CHARLIE ROSE, HOST: Welcome to the broadcast. Tonight, the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia.
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CHARLIE ROSE: If American troops leave, what are the consequences?
SAUD AL-FAISAL, FOREIGN MINISTER, SAUDI ARABIA: Well, following the political dialogue in America about leaving or not leaving, I think there is some sort of a consensus emerging that you can`t leave the country in disarray.
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CHARLIE ROSE: Prince Saud al-Faisal and Tzipi Livni, next.
CHARLIE ROSE: Prince Saud al-Faisal has been the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia since 1975. His country is an American ally in the Middle East. It has also played a key role in the Israeli/Palestinian peace process. He was especially prophetic about the war in Iraq, warning in the year 2003 that it would destabilize the country and the region. Here`s a part of what he said in interviews with CNN`s Christiane Amanpour and the BBC`s John Simpson.
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PRINCE SAUD: An occupation of Iraq is not a simple thing. How is 250,000 troops going to maintain order in a country like that? Especially if war leads to the instability that we think it will lead to, if it leads to the chaos that we think it will lead to. If the social order breaks down, who`s going to be fighting whom? There`s disorder, who`s going to be paying the price for that?
We would hate to see American soldiers paying the price for an occupation that will do nothing but bring terrible consequences to everybody.
If change of regime comes with the destruction of Iraq, then you are solving one problem and creating five more problems. That is the consideration that we have to give, because we live in the region.
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CHARLIE ROSE: And in a conversation with me in early 2004, he predicted the rise of ethnic and sectarian tensions in Iraq.
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PRINCE SAUD: And the fear that we had is that we knew that Iraq -- we knew that Iraq had many problems. Basically, the ethnic and sectarian situation in Iraq, which has been leaving Iraq on the edge of a pendulum, from complete chaos at one time to complete dictatorship at another time. And we thought that Saddam Hussein was not the cause of the problems of Iraq, he was a symptom.
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CHARLIE ROSE: Prince Saud Al-Faisal is in New York this week to lead the Saudi delegation at the United Nations General Assembly. I spoke with him in a wide-ranging conversation over the weekend at his hotel here in New York. Here is that conversation.
CHARLIE ROSE: How do you see where we are today in this great conflict, one of two conflicts in your region that we want to talk about?
PRINCE SAUD: Well, they all play and feed on each other, of course. You`re talking about the Palestinian/Israeli problem and the Iraq.
CHARLIE ROSE: Speak to Iraq first.
PRINCE SAUD: It is -- I was just going to say that had it not been for the Palestinian problem, it would have been hard to conceive the developments in Iraq that have evolved.
But be that as it may, in Iraq, the most important element in Iraq that must be viewed with all seriousness and with all serious intent to do something about it is national reconciliation. Without that, everything is not -- nothing is going to happen in Iraq. Sectarian violence will continue. The pressure on the division of Iraq will continue. If Iraq is divided, then the countries of the region would be sucked into the conflict and, again, the mess will...
CHARLIE ROSE: Why have we not had reconciliation?
PRINCE SAUD: Well, because you have removed a government from Iraq and now building a new government. There was an election, a government was brought in. It was supposed to initiate the reconciliation. It was supposed to solve the issue of the constitution that was so objectionable to other members other than the Shiites. It brought the Shiite majority, and therefore the Sunnis are looking for security that they haven`t achieved until now.
The intent at the beginning was to keep the resources of Iraq divided for the regions of Iraq, and that created another problem for Iraq.
So, many decisions that have to be taken have not been taken so far.
Now, the program of action that has been established is, we think, the right one. The priorities being international reconciliation. If that is so, then that certainly is the way to proceed in Iraq.
But having said that, if you have a program of action that is the right program of action, you need the vehicle to do it. And the government until now has not done the work that needs to be done.
CHARLIE ROSE: Does your government have confidence in the Maliki government?
PRINCE SAUD: Well, it is not confidence; we would like to see results. I mean, we have had meetings with them. He has been to Saudi Arabia, the prime minister, and he had said that he would work very strenuously on bringing about the national reconciliation that is needed. But unfortunately, the work on the ground has not proven that.
CHARLIE ROSE: But you have to have an understanding of why not. Is it because he feels politically constrained? Because of who his allies are, or because he does not have the political will to do it?
PRINCE SAUD: I have a feeling that the Shiite religious community must do more to urge for this reconciliation. That will certainly be more effective to the government than the urging of the United States or anybody.
CHARLIE ROSE: So if Ayatollah Sistani would step in?
PRINCE SAUD: I think he has a tremendous burden that he should carry with some serious intent.
CHARLIE ROSE: What leverage do you think your government has with the Sunnis?
