King Abdullah GulfWire Interview

Published: October 22, 2005

Editor’s Note:

King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz ascended to the throne of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on August 1, 2005 on the passing of King Fahd. Abdullah, in his capacity as Crown Prince, has been recognized as the de facto leader of the country since Fahd suffered a stroke in 1996. The transition from Fahd to Abdullah was a smooth affair, in full accordance with the Basic Law of Saudi Arabia and was followed by pledging of allegiance to the new King by officials and citizens in the Kingdom.

In his first television interview since assuming the title and role of King, Abdullah chose ABC News reporter Barbara Walters. The interview was conducted at the new king’s palace in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and aired on ABC in the United States on Friday, October 14, 2005. A brief segment was included in the 20/20 news magazine show with a longer, follow on segment broadcast on Nightline later that evening.

Following the interview on Nightline, Barbara Walters talked with Ambassador Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations concerning King Abdullah’s comments and other issues in the US-Saudi relationship. You can read his comments on SUSRIS. We are also providing in e-mail and on-line a reprint of an interview with King Abdullah, then Crown Prince, in February 2001. The interview with Doctor John Duke Anthony, President of the National Council on US-Arab Relations and with me, then editor of the GulfWire e-newsletter service.

This SUSRIS IOI provides a reprint of the February 2001 interview with King Abdullah.

We hope you find these additional materials of interest and helpful in understanding developments in the Kingdom and the current state of the relationship.

Patrick Ryan

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King Abdullah Interview – February 2001
GulfWire Talks with Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Abdullah
February 4, 2001

GulfWire is pleased to present a summary of a meeting with H.R.H. Crown Prince Abdullah, First Deputy Premier and Commander of the Saudi Arabian National Guard, on February 4, 2001. National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations President John Duke Anthony and GulfWire Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Patrick W. Ryan are escorting a prominent defense delegation to Saudi Arabia. Earlier today, they were granted an audience with the Crown Prince at his office in Riyadh. Crown Prince Abdullah shared his observations of the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States, the Middle East peace process, regional defense and other current issues.

King Abdullah Cabinet Meeting

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[GulfWire — Riyadh — Feb. 4, 2001]

“One of the first things I would like to tell you is that I support whatever is in U.S. interests. That is because whatever is in the interest of the U.S. is also in the interest of Saudi Arabia.

“The America that is of your parents is one of equality, justice and fairness. I believe America has moved away from those principles. America has deviated from that way. In the past few years America has said not one word about the conduct of Israel. Does this mean that Israel has committed no errors?

“America has interests and they have suffered. America’s friends have stood up and defended it but it has become harder to stand up and defend America. This is not good for America. America and the American people are good and their approach to issues is based on equality and justice and non-discrimination.

“I know President Clinton did his duty. I know he was very constrained. Without a doubt he was a President who deserved respect.

“With regard to the new administration, we wish it success. I don’t know President Bush. I know his father; I know his father very well. And I pray to God that he will succeed so he can serve America, he can serve the peace-loving people of the world and all humanity.

“We are looking for equity and justice from the American people. Let me repeat, we are looking for equity and justice from the American people. America has a conscience and America appreciates the difficulties the Palestinian people are enduring.

“I have heard some in the Congress suspect I am anti-American. I’d like to discuss this. I am a direct and an honest man and I am very honest and straightforward with my friends. We have a saying in Arabic that “A friend is someone who will be straightforward with you.”

“Yes, I do criticize America — because it is in its interest [for its friends] to be critical. I don’t criticize to be unfriendly. I can’t change my nature. I am honest and straightforward with my friends and whoever asks my opinion. That’s the way I am. I believe that all your Presidents who have dealt with me share that opinion.

“I knew President Carter, President Bush, and President Clinton. President Reagan and President Ford I knew at a distance. I couldn’t describe my relationship with them as a close one.

“I know Israelis criticize me. I’m convinced that the wise people of Israel and the Jewish community believe I’m honest and that it is in their interest for me to be honest.

abdullah bush crawford

“Forty years ago in the Middle East you couldn’t find an Arab who would shake hands with an Israeli. Today, after preparation, the Arab world is ready for peace. If we miss the opportunity, and peace does not hold, there will be a very negative backlash.

“Israel was created in the region. The Arabs were created in the region. It is imperative that relations [between the two people] be improved. We must remove the hatred completely. Most of Arab leaders want this. Many question whether Israelis want this.

