Thank you Mr. Fareed Zakaria for your kind introduction.
Distinguished Members, Ladies and Gentlemen: Please allow me to convey my heartfelt condolences to the people of the United States for the suffering, death and destruction brought about by Hurricane Katrina. Acts of nature of this magnitude tend to bring people closer together. The world certainly has stood with the United States during these trying times.
I am truly privileged to address this forum for the third time. Let me point out that 30 years elapsed between my first and second appearances, and now after only 18 months, I find myself addressing you again. I am not sure if this is a sign of the troubled times we live in, or is it the misfortune of those in the audience who have to suffer stoically and listen to me again.
Let me begin on a sad note and pay a deserved tribute. Last month the people of Saudi Arabia, with grief, devotion and dignity, bid farewell and laid to rest King Fahd bin Abdulaziz, the Custodian of The Two Holy Mosques. A great and kind king, who for the last two decades was at the helm of the Saudi Arabian leadership. He dedicated himself to bringing the country to the highest levels of achievement and played a prominent role in Islamic, Arab, and world affairs.
The reigns of power have passed now to the able and experienced King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, our new Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and his Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz. In a continuous un-interrupted line of succession, King Abdullah is the sixth king in the history of modern Saudi Arabia. With the prosperity, welfare, and security of the people of Saudi Arabia as principal objectives, continuity, stability and progress are the defining characteristics of this transition of power.
We are striving for reform and modernization and we shall succeed within the time tested ethical framework of our culture and tradition.
The people of Saudi Arabia gathered in Riyadh in significantly large numbers to pledge their confidence and loyalty to the present King in accordance with the Islamic principle of “Bay’a.”
This principle of “Bay’a” is much more than a pledge of allegiance, and may be more accurately characterized as a social contract between the ruler and the people. It is an offer in the form of an oath of loyalty by the people and an acceptance of obligation by the ruler, by which the ruler pledges himself to establish a cohesive society based on justice and equity for all under Shariah law. The validity of this covenant hinges on observing and honoring its essential premises.
This process is exercised both as an endowed right for the people as well as their religious duty and obligation. It provides for direct participation by the citizens by giving them the power to give or withhold approval and support for the ruler and his government.
The pundits who have been predicting the Kingdom’s instability or even its collapse, have never really tried to understand how our indigenous system of government works. We may not be a democracy in the Western sense, but our government functions by being sensitively attuned to the wishes of its citizens and by constantly heeding the voice of the people.
We are nevertheless steadily modernizing our political institutions; our Consultative Council has been expanded both in membership and authority to be a more representative body in expressing the popular will. In addition to the traditional participatory practice of enabling any person in Saudi Arabia to take his or her grievance directly to any official, including the King, we are beginning to broaden citizens' participation through elections. This is our system and it works for us.
The last time I addressed the members of this council, my subject was: The United States of America and Saudi Arabia: A relationship threatened by misconceptions. I had explained then that there had been an unjustified intense onslaught on Saudi Arabia which at times was purposefully malicious and used Saudi Arabia as an Orwellian scapegoat for all the pain, anger and frustration that resulted from the horrific tragedy of September 11, 2001.
I said at the time that sooner or later both of our countries will have to abandon recriminations and concentrate on what can be done to restore our healthy relationship and deal with the common threat.
I am pleased to report today that both Saudi Arabia and the United States have taken effective and meaningful measures to do just that.
President Bush and then Crown Prince Abdullah had an opportunity to enhance and deepen that relationship in their fruitful and productive summit at Crawford last April. I am personally in constant contact with the Honorable Secretary of State Dr. Rice to pursue our discussions to establish a strategic dialogue between us. This strategic dialogue, in the form of a joint committee, will generate more comprehensive discussions about regional security issues, economic matters, strategies to combat terrorism and the myriad of bilateral topics, such as business and student exchange.
It is opportune that this coincides with the signing of the bilateral agreement for market access concerning Saudi accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO).
There are still some die-hard so called experts, journalists and political figures who are trying to do damage to my country and to Islam in the eyes of the American people. They appear, as if on cue, whenever the traditional relations between our countries are emphasized and fortified. A case in point is a recent article that appeared in the Los Angeles Times with the inflammatory title “Mortgaged to the House of Saud.”