PRINCE SAUD: We have been very careful to keep the same distance from everybody, the Sunnis and the Shiites. It`s not a matter of taking sides, of being protectors of -- we don`t claim to be protectors of Sunni. We are equally distressed for what is happening to Shiites as, you know, what is happening to Sunnis. Sectarian fighting is a horrible thing. History has shown this to be true. Where it has happened, violence is awful. And so, we don`t meddle in this dangerous...
CHARLIE ROSE: But if civil war would come, everybody assumes that Saudi Arabia would come in on the side of the Sunnis.
PRINCE SAUD: Well, the word of Islam has the majority of Sunnis. Why only Saudi Arabia would come to the -- there are other Sunnis. In Turkey, Sunnis; in Syria, Sunnis; in Jordan, Sunnis. It is a matter of working with sectarianism. It is a full plate. It`s not just Saudi Arabia.
CHARLIE ROSE: How long can you give the Maliki government and Ayatollah Sistani to come in and do something? How long can you live with the situation the way it is today?
PRINCE SAUD: They should come yesterday, not today. I think it is already very late in the day. We have elections coming in the United States. We don`t know what policies are going to be pursued in the United States, and certainly the United States is a prime mover and a prime actor in Iraq. And unless things move now, immediately, as I said, yesterday better than today, I`m afraid for the future. It doesn`t bode well for all of us.
CHARLIE ROSE: What are you afraid for?
PRINCE SAUD: Well, I`m afraid of conflict, of this conflict spreading in the region, of the violence continuing unabated, and for the countries of the region to be sucked into the conflict. This is the nightmare that everybody sees in Iraq if things continue as they are.
CHARLIE ROSE: Some say you have 18 months to do something, because if there`s a change of administration -- and there will be -- and it is any of the Democratic candidates is elected president, there will be a demand for withdrawal sooner rather than later. And if American troops leave, what are the consequences?
PRINCE SAUD: Well, from following the political dialogue in America about leaving or not leaving, I think there is some sort of a consensus emerging that you can`t leave the country in disarray.
CHARLIE ROSE: Exactly. Well, you said that at the beginning, that we have to leave Iraq in a better shape than we found it. That seems like an awfully tall mountain to climb.
PRINCE SAUD: Well, if you jump into the fray, you have to pay the price for that.
CHARLIE ROSE: And what is that price now? What is it from the United States that we have to do?
PRINCE SAUD: Well, I don`t want to presume that I would know what the United States has to do better than the United States government. They have set up a program of action that include national consensus, that resolves many of the issues, outstanding issues -- the issue of militias, the issue of equality in the eyes of the law for all Iraqis. These are the elements that have to be done.
As I said, it is not the concept of -- or the conception of what needs to be done in Iraq, it is just doing it. It`s going ahead and doing it. If you`re accused of imperialism -- and God forgive me for saying that -- be a (inaudible) imperialist.
CHARLIE ROSE: The president seems to believe the surge is working, and he asked for more time. Is it your impression that the surge is working? That it is contributing to the possibility of national reconciliation?
PRINCE SAUD: I have no possibility of making a judgment on the surge and the policy that is being followed on the military side. But however successful the military aspect of it is, if the political side of it is not -- also does not have the surge that the military side has, I`m afraid that we are working in a vacuum then.
CHARLIE ROSE: But you`ve already said that political reconciliation is not working.
PRINCE SAUD: It has to work.
CHARLIE ROSE: But why isn`t it happening and what can be done?
PRINCE SAUD: What can be done is you must do what is in the program. You must make every Iraqi equal in the eyes of the law. You must disband militias. You must make everybody share in the benefits of economic well-being in Iraq. You must bring a government that does not have any restrictions on Iraqis of qualification just because they are Ba`athist or other political affiliation. You must bring the professional soldiers, the professional policemen, who had the experience of governing Iraq, brought back into (inaudible). These are the issues that have to be dealt with.
And if the government is looking more at keeping these people out rather than bringing them in, they`re not doing the work that`s necessary for reconciliation.
CHARLIE ROSE: Some ask whether your government is doing enough to get reconciliation.
PRINCE SAUD: What can we do in Iraq? We have no military forces in Iraq.
CHARLIE ROSE: Well, you have influence with the...
PRINCE SAUD: What is the influence based on?
CHARLIE ROSE: Influence, a relationship to some of them. Influence...
PRINCE SAUD: I told you that we are....
CHARLIE ROSE: ... with Sunnis of the same religion...
PRINCE SAUD: ... equally...
CHARLIE ROSE: I mean, you are the home of Mecca.
