ROBERT NOVAK: Saudi Arabia helped bankroll the 1991 war with Iraq. And much of Desert Storm was launched from Saudi bases. But if President George W. Bush goes after Iraq this time, the Saudis may not open their wallets, or even their bases. Whose fault is this? And what about the neo-conservative campaign against Saudi Arabia? Is Israel behind that?
Next in the CROSSFIRE, a Saudi foreign affairs adviser, Adel Al- Jubeir.
PAUL BEGALA: Mr. Al-Jubeir, thank you very much for taking the time.
ADEL AL-JUBEIR, FOREIGN AFFAIRS ADVISER, SAUDI ARABIA: Always a pleasure.
BEGALA: There is a remarkable legal development between our country and yours. Families of victims of September 11 terrorist attacks are suing, among others, various Saudi princes for $116 trillion of damages from the loss of life in September 11.
I'm going to play a piece of videotape from one of the attorneys who has filed that suit, and then ask for your response. This is Rita Katz, who is the counsel for the plaintiffs from that case.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RITA KATZ, ATTORNEY: The Islamic banking, and the Saudi banking don't fund only al Qaeda. They fund terrorism. This is what we want to fight. The Holy Land Foundation has received funds from some of the charities that have been named in this lawsuit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BEGALA: Does the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia or its citizens fund terrorism?
AL-JUBEIR: The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia absolutely does not fund terrorism. It goes against our faith. It's against our laws. We have done everything we can in this war on terrorism. We've frozen accounts, we've punished evildoers, we've identified people, we've questioned people, we've been cooperating fully. We believe strongly in this international coalition against terrorism, and so a lot of the charges are just baseless.
NOVAK: Mr. Al-Jubeir, the Saudi Arabian government has come out strongly in favor of the United States and the war against terrorism after the events of September 11. Both the secretary of defense and the secretary of state of the United States, and the president of the United States, have declared Saudi Arabia an ally. What is the problem? What is the source, then, of this torrent of criticism and attack on your country by many prominent Americans?
AL-JUBEIR: I -- we frankly don't understand it. We have been staunch allies, we have done everything that we can do in the war on terrorism, we've been effective partners in this coalition. We have mobilized other countries. The president and the secretary of state and the secretary of defense and the national security adviser have all been very clear about attesting to Saudi Arabia's total commitment to this effort. It's unfortunate that there are some people in some quarters who are trying to drive a wedge between our two countries by spreading falsehoods and things that are not true. They throw charges at us, they repeat the charges, and they expect that one day those baseless charges will become fact. But you know what? The American people are too intelligent to buy it; the administration is too committed to the relationship to let it happen.
BEGALA: Mr. Al-Jubeir, our government says that Hamas is a terrorist organization. Yes or no, is Hamas a terrorist organization?
AL-JUBEIR: We have been through this, you and I, the last time I was here.
BEGALA: Yes, we have.
AL-JUBEIR: Hamas is -- has -- does engage in terrorism. Hamas engages in building institutions for the Palestinians. There are certain things that Hamas does that we disapprove of. We do not...
BEGALA: Saudi citizens fund Hamas, in part.
AL-JUBEIR: We do not allow funding to go from Saudi Arabia to Hamas. That's not the case. Hamas receives funding, ironically, also from American citizens. And our point here is, when people sometimes give money to Hamas, they do so because they wnt to help them build institutions. If the money gets diverted for terrorist...
BEGALA: ... I am an Irish Catholic. The IRA were terrorists. I don't care what else they did on the side.
AL-JUBEIR: Including American money that goes to Hamas. But from our perspective, we have done everything we can to try to clamp down on any money going to any evildoer, including Hamas.
NOVAK: Mr. Al-Jubeir, a few weeks ago 'The Washington Post' on its front page wrote an amazing story, published an amazing story about a Rand Corporation analyst named Laurent Murawitz, with a briefing he presented to the Defense Policy Board of the U.S. Pentagon. Let's just take one of the quotes up there.
"The Saudis are active at every level of the terror chain, from planners to financiers, from cadre to foot soldier, from ideologist to cheerleader.
Two questions. Any truth to that? And secondly, who is this man?
AL-JUBEIR: I will start with the second part first. First of all, there's -- the person who did it has no knowledge about the Middle East, has never set foot in the Middle East...
NOVAK: He's never stepped foot in the Middle East?
AL-JUBEIR: No. The closest he's ever been to Saudi Arabia is probably when he filled up his car with gas.
BEGALA: How do you know travel habits of American citizens?
NOVAK: Let him answer the question, Paul.
AL-JUBEIR: Well, first of all, Paul, he is a French citizen. Secondly, Paul, he himself has said he's never been to the Middle East and not to Saudi Arabia. He says he has his knowledge based on Muslims he's interacted with in France. He has never published anything about Saudi Arabia. He's been a Lyndon-LaRouche-ite for 15 years before he joined Rand eventually. Rand disassociated itself from this study. They have time and time repeated this, including to us, and said this does not represent our views, we would never have allowed this to happen.
NOVAK: What about the first question?
AL-JUBEIR: The question is, why would somebody like this, as lightweight as this about the Middle East, be allowed to brief a group as distinguished as the Defense Policy Board?
NOVAK: What's your answer to that?
AL-JUBEIR: Somebody is up to mischief. And it's the business...
AL-JUBEIR: You tell me.
Now, with regards to the second issue about Saudi Arabia involved in the terrorism issue, absolute nonsense. Is he telling people that the American president is lying? I as a Saudi citizen don't accept this. We have frozen assets, we have jailed people, we have interrogated people, we have shared intelligence with the U.S. We have changed our laws, we have vetted our charitable organizations, and we have been supportive of every effort...
BEGALA: We're really out of time. Yes or no, will you allow Americans to base troops and air power in your country if we need to go to war with Iraq again?
AL-JUBEIR: I don't think you are going to go to war with Iraq at this point.
BEGALA: Well, with all due respect, that's for our country to decide, sir, not you.
AL-JUBEIR: Well, then, it's for our country to decide whether you station them in our country...
BEGALA: Yes. And I'm asking, what will your country decide?
AL-JUBEIR: You'll have to make the case.
BEGALA: When Saudi Arabia was threatened by Iraq, members of my family went there to risk their lives to help save your kingdom.
AL-JUBEIR: We -- we feel...
BEGALA: If, in fact, America has an interest in attacking Iraq, and I'm dubious, will you help America if our president asks?
AL-JUBEIR: You'll have to make the case. I don't believe that the decision has been made yet. I think that the president will be very deliberate, he will be very careful before he makes decisions. He will consult with his allies, including Saudi Arabia. We will make our views known. We care strongly about your country. We know Iraq is a threat. We live right next to him. But we do not want people to rush into something that could have disastrous consequences.
Do you know what will happen the day after? What if you have massive casualties? Who is going to pay for this? What happens if the country implodes? What happens if it gets separated? Are you going to put up with the Kurdish state? Are the Turks going to come in and annex it? Are the Iranians going to meddle in murky waters? These are the questions that need to be answered that unfortunately those who are trying to drive America to war have no interest in raising these issues. You've seen what Senator Hagel said today. You have seen what General Scowcroft said yesterday. We agree with that.
Think about it, and think hard. It's not -- it's not -- it shouldn't be surprising that the whole world feels the way we do. Could it be that the whole world is wrong and a few people in the U.S. who are pushing for war are right? I don't believe so.
BEGALA: Mr. Adel Al-Jubeir, thank you very much for joining us here on Crossfire. We appreciate your time.