It is refreshing that such attempts are not being accepted at their face value anymore and that they are being critically challenged by more informed readers and other responsible journalists and opinion makers in the United States.
I recently came across an article where the prominent journalist Laura Dawn Lewis had the following to say about the excesses of one of her colleagues’ writings, and I quote:
“Occasionally a journalist shows his ignorance and bias to such an extent, he or she must be challenged…Basic propaganda techniques like using inflammatory language…Characterization, euphemisms, omissions, discredited reports and inferences further spin his message. [The writer] proves his concept and knowledge of the Middle East, its people and its customs comes not from knowledge but deep imbedded prejudice coupled with a complete lack of reality or historical fact…..America needs truth, not propaganda.”
I truly believe that Saudi Arabia and the United States must join forces and cooperate to overcome a whole range of tribulations facing our world today.
I predicate this on the fact that each of our respective countries enjoys a unique position of influence that is complementary to that of the other, in spite of their admittedly disproportionate capabilities.
The United States is the only superpower in the world with all the ramifications that this entails. In addition, there is a moral dimension to complement this power. As described by the Harvard jurist Abe Chayes, the guiding ideals of the United States are: “respect for the rule of law; commitment to the peaceful resolution of disputes; tolerance of a broad range of political and philosophical opinion; sympathy for the victims of oppression and injustice; and vocation for truth in public discourse.”
It is these ideals that historically gained for the United States the admiration, trust and respect of the international community. In retaining these values, its position of leadership will be assured, not only by military might but also by the moral standard of being right.
Saudi Arabia also has a unique position in the world and in its region. It is the cradle of Islam. It is the country where the Two Holy Mosques are located and where millions come from all over the world for spiritual rejuvenation and fulfillment of their religious duty. Accordingly, Saudi Arabia has been thrust into assuming a heavy burden of responsibility of influence and moral leadership.
Our cooperation is also necessary since we are both confronted by voices of hatred and violence that must be stopped and prevented from spreading their vile fanaticism.
Our nations and people do not face a dividing clash of civilizations. Instead, they are called upon to join forces for the very survival of civilization.
We share a common cause to act together against the forces of hatred, violence, and perverted beliefs that offer nothing but the spread of chaos and anarchy.
Terrorism is a malignant cancer. No country is immune from its ugly peril. The Arab World has been its main victim—nearly a quarter of a million deaths over the past 25 years, including the 11,000-plus lives lost in Iraq.
In the last two years, Saudi Arabia alone has witnessed more than 24 terrorist attacks, causing the death and injuries of numerous innocent citizens and foreign nationals. 129 terrorists were killed and 17 of them wounded and captured.
Material losses in property and damage to facilities have exceeded U.S. $1 billion. Our security forces have been able to foil over 55 other terrorist operations in preemptive strikes that have thwarted the occurrence of any further loss in life or property.
Recently, the concept of the “global war on terror” has been modified to a “global struggle against violent extremism.” It is a reflection of the fact that it is not only a military confrontation, but also an ideological campaign for the hearts and minds of those susceptible to the recruitment to terrorism.
This is fully in tune with the conclusions of The Counter-terrorism International Conference convened by Saudi Arabia and held in Riyadh last February.
The conference was the first of its kind in which representatives from 60 countries and international organizations attended. It was a non-political, highly specialized conference of professionals coming together to find real solutions to the common threat of terrorism.
One of the key recommendations of the conference is that an international center be established under the auspices of the United Nations to develop mechanisms for the exchange of information, technology, training methods and expertise between states. Depending on the circumstances, the exchange of information can be achieved either on a multilateral or bilateral basis.
A basic recommendation of the conference concluded that dealing with the causes of terrorism is as important as dealing with the terrorists themselves. Serious attempts should be made to solve regional and international conflicts peacefully, so that terrorists are denied the opportunity of exploiting the suffering of peoples under unjust conditions for spreading their misguided ideology and finding a fertile ground for recruitment.
We have an old and wise Arabic saying: in translation it is rendered as follows: “Your true friend is he who tells you the truth and not he who agrees with you all the time.”
