AUSPC2011: Prince Turki Al-Faisal Keynote

Published: October 30, 2011

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Editor’s Note:

This week in Washington the Annual Arab-US Policymakers Conference addressed the theme, “Dynamics of Recent Events in the Arab World: Framing the Arab and U.S. Responses.” The event, organized by the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations, is one of the preeminent forums of its kind and each year several hundred diplomats, scholars, business people, government officials, military officers and others assemble to discuss the current issues and challenges for Americans and the Arab world. This year was the 20th Policymakers Conference and featured two-days of insightful and dynamic panels and keynote presentations.

Prince Turki Al-Faisal at the 2011 Arab-US Policymakers Conference in Washington.

One such keynote, set for Thursday, October 27, was that of HRH Prince Turki Al-Faisal, Chairman of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies and is one of the founders of the King Faisal Foundation. He also served as the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United States of America from September 13, 2005 until February 2, 2007 and from 1977 to 2001, he served as Director General of the General Intelligence Directorate (GID), the Kingdom’s main foreign intelligence service. Prince Turki had traveled to Saudi Arabia last week, during the time surrounding the passing of Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz and his appearance at the conference was uncertain.  On Friday morning it was announced that he had returned to Washington on Thursday evening and would attend the conference and deliver his address.  So it was with great anticipation that he was welcomed by the conference participants to deliver his remarks.

Five years ago, today, Prince Turki gave keynote remarks at the 15th Arab-US Policymakers Conference in which he departed from his prepared speech to talk about the development of a formalized succession process.

“As you know, last week King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, announced the establishment of the Bay’ah Council, which is to formalize the succession process. To call it the Allegiance Council, as I’ve seen now in currency, is a misnomer because allegiance is one-sided and connotes total obedience. The Bay’ah is actually a compact, and it is a contract between the ruler and the ruled whereby the ruler obliges himself to protect, promote, and enhance the lives and property of the ruled; and the ruled, in return, oblige themselves to protect, promote, and obey the ruler on everything but that which counters the teachings of God.

“The announcement is significant both because it is an important amendment to the Basic Law of Governance and because it is illustrative of the principles which have guided Saudi Arabia’s constitutional evolution ever since King Abdulaziz brought together what was to become the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932.

“The Quran, as revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, calls upon us to – (speaks in Arabic) – ‘take all our decisions through consultation’.”

It was to this subject, the succession of leadership in the Kingdom, that Prince Turki opened his remarks to the AUSPC on Friday.

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HRH Prince Turki al-Faisal bin Abdul-Aziz
Arab-US Policymakers Conference (AUSPC)
Washington, DC
October 28, 2011

[Prince Turki al-Faisal] Thank you, thank you ladies and gentlemen.

[Greeting in Arabic]

I’m truly overwhelmed ladies and gentlemen by your reception. I thank you for it.

Prince Turki Al-Faisal
Prince Turki Al-Faisal sat down to talk with SUSRIS at Georgetown University, November 2010. (Photo: SUSRIS)

I’ve just come back from Riyadh, and attended the sad occasion of the late Crown Prince’s death. And I must tell you that for me, it was a special relationship that I had with him. He was my mentor. My first job was with him. And throughout his career, he was always an example of humility and diligence, two qualities that I hope the rest of us will learn and keep.

But this is also a happy occasion, because the Kingdom has a new Crown Prince. Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz. I’m sure all of you have read about him. But when I was in the Intelligence Department I worked very closely with His Royal Highness. And I can tell you that the right choice was made. And it was made by the Bayah Council, which was established five years ago by King Abdullah to oversee the succession in the Kingdom. And in spite of all of the dire predictions of “Beltway” experts, the council performed exceptionally well. And there was unanimity in his selection when the King nominated him. There may be those of you, who despite John Duke’s introduction of me, who still don’t know who I am. And to those I would say that if you read Roger Cohen of the Washington Post and Mr. Satlof of the Washington Institute, and others, I am that “humorless,” “pathetic,” “irrelevant” person, but at least Mr. Cohen gave me the distinction of being “a skilled diplomat.”

