U.S.-Saudi Relations – Prince Turki Al Faisal (CIT/NAF Forum)

Published: May 8, 2009

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Editor’s Note:

Last week a major forum addressing the state of and prospects for the relationship between the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was convened in Washington by the New America Foundation (NAF) and the Committee for International Trade (CIT) of the Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry. Distinguished speakers spent the day providing perspectives and insights on what the relationship should look like, how economics was shaping the national security picture vis a vis the relationship, the challenges for America in the region and how the perspective on these challenges look from the Saudi Arabian point of view.

Today we are pleased to provide the transcripts from the first session, “A Forward Projection of What the Saudi-U.S. Relationship Should Look Like and Needs to Achieve.” Among the featured speakers was Prince Turki Al Faisal, former Saudi Ambassador to the United States and former Director, Saudi Arabia General Intelligence Service, and currently Chairman, King Faisal Center for Research & Islamic Studies.

Separate emails will provide each panelist’s remarks and the question and answer period transcript. Transcripts for the remaining panels and luncheon remarks will be provided over the next few days. You can find all of the conference materials and related links at a new SUSRIS Special Section. [“U.S.-Saudi Relations in a World Without Equilibrium” – Conference Special Section ]


U.S.-Saudi Relations in a World Without Equilibrium
Conference Transcripts — Session 1
Prince Turki Al Faisal

[Prince Turki Al-Faisal] Thank you. [Greeting in Arabic] Ladies and gentlemen, to follow Chuck Hagel and Zbig Brzezinski is not an easy task. I must say, if there is anything you can say about Chuck Hagel, it is that he’s not superfluous.

Zbig, I remember on your visit to Riyadh many years ago — he insisted on having a swim at seven o’clock in the morning. We had to find him a swimming pool because Riyadh in those days didn’t have too many swimming pools. Fortunately we did, and events after that justified his swim, because then we worked on working together to rid Afghanistan of the Soviet occupation.

But it’s nice to see many familiar faces in this room. I would say that I would like to see unfamiliar faces as well. I am an “ex” and I think there are lots of “ex”es here. We would like to see more people who are engaged in the decision making of the United States, and not just from the administration. The Congressional leadership, I think, and their representation is sorely missing in the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States since September 11th, 2001.

When I was an Ambassador here, I tried my best to get Senators and Congressmen to visit the kingdom without much success. And I am sure my successor is having the same difficulty. So if any of you have any influence with the Congress, please use that influence. We need to have Senators and Congressman come to Saudi Arabia. It is not enough for the administration to send envoys. We need those two chambers to be fully engaged in the alliance that Brzezinski proposes between Saudi Arabia and the United States.

I would make this appeal because I see the difference between having an engaged Congress and not. That is one aspect I wanted to mention to you. And those of you in the business community and the economic world, and all of the walks of life in America, please, whatever influence you have, exercise it.

Let me just go on to briefly mention some topics that are on my mind and I think perhaps on other peoples’ minds. One of course is the Palestinian/Israeli issue. We don’t need more plans from Mr. Obama. We have all the plans in the world. Let’s get them all implemented, if it is possible.

It has been encouraging to hear Mr. Obama talk about his commitment to finding peace in the Middle East. It has been encouraged to see Hilary Clinton engaged as she is. It is encouraging that George Mitchell is doing his rounds in the area. But I think the time is drawing short when we will need to see implementation and not just simply verbal expressions of commitment.

That is something we had a lot of in the past. We don’t want anymore of that.

Another aspect, I think, of this is on Lebanon as well. I have proposed that the United States should immediately ask Israel to withdraw from Shebaa and the other areas still occupied by the Israelis in Lebanon. That is a crucial step for all of us to accomplish, and it is only the United States that can get the Israelis out of there. There is no excuse whatsoever that the Israelis say they occupy from Syrian forces back in 1967 and that they will not hand them back unless they have Syrian-Israeli agreement.

That is a fall pretense that needs to be checked and it needs to be nullified by direct U.S. intervention. I think the U.S. can achieve that. Who these territories should be handed to? I think they should be handed to the United Nations. If there is any dispute, between Lebanon and Syria about them, that’s a Lebanon-Syria dispute and should not have Israel in the middle of it.

By removing that issue from the table, you remove the issue of national liberation from Lebanese politics. And when you do that you make it much easier for Lebanese political forces inside Lebanon to actively engage in national reconciliation. And if you like, the results of the coming elections in Lebanon.

On Afghanistan, Pakistan as well. As has been mentioned that many times. I’m not going to repeat it here but I think the United States policy at the moment is correct if it is implemented correctly. President Obama identified the problem in the area, which is the terrorists, whether they be on the Pakistani side or on the Afghan side. I think he should canvas world wide support to get these terrorists and provide the necessary resources for that, military, economic, political and otherwise. Achieve the objective of either capturing or killing the terrorist leaders in the area there. Declare a victory and get out.