It is in this spirit that I must discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the prospect for peace. There has always been sensitivity and reluctance to discuss the full dimensions of this issue in this country.
Instead of confronting this conflict head on, several ancillary and diversionary issues are raised, such as irreconcilable value systems and clashes between civilizations, as cause of the differences that separate the Islamic and Arabic world and the United States.
The truth of the matter is that this conflict is the main overriding issue that separates us.
It is the oldest and most persisting conflict in our region; it requires our immediate and concentrated attention.
The British Prime Minister Mr. Blair described the Palestinian problem several months ago as: “the single most pressing political challenge... this is the issue that causes as much misunderstanding, division, concern, worry as virtually any other in the whole of international community…much of the poison that we want to take out of the international relations has swirled around as a result of the failure to make progress on this issue.’’
Avoiding the resolution of this conflict on its merits caused a great human tragedy and extraordinary suffering that befell both the Palestinian and Israeli people.
The young generations of both Palestinians and Israelis have suffered most. They have inherited a major crisis that started long before they came into this world. If they know any thing about the origins of the conflict it would be, most probably, a vague and obscure picture filled with propaganda that distorts reality.
To put the issue into perspective, let me read you the following quote:
“Why should the Arab make peace? If I was an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: We have taken their country. Sure, God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them?...There had been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Auschwitz but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that?”
This quote, ladies and gentlemen, is attributed to the late Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben-Gurion by Nahum Goldmann in his book the Jewish Paradox.
The sad reality is that both Palestinians and Israelis are victimized by the conflict. The Israelis as we have seen so movingly in recent weeks on the television screen during the withdrawal from Gaza are victims of successive manipulative governments that used them as bargaining chips by encouraging them to build illegal settlements in the occupied territories. Viewing those images, the Palestinians saw in them their own victimization by wave after wave of occupation, demolition, transfer and humiliating cruelty.
We abhor the violence in Israel and the occupied territories and grieve for the loss of innocent life on both sides.
In a five-year period between 2000 and 2005, B’Tselem, the Israeli information center for human rights in the occupied territories, reported that around 3500 Palestinians and 800 Israelis were killed.
In contrast, in 1999 there were only 17 casualties for both sides. That was the year when Palestinians and Israelis were still optimistic and had faith in negotiations and the prospect of peace. From then on it was a pessimistic decent to the depth of frustrated purpose.
The time has come for all of us to stop looking at the conflict as a sort of gamesmanship or a grand political Machiavellian ploy in which politicians try to achieve ends no matter what the means are.
The voice of the people must be heard; the fledgling efforts of the Israeli-Palestinian civil society Geneva Accord are an example that can be emulated and reinforced.
To paraphrase Clemenceau: Peace is too important to leave to politicians. That is why King Abdullah in presenting his peace proposal to the Arab Summit Conference in Beirut addressed himself directly to the Israeli people.
The Arabs have put their cards on the table. Unanimously they accepted the peace initiative proposed by King Abdullah which was based on the premise of total peace for total withdrawal.
The historic implications of this plan have been internationally recognized, the terms of which conform to the principles of international legitimacy and offer Israel immediate normalized relations with the entire Arab world.
The plan is certainly a daring one, and we hope that the overdue response of the Israeli government and people will be just as daring.
The road map has been in limbo for some time. We regard the withdrawal from Gaza as a glimmer of hope. At last there is a positive and welcome move in the right direction.
However, the withdrawal will be meaningless if it is not followed by a comprehensive plan for a withdrawal from the other occupied territories.
We hope that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will follow this initial step by engaging seriously in negotiation within the framework of the road map and King Abdullah's initiative.
Yet, unfortunately, his recent remarks at the United Nations emphasized that Jerusalem be fully under Israeli control and that the building of the “separation wall,” which has been declared illegal by the International Court of Justice, is to be continued and extended.
Such remarks are not the right signals to be given at such a crucial moment of confidence-building and compromise.
What is needed from Prime Minister Sharon is positive indications of his willingness to dismantle the settlements in the occupied territories, withdrawal from Arab occupied lands, and the establishment of a Palestinian state to live in peace and harmony with all its neighbors.