PRINCE SAUD: We are keeping an equal distance from every sect in Iraq. And we worked with all the neighbors of Iraq to maintain that policy. And we are not going to break it. The -- coming to the aid of Sunni, what do we do? We arm them, to build militias to fight a war? We...
CHARLIE ROSE: You`re (ph) in the middle.
PRINCE SAUD: Not at all. Not at all.
CHARLIE ROSE: The president likes to point to Anbar province now, where Sunni tribal leaders have recognized that joining forces with al Qaeda is counterproductive and they`ve turned on al Qaeda. Do you think that idea can spread?
PRINCE SAUD: I hope so. We would hope the idea would spread everywhere, that cooperation with al Qaeda is counterproductive. It is dangerous. It is -- the violence that al Qaeda preaches brings no solutions to anybody. Whoever seeks to have a settlement of a problem certainly won`t find it with al Qaeda. You will find only pure terror for no other purpose than to terrorize.
CHARLIE ROSE: Are they stronger than they were before this war started?
PRINCE SAUD: They have more causes to use for recruitment, for -- to justify their actions, to show that they are in a war to protect Muslims everywhere. And that is dangerous, of course. We want to reduce the amount of -- their capability to recruitment, because unless you go to the heart of the recruitment issue, you are really not solving the terrorist problem.
CHARLIE ROSE: As you know, some of those recruits come from your country. Why do you think they go to Iraq to fight for al Qaeda? Saudi young men?
PRINCE SAUD: You know, when you see the violence that is happening in Iraq, in Palestine, and every day you see it on television and you see your brethren being killed, and it moves people. It is not the first time that this has happened, that people go to fight other wars in other countries. Many idealists from America went to the war in Spain...
CHARLIE ROSE: Yes, indeed.
PRINCE SAUD: ... and lost their lives there. This is not unsimilar to that. But if you have...
CHARLIE ROSE: What do they see as the cause, though? If al Qaeda is not the cause...
PRINCE SAUD: If you have somebody -- if you have somebody like al Qaeda utilizing this and directing it in a manner that is evil, that is pure evil, because al Qaeda has nothing to offer -- they certainly are not going to liberate Iraq. They went to Lebanon and created havoc in Lebanon. They went to other places and only killed -- who did they kill? They killed Muslims! Tens of times more Muslims than anybody else. They have nothing...
CHARLIE ROSE: They killed Muslims when they attacked the United States.
PRINCE SAUD: Indeed. And this is what we are trying to drive home to these youths, who perhaps out of idealism are being utilized by al Qaeda.
CHARLIE ROSE: Is this split between Sunni and Shiite, is it out of the bottle? Is it hard to contain? Are we going to see in the Middle East a real conflict, Shiites...
PRINCE SAUD: We`re working as hard...
CHARLIE ROSE: ... represented by Iran and the government of Iran...
PRINCE SAUD: We`re working as hard as we can to prevent this, because this is an impossible fitna, we call it. Fitna is something unimaginably bad for Muslims to have.
The differences, the sectarian differences have been there for 1,400 years. But having it come to the fore in violence is the thing that is abhorrent to all sensible people in the Islamic world, and everybody is trying to prevent that. We hope...
CHARLIE ROSE: Will they be successful?
PRINCE SAUD: We hope that Iran will cooperate with us. Indeed, they have assured us that they will cooperate with us. And if they do, this certainly will be a plus for the fight against sectarian violence in the Middle East. But the test is in the doing and not in the saying.
CHARLIE ROSE: Do you believe them?
PRINCE SAUD: Well, we have to believe them, and we have to cooperate until we see otherwise.
CHARLIE ROSE: Because some say that there is developing in the Middle East a pro-Iranian faction and an anti-Iranian faction, of which you clearly would be part of an anti-Iranian faction, and so would Jordan and so would other countries.
The pro-Iranian faction would include Syria, certainly, and perhaps Iraq.
PRINCE SAUD: We are not pro or against countries. We are pro or against policies that countries follow.
CHARLIE ROSE: So what do you think of the Iranian policy?
PRINCE SAUD: We don`t have an inherent opposition to Iran.
The policy that we would like to see Iran follow is a policy of fighting sectarianism, of not conceiving of themselves as the protectors of Shiites and -- in Iraq, for instance, because it`s a false premise. If you are protecting Shiites in Iraq, you must remember that there are more Shiites as minorities in Sunni countries than majority in Muslim countries. And if you are worried about the Shiites, then you have to worry about these communities, which are now integrating in the society.
CHARLIE ROSE: You have said that the worst two things you can think about are, one, a nuclear Iran, and, two, an attack on Iran to prevent a nuclear Iran. Both bad options.