I had thought of preparing a speech like the one I did last year, but really the occasion calls for something off the cuff, and something from the heart, without much thinking, and without much preparation.

I agree with Mr. Cohen that perhaps I am humorless, but what is there to be humorous about? Particularly when it comes to our part of the world: where we still see longstanding conflict going on, new potential for conflict coming about, and the turmoil and the troubles that several of our neighboring countries have gone through in the past year — bloodshed, and killing, and civil war. Not much to be humorous about.

Nonetheless, that does not give us the excuse not to work and not to try to overcome these challenges. As the people of Libya have shown, when people put their minds to the task, they can withstand all the challenges, and suffer all the sacrifices, and in the end they achieve victory. I applaud the Ambassador of Libya who is here, and through him the people of Libya.

If we go from Libya to Syria, we see a situation where the bloodshed still continues. And in spite of the efforts whether by individual leaders like the King of Saudi Arabia or the Arab League or the international community, nonetheless the government of Syria seems to be bent on continuing its merciless and bloody attack on its own people.

And if we go to Yemen, we find a similar situation where despite all the efforts that were put in trying to bring peace to that country, particularly by the GCC countries who devised a transition plan to achieve that peace, the bloodshed continues.

And Bahrain ladies and gentlemen, that small island went through a turmoil that it does not deserve. We all know Bahrainis, Shia and Sunni, Jew and other religions. They are a people of peace, and a people of commerce, and a people of enlightenment, and they don’t deserve to go through the troubles that they have.

And when Bahrain asked for support from the GCC countries in meeting the challenges of its upheavals, that support was in the form of military units that went there, not to quell the demonstrations or to arrest the demonstrators, but rather to protect the infrastructure and facilities in that island.

Bahrain is not a wealthy country. They don’t have oil to sell so the Kingdom provides them with oil that they refine in their refinery and then they sell it on the market. So the refinery is an important and life-giving institution in Bahrain’s makeup. And the units that went from Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. and Qatar, went there to protect the refinery, the airport, the seaport, and the commercial center.

None of them was involved in any quelling of rioters or demonstrators. And if you take a Google Earth satellite picture from above, you will see that their cantonments are precisely where those instillations are. These were very strict orders by the leaders of the GCC to the commanders of the Arabia Shield forces that went in Bahrain.

Remaining in all of this turmoil, of course is Iraq and its unresolved and still work in progress developments, with a government that is still unrepresentative of all of the people, with clear and apparent interference from Iran. With the United States coming to withdraw its forces from Iraq, I maintained and I still maintain that there is a need for a United Nations Security Council Resolution declaring Iraq’s territorial integrity inviolate under Chapter Seven.

It’s the world’s responsibility, ladies and gentlemen, to protect the territorial integrity of Iraq. And it is the United States’ responsibility, ladies and gentlemen, having undertaken that invasion of Iraq, to push that Security Council Resolution through, and to see that the rest of the world abides by it. This will not only quell any internal centrifugal ambitions within Iraqi society and politics, but also it will hopefully challenge any outside ambitions that may develop on the territorial integrity of Iraq.

Prince Turki Al-Faisal (Photo: SBRIS)

And if we go from there to the perennial and lamentable and still open wound of Palestine, what do we see there? We see a people who are still occupied, who are still colonized, whose territory is still being stolen day by day by an occupation force that defies all of the United Nations Resolutions and international law, and without account to anybody.

When this administration in the United States made a stand on settlement building in Israel, the result was that Israel defied the United States and not only continued to increase the settlements, but also to challenge the leadership of the United States to achieve peace between the Israelis and their neighbors.