We all know exactly what is needed to be done in this regard. Israeli author Amos Oz writes: “Every Israeli in the street knows what the solution is, just as every Palestinian knows it… peace between the two states, established by the partition of the land roughly in accordance with demographic reality based on Israel's pre 1967 war.”
A new approach is necessary to correct and rectify the negotiation process itself. There must be clear and definite steps in accordance with a well-defined timetable that is monitored and verified on the ground by neutral observers. Any deviation from the original course must be subjected to appropriate sanctions.
The United States and the international community must make the immediate resolution of this conflict an imperative priority. Once this tragic conflict is resolved, it is not at all far-fetched to conclude that the other conflicts in the region would probably dissipate and fade and the forces behind violent extremism and terrorism would vanish into oblivion.
All it takes is the will of honest people to realize the futility of the conflict and appreciate the benefits of peace.
All it needs is a firm partnership between all of us -- the US, Saudi Arabia, and the international community -- that looks beyond the petty differences that divide us to the greater forces that unite us.
Thank you again for this opportunity, and may peace be upon you.
MR. ZAKARIA: Mr. Minister, Your Excellency, Your Highness, I’m going to take the opportunity of the chair to ask a couple of questions to start us off. You talked about the causes of terror, and President Bush has clearly spent a lot of time thinking about this subject and has articulated his view of the causes of the terrorism we face. He has argued in the speech to the American Enterprise Institute, in his second inaugural, and many other places that the root cause of terrorism has been the fact that you have had tyrannical regimes in the Middle East that have suppressed political and economic freedom, that this has turned Islamic fundamentalism into a kind of elusive and alluring alternative for the people in these countries and that that cycle of repressive regimes and an extreme opposition is at the heart of it. He further argues that the United States has looked the other way for six decades in a search for stability and that this has been a mistake. What do you think of the president’s thesis?
PRINCE SAUD: Well, it would be correct if terrorism did not exist in a democratic countries, too. The fact is that terrorism does exist in democratic countries. That is not saying that I admit that it is tyrannical countries that create terrorists. Tyrannical countries oppress their people and you don’t -- you haven’t seen the ideal tyrannical country for the United States was the Soviet Union. We have not seen Russian terrorists acting in the United States during that tyrannical period.
No, the real cause of terrorism is people seeing injustice being perpetrated unjustly in this world, and they use that to fire up the young and the ignorant into putting their lives at stake for their purposes and for their design. So I think in this, I disagree with the president.
MR. ZAKARIA: The gentleman who wasn’t able to be here, very distinguished member of the Council, sent me an e-mail saying that “I know the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia is coming. Would you do me a favor and ask him a question? Can he please pump a little more oil? We desperately need it.” The question I had for you is –
PRINCE SAUD: May I answer it?
MR. ZAKARIA: Well, let me ask it specifically.
PRINCE SAUD: Okay.
MR. ZAKARIA: Much of the tension in the oil prices today is a fear of lack of supply. And in particular, since you are the superpower of oil, it relates to Saudi supply. You pump about 10.5 million barrels a day, and the hope is that by 2009 your own goal is that you will pump 12.5 million barrels. Many people, many experts, believe that this is actually not possible. You are both overstating your resources and your reserves and your capacity to do this, and that this is going to produce a great recession. And their solution is that Saudi Arabia, because of its role as the central bank of oil, simply publish field by field production reports that are audited so that people have a sense as to how much is exactly being pumped out of, say, Ghawar, the largest oil field in the world. What would be so bad about doing that?
PRINCE SAUD: I see in the audience Al DeCrane, who probably has a better response than I would in this case, but I know he wouldn’t hesitate to answer that, and so I will try my hand at it.
Saudi Arabia is the owner of the largest reserves. When you want to believe or disbelieve somebody, you look at his record. You don’t go and audit his books, because you don’t distrust the information that he puts out. Our record has been, and this we have learned from our American parent company, is to understate, rather than overstate our reserves. This has been our record. Our production has gone according to what we said it would be. And when we say we want to go up to 12.5, we have already the managerial people on line who are going to handle this, we have the equipment that is needed to do the job, and we have the contract signed for that already.
