Thank you, Dean Anderson, for the kind introduction.
I appreciate the invitation to be here today. SIPA [School of Public and International Affairs] is a wonderful school, which has produced many great minds. And I am honored to be here, thank you. And thank you all for joining me.
There are many topics I could cover here in my opening remarks, but I feel it would be most useful to address the issues that are currently in the news – specifically, Osama bin Laden and oil prices.
I will begin with bin Laden.
If we look at his latest message to the world, it reminds us, once again, that his is an evil, twisted vision for humanity.
He urges violence, when the world desires peace.
He aims for incitement, when the world calls for tolerance.
He promote confusion, when the world demands understanding.
Bin Laden’s ideology is one of hate in which everyone is a target. Nothing is sacred to this man. Not age, not race, not religion. Al-Qaeda will attack Christian, Jew, or Muslim without distinction. They care only to spread chaos.
So here I want to be absolutely clear, because messages like the one Bin Laden made are intended only to corrupt and confuse: Osama bin Laden does not speak for Muslims. He does not represent Islam. His religion is extremism, and his practice is terror. He leads a cult that is a perversion of a benevolent and peaceful faith.
By corrupting Islam – the way David Koresh corrupted Christianity or Baruch Goldstein corrupted Judaism – bin Laden aims to stir misunderstanding, and pit us against one another.
We must continue to cooperate and promote understanding so we can overcome this common threat. As King Abdullah has said: “Fanaticism and extremism cannot grow on an earth whose soil is embedded in the spirit of tolerance, moderation, and balance.”
If bin Laden seeks to divide us, we must work together all the more.
Saudi Arabia, for its part, continues to work with its global partners, including the United States. And the Kingdom has been effectively going after the men, the money, and the mindset that support terrorism and extremism.
What is most important though, is that the Saudi people are galvanized in the effort to eradicate terrorism from our country. We don’t want it in our cities. We don’t want it in our neighborhoods. And we don’t want our children exposed to it – whether it is the ideology or the horrific crimes. And many of our leads and information, in fact, come from the people.
The result of our counterterrorism measures, our controls in the areas of banking and charity, and a united populace, has been a significant blow against Al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia over the last few years. The terrorists’ actions are more scattered and desperate. And we find that when we engage them, their ability to resist is much less than used to be.
The last attack, which occurred in February, is a testament to this. Three terrorists tried to attack the Abqaiq oil facility. They were confronted and defeated. One of the terrorists drove off and was followed, leading security forces back to a terrorist safe house. Those terrorists were captured, and then over the last couple months, more than 45 more have been captured as well.
This outcome clearly speaks to the capabilities and dedication of our security forces, and should inspire confidence in the level of security Saudi Arabia has protecting its facilities.
Saudi Arabia has also developed novel approaches to combating terrorism. For example, we have deployed clerics to counsel jailed militants and convert them to moderate beliefs. In the process, they often supply our security forces with valuable information. This approach has been praised by British Intelligence as a model counter terrorism program. And Jack Straw, the British Foreign Secretary recently said that, “The Saudis are doing a great deal with terrorism and the cause of terrorism.”
Yet, while there is much progress in Saudi Arabia, there are still terrorist attacks occurring around the world, whether from Al-Qaeda or other organizations, like the recent one in Egypt, which took so many innocent lives. So we must continue to work together to eradicate terrorism – all forms of terrorism.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are all facing a world of uncertainty, and Saudi Arabia’s place is to offer stability.
If we look at the oil market now, the Kingdom wants only to act as a steady and balancing force. Because right now, the price of oil is being elevated by a number of issues, including political uncertainty in Iran and Nigeria, a shortage in global refining and shipping capacity, and strong demand from countries like China, India, and the US.
To compensate, the Kingdom is undertaking several initiatives, including both expanding our ability to produce crude oil and building new refineries in the Kingdom and in consuming countries.
In fact, one of the new increments of new crude production recently came on line. Known as the Haradh increment, it consists of 300,000 barrels per day of Arabian light crude. This is a significant addition to our output capacity, and was two months ahead of schedule. Saudi Aramco also just signed five new contracts to expand production in the Shaybah field, so we are making progress in this area.
But, we recognize that in order to ensure a fair and reasonable price for, and an adequate supply of, oil for consumers, Saudi Arabia must be able to increase its production capacity without jeopardizing the interests of future generations or damaging its oil fields. This is why improved planning and cooperation with consumers, like the United States, is needed to help accomplish this.
To meet this need, the permanent Secretariat of the International Energy Forum, which is headquartered in Riyadh, launched the Joint Oil Data Initiative in November of 2005.
This database of information from more than 90 countries is intended to help plan for the future, and to better anticipate supply and demand trends around the world. One of the main reasons oil prices rose to such high levels in 2004 and 2005 was unanticipated strong demand in rapidly growing economies, like China and India.
Cooperation in this area will prove to have significant benefits to both producing and consuming countries.
And with that, I would be happy to take any questions you may have. Again, thank you.