Have any of you seen the movie “The Mouse That Roared” of the 1960s with Peter Sellers? It portrayed a small duchy in Europe that, I think if I remember the movie correctly, had seen how World War II went, and the United States came to the rescue of Europe after its devastation.  They decided that they would have to declare war on the United States so the United States, after a victory can come and develop them. It’s a funny movie, and I remember when I was watching it in those days laughing, because Peter Sellers was such a wonderful actor, and the whole idea of invading the United States in order for it to come back and fix things was so humorous.

But is it so humorous anymore how we see Israel treating the United States and the leadership of the United States? It’s an incredible and totally phantasmagoric situation. When I was watching Mr. Netanyahu lecturing Mr. Obama in the Oval Office on what Israel will do or will not do, I was flabbergasted by the audacity of the man. Is that acceptable, ladies and gentlemen?

Is it conceivable that this country where, and I brought this book with me [holds up red covered book], it’s not Mao’s red book by the way, but it is a book about the United States Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. And I will read to you a sentence penned by that most marvelous of leaders, unique in his time and I think in all time, Mr. Thomas Jefferson, who said, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

This is your legacy, ladies and gentlemen. You Americans put that for the rest of us in the world not only to admire but, hopefully, to emulate. I can’t understand why that cannot be applied to the Palestinian people. How can we see the United States standing in the face of the Palestinians when they want to declare their state in the most reasonable and the most legitimate and unalienable right that they have like any other state, and the U.S. says it will veto that.

That is unacceptable, ladies and gentlemen. You as Americans cannot accept that. And we as Arabs will not accept that. And this is where my contention that America’s vetoing of the statehood for Palestine, not only will it affect the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States, but also with the rest of the world, and not just the Muslim world. It is the whole global community that accepts Palestine as a state, and only the U.S. that objects to that.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is something that only Americans can fix. But what I can say is that all of us in the Arab world, and I include myself in this, truly want the Americans to fix this because of our friendship for you, and because of such wonderful words as Mr. Jefferson left to humanity. And if I were to quote other words by other leaders in America, there would be volumes and volumes of eloquence and rhetorical exuberance that we have always held high in esteem and in respect.

This council [National Council on US-Arab Relations] is one of the instruments and one of the institutions that works to overturn what is definitely an unjust position by your country. And I see faces of others who are equally committed to that principle of overturning the unjustness of your political position on Palestine.

I wish you success.  And I tell you that as a Saudi who spent his youth in your country I still expect the United States to do the right thing.

Thank you very much.

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HRH Prince Turki Al Faisal Al Saud

Prince Turki is Chairman of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies and is one of the founders of the King Faisal Foundation. He served as the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United States of America from September 13, 2005 until February 2, 2007. He also serves as a member of the Boards of Trustees of the International Crisis Group and the Oxford Center for Islamic Studies and is co-chair of the C100 Group, which has been affiliated with the World Economic Forum since 2003. Prince Turki was appointed an Advisor in the Royal Court in 1973. From 1977 to 2001, he served as Director General of the General Intelligence Directorate (GID), the Kingdom’s main foreign intelligence service. In 2002, he was appointed Ambassador to the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland by then Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd bin Abdulaziz.

Born on February 15, 1945 in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, Prince Turki began his schooling at the Taif Model Elementary and Intermediate School. In 1963, he graduated from the Lawrenceville School in Lawrenceville, New Jersey and subsequently pursued undergraduate studies at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

The King Faisal International Prizes, awarded by the King Faisal Foundation, are presented to “dedicated men and women whose contributions make a positive difference.” These annual prizes, which are awarded in five fields of endeavor – Service to Islam, Islamic Studies, Arabic Language and Literature, Science, and Medicine – have been likened, for the Arab and Islamic worlds, as similar in stature to, and nearly as coveted as, the more renowned and longer established annual Nobel Prizes. The King Faisal International Prizes, in addition to being bestowed upon Arabs and Muslims, have been granted to outstanding achievers from virtually all corners of the world.

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