So those who are asking for going into the books are asking for what purpose? The real problem now that you are facing is not the lack of oil. (Inaudible) said yesterday, "I have oil, people. Come and buy it if you want," but nobody’s buying. Why? Because the issue is not oil resources. The issue is product. And for that, the blame has to go somewhere else than Saudi Arabia.
The point is, though, we should not base our action to meet the crisis, and there is a crisis, by blaming each other -- you did this or you -- we should get together. And that is why King Abdullah has asked for a meeting between the consumers, the producers, and the oil companies to a meeting under the forum whose secretariat is in Riyadh and look at the supply-and-demand picture of the oil and to see over the long term and find the solution for the crisis that is looming in front of us.
MR. ZAKARIA: Let me ask you another question and one that people wonder about, and I hope you will not consider it disrespectful to bring this up. You are seen as the modern face of Saudi Arabia. You went to Lawrenceville and Princeton. Your brother, Prince Turki, went to Georgetown, but there is another part of Saudi Arabia, and people wonder about whether they are getting the real thing when they hear you.
There are people in the Saudi government who have denied the reality of 9/11, wondered whether the perpetrators were really Saudi citizens, who have said things that seem to justify the kind of Islamic extremism. I’m not going to name names, but the question is, is the Saudi government unified in its attempt to fight the sources that you now acknowledge feed terrorism, which is a certain kind of deviant and extreme philosophy, preaching, and religious indoctrination that has been taking place in Saudi Arabia? As I say, the Crown Prince, now king, has himself acknowledged that that has been part of the problem. Is there a united effort to tackle it, and what evidence can we find that would suggest that there is a real crackdown on the more extreme Wahhabi preachers?
PRINCE SAUD: The king has not only expressed that it exists, he has expressed that he’s waging war against it, and he has beyond him the full support of the Saudi people. These people are the minority that is doing these awful acts and all the Saudi people are united behind the effort of the king to rid the country of the terrorists, their suppliers, their backers, and even those who incite them. It is a crime now in Saudi Arabia to incite terror. If you do that, you go to prison. This is not the action of somebody that is not serious about the issue.
Of course, when the crisis happened, people felt a sense of denial in this. How would you like to wake up one morning and find that your son is a mass murderer? The first thing you would do is, it’s impossible. It’s not my son that is a mass murderer. This is what every Saudi felt after that horrible day, but quickly when they came to the realization that it was true, they did everything they can. They do everything they can now to fight these deviants because they are deviants in every way possible; to fight their backers, their supporters, their financiers, and their inciters.
MR. ZAKARIA: Let me ask you one question about the Israeli- Palestinian conflict and then we’ll open it up to the audience. Let’s leave the past -- the distant past behind and say what has recently happened is that Israel has withdrawn from Gaza. It has done something that was domestically quite difficult for it and Prime Minister Sharon, as we read every day in the newspapers, pays a political price for what he has done.
Is it not time in a kind of reciprocal sense for the Palestinian leadership to do something that is hard for them? For example, specifically, to try to unify the security services in Gaza so that you have the prospect of at least one civil authority there, something that seems to me at least not happening at all right now in Gaza.
PRINCE SAUD: Well, you must see the condition of the Palestinians and the national authority of the Palestinians. This is a national authority that has been decimated by years of actions by Israel. Their security forces are almost nil. They are weaker than any of the other factions that they have to control.
You want them to control Hamas? Hamas is better armed than the national government of the Palestinians. And they are weak because they have been decimated. Give them the strength, give them the capability, allow them to do their work, and they will control the violence in the territory. They will control the other factions. They will disarm them if they are given the wherewithal to do it. But to attack them, decimate their forces, and then expect them to take action against these people, I think, is asking them too much and it’s asking them something that they cannot accomplish.
MR. ZAKARIA: All right. Let me turn it over to the floor. Remember, please identify yourself and your institution, if you will.
Ma’am, in the back?
QUESTION: (Inaudible). I’m a lawyer in New York. I actually have two quick questions.
MR. ZAKARIA: No, just one.
QUESTION: Just one question?
MR. ZAKARIA: Yeah.
QUESTION: Then I’ll limit it to the first one. How would you give practical guidelines for removing Islam from the dialogue on terrorism? And the reason I ask that is because both within the Muslim community where Islam is used to just say we have to fight for sovereignty or land issues or political representation issues, as well as in the Western discourse where it becomes a yes-or-them question and how would you define terrorism?