It is no good to have NATO and U.S. forces on Afghan soil. Nor is it good to have American Predator aircraft bombing Pakistani villages and killing Pakistani civilians, although they may be also killing some terrorist leaders among them. Because that only increases the antagonism towards America and it undermines the glue that keeps Pakistan together, which is its armed forces. The armed forces of Pakistan are the only viable institution that keeps Pakistan together. The government is working very hard to try to accomplish things, but it will not be able to do that if the Pakistani armed forces are undermined.

And they are being undermined by these attacks. I think United States can get worldwide support in going after the terrorists if it simply declares that that is its end objective in Afghanistan — not national building, not democracy, not the other very attractive slogan that people may hear about intentions in Afghanistan or Pakistan.

I would conclude by saying that Saudi Arabia in the past 81 since we began our engagement with Americans through Charles R. Crane, the American philanthropist who visited Saudi Arabia in 1928. When King Abdul Aziz had him for dinner, and talked about water resources he promised to send the king one of his geologists to look at these water resources. And he sent at these water resources. And he sent a man called Carl Twitchell who spent more than six months in Saudi Arabia traveling from north to south and from east to west.

He came back with a report to the King and he said, “King, you have no water.” And he also said, “Don’t believe anybody who would tell you that you do. But you have oil.” And the rest is history.

So energy matters, I would say that politicians in the United States are.. ..I’m not going to use the word criminally but I think I would use the word sorely deficient in proposing that United States can be energy independent.

I think they are deceiving their people by saying that. There should be a comprehensive interdependent energy program. Not just for the United States, but for the rest of the world community. And Saudi Arabia is willing and able to do its part in any such endeavor. And I leave you with the grace of God.

Thank you.

[Visit the SUSRIS Special Section “U.S.-Saudi Relations in a World Without Equilibrium” for the transcripts from this and other panels and additional resources.]


Speaker Biography:

Prince Turki Al Faisal
Chairman, King Faisal Center for Research & Islamic Studies
Former Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to the United States
Former Director, Saudi Arabia Intelligence Services

His Royal Highness Prince Turki Al Faisal graduated from the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in 1968. Prince Turki was appointed an advisor in the Royal Court in 1973. From 1977 to 2001, he served as the Director General of the General Intelligence Directorate (GID), the Kingdom’s main intelligence service. In 2002, he was appointed Ambassador to the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Fahd bin Abdulaziz. In 2005, Prince Turki was appointed Ambassador to the United States. He served as Ambassador to the United States until February 2, 2007. His Royal Highness is involved in a number of cultural and social activities. He is one of the founders of the King Faisal Foundation and is the chairman of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh. He is also co-chair of the C100 Group, which has been affiliated with the World Economic Forum since 2003.



Panel I: A Forward Projection of What the Saudi-U.S. Relationship Should Look Like and Needs to Achieve

  • Introductory Remarks – Steve Clemons, Abdulaziz Al Fahad
  • Peter Robertson
  • The Honorable Chuck Hagel
  • HRH Prince Turki Al-Faisal
  • Rita E. Hauser
  • The Honorable Zbigniew Brzezinski
  • His Excellency Abdullah Alireza
  • Moderator – Steve Clemons – Questions and Answers





The Committee for International Trade (CIT) – Founded in 1983, The Committee for International Trade (CIT) within the Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce is comprised of leading Saudi businessmen and businesswomen working to expand and improve Saudi Arabia’s external trade relationships.

A private-sector initiative, CIT recognizes that Saudi Arabia’s global economic, financial and commercial partnerships are also influenced by social and political considerations; that the ample and accurate flow of information combined with ongoing and candid dialogue are intrinsic to building durable trade and investment ties with the United States as well as other nations.

In support of strong and sustained trade relations, CIT seeks to:

  • Engage with key institutions of civil society;
  • Create an environment for productive and positive dialogue on political, economic and cultural matters critical to Saudi Arabia;
  • Promote Saudi Arabia’s economic growth and diversification both domestically and abroad;
  • Affirm Saudi Arabia’s commitment to being a responsible and constructive member of the global community.

In keeping with its mission, CIT often partners with other public and private institutions in the United States and elsewhere.

For more: www.SUSRIS.com/cit



The New America Foundation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy institute that invests in new thinkers and new ideas to address the next generation of challenges facing the United States.

New America emphasizes work that is responsive to the changing conditions and problems of our 21st Century information-age economy — an era shaped by transforming innovation and wealth creation, but also by shortened job tenures, longer life spans, mobile capital, financial imbalances and rising inequality.

The foundation’s mission is animated by the American ideal that each generation will live better than the last. That ideal is today under strain. Our education and health care systems are struggling with problems of quality, cost and access. The country requires creative means to address its fiscal challenges and pay for needed public, social and environmental investments. Abroad, the United States has yet to fashion sustainable foreign and defense policies that will protect its citizens and interests in a rapidly integrating world.

