Sajad Jiyad, a Baghdad-based fellow at the Century Foundation, an independent research group.

Eventually, the two sides could discuss restoring diplomatic relations, which ended in 2016 after Saudi Arabia executed a prominent Shiite cleric and Iranians protesting the execution of stormed two Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran.

Yasmine Farouk, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who studies Saudi Arabia, said she expected the first priority to be reaching some sort of regional security arrangement like the two countries had in the past.

“They would have to do that before they could get to the point of talking about dividing up their influence around the region,” she said.

The mere decision to talk directly with Iran signaled a change in Saudi policy, she said, given that the Saudis had previously refused to discuss Yemen with Iran since they saw Iran’s involvement there as illegitimate.

“Now they are becoming more realist and mature and they feel that talking with the Iranians will be more beneficial than just saying they need to leave Yemen,” she said.

Prince Mohammed adopted a hard line on Iran after his father, King Salman, ascended the Saudi throne in 2015 and delegated tremendous power to his favorite son.

“We are a primary target for the Iranian regime,” Prince Mohammed said in a television interview in 2017, arguing that Iran’s revolutionary ideology made negotiating with its leaders impossible. “We won’t wait for the battle to be in Saudi Arabia. Instead, we’ll work so that the battle is for them in Iran.”

His tone was markedly different this past week. Even though he did not acknowledge the talks with Iran, he described it as “a neighboring country” that Saudi Arabia wanted “to prosper and grow.”

“We have Saudi interests in Iran, and they have Iranian interests in Saudi Arabia, which are to drive prosperity and growth in the region and the entire world,” he said in an interview broadcast Tuesday on Saudi state television.

Ben Hubbard reported from Beirut, Lebanon; Farnaz Fassihi from New York; and Jane Arraf from Amman, Jordan. Falih Hassan contributed reporting from Baghdad.

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A Clash of Wills Keeps a Leonardo Masterpiece Hidden

French curators had worked for a decade to prepare a major exhibition marking the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci. When it opened, though, the most talked-about painting they had planned to show — “Salvator Mundi,” the most expensive work ever sold at auction — was nowhere to be seen.

Plucked from shabby obscurity at a New Orleans estate sale, the painting had been sold in 2017 as a rediscovered “lost” Leonardo and fetched more than $450 million from an anonymous bidder who kept it hidden from view. The chance to see it at the Louvre museum’s anniversary show two years later had created a sensation in the international art world, and its absence whipped up a storm of new questions.

Had the Louvre concluded that the painting was not actually the work of Leonardo, as a vocal handful of scholars had insisted? Had the buyer — reported to be Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, though he had never acknowledged it — declined to include it in the show for fear of public scrutiny? The tantalizing notion that the brash Saudi prince might have gambled a fortune on a fraud had already inspired a cottage industry of books, documentaries, art world gossip columns, and even a proposed Broadway musical.

None of that was true.

In fact, the crown prince had secretly shipped the “Salvator Mundi” to the Louvre more than a year earlier, in 2018, according to several French officials and a confidential French report on its authenticity that was obtained by The New York Times. The report also states that the painting belongs to the Saudi Culture Ministry — something the Saudis have never acknowledged.

a 2011 Leonardo exhibition at the National Gallery in London that included the “Salvator Mundi.”

If the only painting were displayed, he explained, “people could decide for themselves by experiencing the picture.”

Believed to have been painted around 1500, “Salvator Mundi” was one of two similar works listed in an inventory of the collection of King Charles I of England after his execution in 1649. But the historical record of its ownership ends in the late 18th century.

the anonymous buyer was a surrogate for the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.

Now the controversy has made headlines again with the release of a new French documentary this past week claiming that the Louvre had concluded that Leonardo had “merely contributed” to the “Salvator Mundi.” Set to air on French television on Tuesday, the documentary features two disguised figures, identified as French government officials, asserting that Crown Prince Mohammed would not loan the painting to the anniversary exhibition because the Louvre refused to attribute the work fully to Leonardo.

by Alison Cole of The Art Newspaper. Scanned copies of the confidential report became prized possessions among prominent Leonardo experts across the world, and The New York Times obtained multiple copies.

Experts at the Center for Research and Restoration of the Museums of France, an independent culture ministry institute, used fluorescent X-rays, infrared scans and digital cameras aimed through high-powered microscopes to match signature details of the materials and artistic techniques in the “Salvator Mundi” with the Louvre’s other Leonardo masterpieces.

The thin plank of wood on which the “Salvator Mundi” was painted was the same type of walnut from Lombardy that Leonardo used in other works. The artist had mixed fine powdered glass in the paint, as Leonardo did in his later years.

Traces of hidden painting under the visible layers, details in the locks of Christ’s hair, and the shade of bright vermilion used in the shadows all pointed to the hand of Leonardo, the report concluded.

“All these arguments tend to favor the idea of an entirely ‘autographed’ work,” Vincent Delieuvin, one of two curators of the anniversary exhibition, wrote in a lengthy essay describing the examination, noting that the painting had been “unfortunately damaged by bad conservation” and by “old, unquestionably too brutal restorations.”

Jean-Luc Martinez, the Louvre president, was even more definitive. “The results of the historical and scientific study presented in this publication allow us to confirm the attribution of the work to Leonardo da Vinci,” he wrote in the preface. (His current term is set to end this month, and President Emmanuel Macron of France is overdue to announce whether he will extend Mr. Martinez’s tenure or appoint a new leader.)

The Louvre was so eager to include the “Salvator Mundi” in its anniversary exhibition that the curators planned to use an image of the painting for the front of its catalog, officials said.

But the Saudis’ insistence that the “Salvator Mundi” also be twinned with the “Mona Lisa” was asking too much, the French officials said.