PRINCE SAUD: Defining terrorism is, to my mind, a fruitless exercise. Like the judge on the Supreme Court when they asked him about pornography he said, "I know it when I see it." Terrorism -- everybody knows what terrorism is, and to keep going in circles trying to define it is, I think, wrong. The way to defeat terrorism is the way that -- attacking the ideology, the backing and the perpetrators themselves. This is the only way you can do it.
Internally in the different parts in the Muslim community, it is necessary to face the ideologies and to argue the case of Islam with all the communities in the international community. We in Saudi Arabia have tried this, and we have succeeded because once these deluded people know the truth of what they are doing and know that it is against Islam and know that it is by people who are using them as tools to -- for their own -- and they do turn. And we have suggested this to all countries with Muslim communities, and we have offered to work with them in doing this, to send them people who will talk to these young men who are being recruited by the terrorists. This is the issue. It is a worldwide problem. It must be faced by cooperation between all the countries, and this is why we held that conference in Riyadh, by the way.
MR. ZAKARIA: Byron?
QUESTION: It’s been -- Byron Wien, Morgan Stanley. It’s been two and a half years since the United States entered into a military conflict in Iraq. From your perspective in the Middle East if you were meeting with the president of the United States, what advice would you give him in terms of what policies to pursue from this point forward in order to reach a peaceful resolution and a withdrawal of American troops ultimately from Iraq?
PRINCE SAUD: Well, if I were meeting with the president and giving him advice, I certainly wouldn’t talk about it publicly. (Laughter.) But I think –
MR. ZAKARIA: So this part of the answer is off the record, huh? (Laughter.)
PRINCE SAUD: I think without having it as advice to the president, I think the -- Iraq is facing a critical, needless to say, juncture in its history. The way to go about it is to identify the objective that you want to reach in Iraq and then let the words suit the action, not the action the words, in -- (inaudible).
It is not a matter of constitution that is going to solve the problem of Iraq. It is not even -- although elections are considered so important, it is not even the election that will solve the problem of Iraq. Iraq has been jarred apart. Its people have been separated from each other. You talk now about Sunnis as if they are a separate entity from the Shiites of Iraq, whereas they are both Arabs. Shiites -- you have the tribes of Iraq, you have tribes like -- (inaudible) -- and a myriad of other tribes. Half of them are Shiites and half of them are Sunnis. How can it be that the Sunnis are the bad people of these tribes and the others are the good people of these tribes? You must work to bring these people together, the Shiites and the Sunnis.
If you allow for this -- for a civil war to happen between the Shiites and the Sunnis, Iraq is finished forever. It will be dismembered. It will be not only dismembered, it will cause so many conflicts in the region that it will bring the whole region into a turmoil that will be hard to resolve. The Iranians would enter the conflict, because of the south, the Turks because of the Kurds, and the Arabs -- because both these countries are going to enter -- will be definitely dragged into the conflict.
So work to unite these people and then you can look at the practical aspects of how to hold them together by having a constitution that everybody agrees to.
In the constitution, for example, the issue of nationality has been resolved, thank God, in the constitution. But every government in Iraq is given the right of a separate constitution and a separate government, and can deal with its problems on its own.
Now, the south is pretty much pacified. There is no conflict in there, because those who could cause conflicts, whether they’re supporters of Iran or others, are happy with the situation that is happening. The Iranians now go in this pacified area that the American forces have pacified, and they go into every government of Iraq, pay money, install their own people, put their own -- even establish police forces for them, arms and militias that are there and reinforce their presence in these areas. And they are being protected in doing this by the British and the American forces in the area.
Now, this is -- (laughs) -- to us it seems out of this world that you do this. We fought a war together to keep Iran from occupying Iraq after Iraq was driven out of Kuwait. Now we are handing the whole country over to Iran without reason.
MR. ZAKARIA: When I was in Iraq, if I may ask a corollary, a number of Iraqis in the government and out told me that a large number of the foreign fighters who were coming in from outside were Saudi. Do you think that’s true? And to what extent is that something you can stop?