“Israel must account for the fact that its friends may not be around in 50 years. Israel is a small drop in the bucket in the Middle East. It must improve its relationship with the Arabs and agree on something reasonable. Because the only power that is permanent is the power of God. I believe my directness is in the interest of future generations.

“I believe there is no reasonable and rational Israeli who doesn’t believe this. The current situation may remain 10-20 years, but for how long can Israel remain in a hostile sea?”

Q. “In the most recent GCC Heads of State Summit in Bahrain this past December, Your Highness and other heads of state spoke of the need for a ‘collective defense pact.’ Could you explain what you meant?”

A. “I was telling my brothers what I felt. I told them defense without a
political agreement is worthless.”

Q. “But ‘political agreement’ on what kinds of issues?”

A. “Common defense. A common defense requires a common policy and political agenda first. I emphasized that we have to have a political agreement.”

Q. “How should the U.S. change its policy on Iraq and Iran?”

A. “With regard to Iraq, the primary concern is the well-being of the Iraqi people. Secondly, we’re concerned about the unity of Iraq. And we want President Saddam Hussein to comply with all the UN Security Council Resolutions.

“With regard to Iran, America has interests in Iran. I was asked by an American what Iran was like and I answered, ‘You should be telling me because you had economic, human, and military contacts as well as commercial interests. Had you maintained them you would have more insight. So if you were to have commercial relationships with Iran, U.S. companies could provide you with an understanding.’

“We’ve reached an understanding with Iran and decided to move forward to the benefit of the region. In the 1980s, when the Hajj [Islamic pilgrimage] took place, we would often have problems. It was very difficult for us to have such problems with another Muslim nation. They provoked us to take steps to deter and contain them. Had we not done so, it would have caused harm to other pilgrims. For the interests of the region, and our own national interests, we have reached an accommodation. President Khatami is a good man. He seeks to do good for Iran.”

Q. “How is Saudi Arabia approaching future oil price levels?”

A. “I want to emphasize a fundamental principle of Saudi Arabia: anything that hurts the consumer is not in our interest. At the same time, we do not wish to cause harm to ourselves or any other OPEC nation.

“I proposed a dialogue between consumers and producers at a conference in Riyadh a few months ago. I recommended the establishment of a permanent Secretariat as a means of maintaining dialogue between the two groups. I believe this will provide a valuable opportunity for consumers and producers to handle issues away from the media. It would also make it more difficult for anyone with an agenda to harm relations between consumers and producers. I also suggested that not only governments but, also, oil companies be included.

Q. “Could you comment on challenges and priorities for U.S. and Saudi Arabia regarding Gulf defense issues?”

A. “I believe the cooperation is excellent.”

Q. “How would you evaluate the Middle East peace process?”

A. “America did all it could. The peace process came very close until events took over, inflamed passions, and put a halt to it. There is an imbalance between people using tanks against rocks. There have been horrific images on television. Everyone saw the horrible picture of young Muhammad Durrah being killed and his father wounded. The situation damaged American interests in the Middle East because the U.S., as Israel’s major benefactor, could not restrain Israel.”

“I believe there is no human being who cannot analyze facts and reach a conclusion as to what is right. Every human being can assess what is rightfully his — what he is entitled to and what he is not entitled to.

“Saudi Arabia is a close ally of the U.S. Nothing will shake the foundation of that. Many have tried to do so, but they have not been successful.

“We hope America will look out for its interests, because that will serve our interests.

“We’re not seeking aid from America. We’re looking for friendship. If we ask for U.S. military assistance, we hope America will oblige us, as we will pay our way.

“At the same time, we hope America will consult with us, because we know this region better than the United States and better than anyone else that America consults. We’ll always look out for America, because that’s in our interest and in the interest of the world.

“I send my highest and sincerest regards to President Bush and President Clinton.”

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Related Items:

Richard N. Haass Bio

Council on Foreign Relations

The Opportunity: America’s Moment to Alter History’s Course by Richard Haass

King Abdullah Interview – Oct. 14, 2005

“GulfWire Talks with Crown Prince Abdullah” – Feb. 4, 2001

Crown Prince Abdullah Interview – Scott MacLeod – Time Magazine – Feb 2003 (GulfWire)

April 25, 2005 Summit Reporting

Special Report – US/Saudi Arabia Summit – Joint Statement

Special Report – US/Saudi Arabia Summit – Press Briefing – Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and National Security Advisor Hadley

Summit Press Briefing: Adel Al-Jubeir

Crown Prince Abdullah Addresses Saudi-American Business Council in Dallas

Remarks of H.E. Abdulaziz Al-Quraishi at Business Council Dinner in Dallas

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