely functioning public electricity system. Lebanon is also without an elected president.

Leaf also urged Palestinian and Israeli leaders to follow up on promises to de-escalate tensions, following a sharp uptick in violence.

Leaf, who visited Libya’s capital of Tripoli and also the eastern city of Benghazi — seats of rival governments in the divided, volatile country — appealed on Libyan leaders to commit to fresh elections. Last month, the United Nations unveiled a plan to unite the rival administrations and shepherd the war-ravaged country to the ballot box.

However, Libyan politicians have been critical of the plan, and previous efforts to bridge the divide have failed.

Leaf also called on Tunisia to pursue a bailout deal with the IMF. Like others in the region, Tunisia has been hit hard by the fallout of the Ukraine war and is battling surging inflation.


US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, left, during the meeting with Norwegian Foreign Minister Ann...

Associated Press

US to open northernmost diplomatic post in Norway; only mission above Arctic Circle

OSLO, Norway (AP) — The United States will soon open a small diplomatic mission in Norway that will be its northernmost in the world and only such facility above the Arctic Circle, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Thursday. The move, which Blinken announced at a news conference in Oslo after attending a NATO […]

22 hours ago

FILE - Farmer Pravinbhai Parmar cleans a solar panel installed at a farm in Dhundi village of Kheda...

Associated Press

India pauses plans to add new coal plants for five years, bets on renewables, batteries

BENGALURU, India (AP) — The Indian government will not consider any proposals for new coal plants for the next five years and focus on growing its renewables sector, according to an updated national electricity plan released Wednesday evening. The temporary pause in the growth of the dirty fuel was hailed by energy experts as a […]

22 hours ago

Associated Press

China criticizes US plan for trade deal with Taiwan

BEIJING (AP) — China’s government criticized the United States’ plans to sign a trade treaty with Taiwan and called on Washington on Thursday to stop official contact with the self-ruled island democracy claimed by Beijing as part of its territory. The agreement due to be signed Thursday comes amid increased Chinese efforts to European politicians […]

22 hours ago

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, left, and Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada shake hand...

Associated Press

US defense chief calls China’s refusal to meet unfortunate during visit to Tokyo for talks

TOKYO (AP) — U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin stressed the importance of communication during a stopover with talks Thursday in Tokyo, calling it unfortunate that his Chinese counterpart refused to meet him at an annual security conference in Singapore, which both men are attending. On the way to the annual Shangri-La Dialogue Asian security […]

22 hours ago

Currency traders watch monitors at the foreign exchange dealing room of the KEB Hana Bank headquart...

Associated Press

Stock market today: Asia follows Wall St up on hopes Fed will ease off rate hikes

BEIJING (AP) — Asian stock markets followed Wall Street higher Friday ahead of an update on the U.S. jobs market after Federal Reserve officials reignited hopes another interest rate hike might be postponed and lawmakers gave final approval to a deal to avert a government debt default. Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Seoul advanced. Oil […]

22 hours ago

Iranian cleric Sayed Mahdi Tabatabaei looks at stray dogs outside his shelter as they are being fed...

Associated Press

Defying taboos, Shiite cleric in Iran takes in street dogs and nurses them back to health

QOM, Iran (AP) — It’s rare these days for a turbaned cleric in Iran to attract a large following of adoring young fans on Instagram, but Sayed Mahdi Tabatabaei has done it by rescuing street dogs in defiance of a local taboo. Tabatabaei posts regularly — to his more than 80,000 followers — heartbreaking stories […]

2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Internet Washington...

Major Internet Upgrade and Expansion Planned This Year in Washington State

Comcast is investing $280 million this year to offer multi-gigabit Internet speeds to more than four million locations.

Compassion International...

Brock Huard and Friends Rally Around The Fight for First Campaign

Professional athletes are teaming up to prevent infant mortality and empower women at risk in communities facing severe poverty.

Emergency Preparedness...

Prepare for the next disaster at the Emergency Preparedness Conference

Being prepared before the next emergency arrives is key to preserving businesses and organizations of many kinds.

SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.

Comcast Ready for Business Fund...

Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

US Mideast envoy hopeful Saudi-Iran détente will help region