PRINCE SAUD: Well, thank God, there is a report, an independent report that came out. Was it by (us?)?
MR. : The CSIS.
PRINCE SAUD: The CS –
MR. : The Center for Strategic and International Studies.
PRINCE SAUD: And this is an independent body that shows that the least amount of fighters from outside in -- in Iraq are Saudis. Of course, it does not mean united, but an independent body. And we are -- the cause for that is also the action that Saudi Arabia is taking . We are taking very strong action against anybody who tries to go to Iraq and all our ulema, our religious people, have stated that it is not jihad to go to Iraq; that this is wrong, that this is against religion, and it is working. And so the Saudis going to Iraq are very, very few in number.
MR. ZAKARIA: Okay. And this will have to be the last question, unfortunately.
PRINCE SAUD: Well, I am pleased that the last question is being asked by Dick.
MR. ZAKARIA: Well, wait till you hear it. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Prince Saud, three years ago I think our country had a number of analysts saying that the problem of terrorism was based in the faults of education and there was a number of demands published that there be a thoroughgoing reform of the Saudi educational system. Can you address that, because you said you had taken a personal -- made a personal review of the curriculum. And if I recall correctly, you said 85 percent was unexceptionable, 10 percent depended on the quality of the teacher, 5 percent was filled -- was hateful and had to be changed. Could you comment on what’s happened over the past two or three years in terms of reform in the school system?
PRINCE SAUD: You have a good memory. The correction in the curriculum is not only in the books alone. We have gone through a whole program of going into the educational system from top to bottom, from schools, teachers, books, and we have taken everything out of them that does not call for cooperation, coexistence, and knowing the people of the world and working together for a better world.
I have not just -- I’m not just answering this with words. I know that Senator [Arlen] Specter has been following that closely in the Senate and he has hearings about it, so I wrote him -- and I hope he can read Arabic -- all the books of the schools to see for himself what has happened to the books.
But this -- and I say this frankly -- it is not just the books. It is the teachers. And here you are worrying about the books; there we are worrying more about the teachers. We want every teacher to be somebody who is teaching the proper things that the children in their formative years are being taught. We have cleansed our schools of those who have been misusing their position as role models for the students, and we have prevented all the extracurricular activities that they used to carry out with the schoolchildren, so the reform has been to go over the whole education system and not just the books. But the books you can get a copy of them from Arlen Specter, if you want.
MR. ZAKARIA: After he’s finished reading it. We actually have time for one more question, so let me –
QUESTION: Thank you. (Unintelligible.) My question, you said there was voter reform and citizen participation. Now, does that include the Shiite minority that you have in your country and how has it been affected by the leadership in Iraq in your -- in terms of the Shiite majority, democratic leadership?
PRINCE SAUD: Does this include what?
MR. PARNEE: The Shiite minority in your country.
MR. ZAKARIA: The Shiite -- does the reforms that you have taken doing -- include empowering the Shiite minority? I would quote another think tank that just came out with the report -- the International Crisis Group, that argues that the need for including the Shi’a in the Shura Council, the cabinet, is quite pressing.
PRINCE SAUD: Yeah, they are there. They are in the –
MR. ZAKARIA: In small numbers.
PRINCE SAUD: -- in the Shura. Well, they are a minority. (Laughter.) You can’t make them -- this includes all the citizens. Everybody in the municipal elections voted -- the Shiites, as well as others -- and the election came out where there are many seats that were filled by Shiites. They are equal citizens. They have been -- the dialogue that was -- that started the process of reforms in Saudi Arabia has included a large number of Shiites, so yes, it’s going to include the Shiites, of course.
MR. ZAKARIA: Has Iraq emboldened them?
PRINCE SAUD: Emboldened?
MR. ZAKARIA: To ask for greater demands politically watching a Shi’a majority country?
PRINCE SAUD: Well –
MR. ZAKARIA: -- as their neighbor?
PRINCE SAUD: Iraq is not going to turn them into a majority in Saudi Arabia. (Laughter.) But they have the rights as equal citizens in Saudi Arabia.
MR. ZAKARIA: Your Highness, a great pleasure. Thank you so much.
PRINCE SAUD: Thank you. (Applause.)