Extraordinary security measures surrounding the “Mona Lisa” make the painting exceptionally difficult to move from its place on a special partition in the center of the Salle des États, a vast upstairs gallery. Placing a painting next to it would be impossible, the French officials argued.

Franck Riester, the French culture minister at the time, tried for weeks to mediate, proposing that as a compromise the “Salvator Mundi” could move close to the “Mona Lisa” after a period in the anniversary show, the French officials said. .

And even after the exhibition opened without the “Salvator Mundi,” in October 2019, French officials kept trying.

Prince Bader bin Farhan al-Saud, an old friend of Crown Prince Mohammed who had acted as his surrogate bidder for the “Salvator Mundi,” had later been named Saudi Arabia’s minister of culture. When he happened to visit to Paris, the French culture minister and Louvre president led him on a private tour of the museum and exhibition to try to persuade him to lend the painting, the French officials said.

A spokesman for the Saudi Embassy in Washington declined to comment.

A planned section of the catalog detailing the authentication was removed before publication, and the museum ordered that all copies of the report be locked away in storage.

Sophie Grange, a Louvre spokeswoman, said museum officials would be forbidden to discuss any such document because French rules prohibited disclosing any evaluation or authentication of works not shown in the museum.

Corinne Hershkovitch, a leading French art lawyer, said these “long-held traditions” had been “formalized by law in 2013, in a decree establishing the status of heritage conservators.”

But with the French refusing to talk about the painting and the Saudis refusing to show it, the proliferating questions about the painting have taken a toll, said Robert Simon, a New York art dealer involved in the rediscovery of the “Salvator Mundi.”

“It is soiled in a way,” he said, “because of all this unwarranted speculation.”

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Democrats Push Biden to Take Harder Line on Saudi Arabia

In addition to advancing the travel ban by Mr. Kim and Mr. Malinowski, the Foreign Affairs Committee voted unanimously to require American intelligence officials to release a report on the role that commercial entities controlled by the crown prince — such as shell companies or airlines — played in Mr. Khashoggi’s murder. The amendment, led by Representative Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, sets up a process to eventually impose sanctions on those organizations under the Global Magnitsky Act.

Lawmakers have also become increasingly concerned with the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, as the nation faces rising rates of famine that aid groups warn are likely to rise, after an air and sea blockade by the Saudi-led coalition on Houthi-controlled territory has restricted imports of vital goods.

As part of cease-fire negotiations, Saudi officials offered last month to reopen the airport in Sana, the Yemeni capital, and allow fuel and food to flow through a major Yemeni seaport, but a spokesman for the Houthis said that they would not agree to discuss a cease-fire until Saudi Arabia first lifted its blockade.

Members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee were shaken after a closed-door briefing they received late last month from David Beasley, the executive director of the United Nation’s World Food Programme and a former Republican governor. Mr. Beasley, who had just returned from a trip to Yemen, painted a dire situation of mass starvation and hospitals without fuel, and impressed upon lawmakers the urgency of lifting the blockade “immediately,” according to two officials who attended.

“Ending U.S. support for Saudi-led offensive operations in Yemen alone isn’t enough if we allow the blockade to continue,” said Representative Debbie Dingell, Democrat of Michigan, who led the letter to the Biden administration. “This blockade is causing immense suffering and starvation among Yemeni children and families, and it needs to be lifted now.”

But pushing the administration to pressure the Saudis to do so may be an uphill battle, according to Peter Salisbury, a Yemen analyst at the International Crisis Group, who said in an interview that control of the ports amounted to “very important pieces of leverage in the negotiations from the Saudi perspective.”

“When you look at it from the perspective of the administration, they are trying to deal with these things through existing negotiation mechanisms,” Mr. Salisbury said. “On Yemen, and in many other cases, there is no profoundly simple way of ending the war.”

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For Biden, Deliberation and Caution, Maybe Overcaution, on the World Stage

But the early indications suggest that Mr. Biden is moving slower on the world stage than he is at home. And that is partly rooted in his belief, his national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said in an interview, that the United States will regain its global influence only after it has tamed the pandemic, restored economic growth and reset its relationships with allies.

The most telling of his decisions centers on Saudi Arabia. After banning the arms sales to halt what he called a “catastrophic” war in Yemen, Mr. Biden released an intelligence report about Prince Mohammed’s role in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, the dissident journalist, and imposed new penalties on the crown prince’s personal royal guard, the so-called Rapid Intervention Force. But Mr. Biden stopped at the next step — barring travel by or threatening criminal prosecution of the 35-year-old crown prince.

The president had not told his staff in advance whether he favored direct action, even though he said in the campaign that the Saudi leadership had “no redeeming social value.”

Mr. Sullivan said he and his staff went to Mr. Biden with “a broad-based recommendation that a recalibration of the relationship, rather than a rupture of the relationship, was the right course of action.”

Mr. Biden, Mr. Sullivan said, “pressed us on our assumptions as he worked through the pros and cons of every aspect of the policy,” including the staff’s conclusion that keeping a channel open to the crown prince was the best path to “resolving the war in Yemen.”

But the final decision was a reminder, other aides said, that Mr. Biden emerged from his three decades in the Senate with both a belief in nurturing even the most difficult of alliances — and a dose of realism that the United States could not prevent the crown prince from becoming the next king.

“We deal, unfortunately, every single day with leaders of countries who are responsible for actions we find either objectionable or abhorrent, whether it’s Vladimir Putin, whether it’s Xi Jinping,” Antony J. Blinken, the secretary of state and Mr. Biden’s longest-serving foreign policy adviser, said on Wednesday on “PBS NewsHour.”

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