Too often, these challenges have proven impervious to conventional party politics and incremental proposals. With an emphasis on big ideas, impartial analysis and pragmatic solutions, New America invests in outstanding individuals whose ability to communicate to wide and influential audiences can change the country’s policy discourse in critical areas, bringing promising new ideas and debates to the fore.

Launched in 1999, the foundation was guided through a period of rapid growth by founding president Ted Halstead. The institute is now led by President Steve Coll and an outstanding Board of Directors, chaired by Eric Schmidt. New America is headquartered in Washington D.C. and also has a significant presence in California, the nation’s largest laboratory of democracy.

For more: www.NewAmerica.net
Related Items – US-Saudi Relations:

Saudi-U.S. Cooperation: Building Dialogue – Amb Robert Jordan – SUSRIS IOI – Dec 23, 2008

The Centrality of Saudi Arabia – Amb Wyche Fowler – SUSRIS IOI – Dec 16, 2008

Manama Dialogue: Continuity and Commitment – Robert M. Gates – Dec 14, 2008

Saudi National Security and the Saudi-US Strategic Partnership – Anthony Cordesman – SUSRIS IOI – Dec 4, 2008

SUSRIS Exclusive: Moving in the Right Direction – A Conversation with Ambassador Ford Fraker – Part 3 – SUSRIS Interview – Dec 1, 2008

SUSRIS Exclusive: The Diplomacy of Business – A Conversation with Ambassador Ford Fraker – Part 2 – SUSRIS Interview – Nov 26, 2008

“What does Mr. Kissinger propose”? – Prince Turki Al Faisal – SUSRIS IOI – Nov 25, 2008

SUSRIS Exclusive: Managing the Marriage – A Conversation with Ambassador Ford Fraker – Part 1 – SUSRIS Interview – Nov 24, 2008

SUSRIS Exclusive: The Vital Triangle: China, the United States, and the Middle East – Chapter Three – Saudi Arabia: The Pivotal State – Jon B. Alterman & John W. Garver – SUSRIS IOI – Oct 17, 2008

SUSRIS Exclusive: Reforms and Relations: Perspectives on the Kingdom – A Conversation with Amb Chas Freeman – Oct 8, 2008

Foreign Policy of Saudi Arabia – Prince Saud Al-Faisal – SUSRIS IOI – Sep 29, 2008

National Day Remarks: “A Strong Relationship” – Amb. Ford M. Fraker – SUSRIS IOI – Sep 27, 2008

SUSRIS Exclusive: American Businesses and Saudi Opportunities: Missing the Action? – A Conversation with Khaled Al Seif – SUSRIS Interview – Sep 4, 2008

US-Arab World: Finding Mutual Respect – Rami G. Khouri – SUSRIS IOI – Feb 28, 2008

American Interests, Policies, and Results in the Middle East – Amb. Chas. W. Freeman, Jr. – SUSRIS IOI – Feb 26, 2008

Impressions of Arabia, Autumn 2007 – Chas W. Freeman, Jr. – SUSRIS IOI – Nov 26, 2007

SUSRIS Exclusive: Focus on the Saudi-US Relationship – A Conversation with Robert Jordan – SUSRIS Interview – Nov 19, 2007

Can American Leadership Be Restored? – Chas W. Freeman, Jr. – SUSRIS IOI – May 31, 2007

“American-GCC Relations: An Assessment of Reforms, Elections, Challenges and the Prospects for Regional Peace and Stability” – Chas W. Freeman, Jr., Arab-US Policymakers Conference – Oct. 31, 2006

SUSRIS Exclusive: Crises and Opportunities in U.S.-Saudi Relations – Ambassador Robert Jordan – SUSRIS Interview – Dec 7, 2004

SUSRIS Exclusive – The Impact of Lebanon on US-Saudi Relations – A Conversation with Robert Jordan – SUSRIS Interview – Aug 16, 2006

Strengthening the Relationship: Whose Job? A Conversation with Chas W. Freeman, Jr. – SUSRIS Interview – Aug 14, 2006

The Arabs Take a Chinese Wife: Sino-Arab Relations in the Decade to Come – Chas W. Freeman, Jr.- SUSRIS IOI – Jun 1, 2006

How Can the U.S. Re-Open for Business to the Arab World? – MEPC Capitol Hill Forum – Part 1 – Ambassador Chas Freeman – SUSRIS IOI – Apr 14, 2006

SUSRIS Exclusive – U.S.-Saudi Relations: The Path Ahead – Ambassador Chas Freeman Interview – Part II – Oct 30, 2004

Defining Interests and a Changing Relationship – Ambassador Chas Freeman Interview – Part I – SUSRIS Interview Series – Oct. 29, 2004

The Way Forward: A Diplomat’s Perspective – Remarks by Ambassador Chas W. Freeman, Jr. – 13th Arab-U.S. Policymakers Conference -Washington, DC – September 13, 2004