PRINCE SAUD: Indeed. And that is why we are at a quandary about this in the Middle East. They`ve promised that they are not going to build atomic weapons. We hope that it comes true, that they are not going to develop atomic weapons. But the spread of nuclear weapons is something that is so immensely dangerous, not only because of the threat of conflict with atomic weapons, which is so destructive, but because of the fears that they would fall into the wrong hands, into terrorist hands.
CHARLIE ROSE: It`s not so much whether Iran would have them, it is who might steal them, who might have access to them.
PRINCE SAUD: Who might steal them, and have access to them.
CHARLIE ROSE: Same thing is true of Pakistan.
PRINCE SAUD: Everywhere. Remember, the original sin was in Israel and not in Pakistan. Once you turn a blind eye to proliferation, then you have let the genie out of the bottle. Everybody will -- you have created the incentive, because everybody is threatened by somebody who owns it. Because the incentive goes to whom? It is either somebody who wants to intimidate, or somebody who has a neighbor that is trying to intimidate him and wants to protect themselves. These are the two people that will develop atomic weapons. And this is the incentive that exists for atomic weapons.
CHARLIE ROSE: So if Iran has nuclear weapons, then Saudi Arabia will have nuclear weapons.
PRINCE SAUD: No, Saudi Arabia has decided, out of a national -- its own national policy consideration not to go through that route. But this does not say -- mean that no other countries in the Middle East will do so.
CHARLIE ROSE: Let me turn to Israel. They recently had an attack in Syria, because of fear that the North Koreans were providing material to them. What did you think of that?
PRINCE SAUD: This is a threat that conflict always had. This incident was covered in some mystery. It remained for several days without anybody knowing anything about it, for one thing. We don`t know the reasons for this way of handling this issue in this mysterious fashion.
That there has been some shipments from North Korea is speculation by the press and the media. There has been no official explanation of what really happened, and what the cause is for that.
The instability that causes these incidents is what needs to be turned attention to.
CHARLIE ROSE: And what is that?
PRINCE SAUD: Not the symptom. Because it`s the occupation of territory by Israel of other countries` territory. This is the problem.
CHARLIE ROSE: Where does the...
PRINCE SAUD: Because the Palestinian question in the Middle East is put under a haze of misrepresentation. This is conceived of as being so difficult, so intricate a problem, that only perhaps the involvement of a deity can solve a problem like that, and not mere mortals. Whereas, in fact, it is a border dispute, isn`t it? They are fighting for the same territory. Why on earth this mystery?
CHARLIE ROSE: It`s more than that, though.
PRINCE SAUD: This complication? It is more than that? It has been brought to more than that. Now, religious issues put into it because of Jerusalem. Security issues are put as the prime concern for the solution of the problem. But there have been many border disputes settled, and many guarantees of security have been settled. Why not in Israel and Palestine?
CHARLIE ROSE: Well, your king, your friend, has made a significant effort with his own peace plan. Here`s what Tom Friedman said writing in "The New York Times."
"I would humbly suggest the Saudi king make four stops. His first stop should be to Al Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem, the third holiest site in Islam. There he, the custodian of Mecca and Medina, could reaffirm the Muslim claim to Arab East Jerusalem by praying at Al Aqsa. From there, he could travel to Ramallah and address the Palestinian parliament, making clear that the Abdullah initiative aims to give Palestinians the leverage to offer Israel peace, with the whole Arab world in return for full withdrawal.
And he might add that whatever deal the Palestinians cut with Israel regarding return of refugees or land swaps, so some settlements might stay in the West Bank in return for the Palestinians getting pieces of Israel, the Arab world would support.
From there, King Abdullah could helicopter to Yad Vashem, the memorial to the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust. A visit there would seal the deal with Israelis and affirm that the Muslim world rejects the Holocaust denialism of Iran.
Then he could go to the Israeli parliament and formally deliver his peace initiative."
What do you think of that idea?
PRINCE SAUD: What if what Mr. Friedman says does not work?
CHARLIE ROSE: That`s the problem, isn`t it? Can`t take that risk if it doesn`t work.
PRINCE SAUD: The issue -- the issue is not for somebody who`s not in the conflict to take risks for peace. It is those in conflict that must risk peace.
Israel has lived now for the last six or seven decades on the concept of security based on brute power, brute military power. It is guaranteed that power by the United States. The United States assures Israel of keeping it capable of facing any combination of other forces, and we see the superiority in the military field that Israel has.
It is not for King Abdullah to risk for this peace. He presented a plan that would allow for the security of Israel in the Arab world, by having the Arab countries accept to make peace with Israel, that would lead to normalization, that would lead to working together, to cooperation.
The one who should take the risk for peace is Israel, instead of gambling on war to keep it. Why not accept...
CHARLIE ROSE: Everybody has to take a risk for peace, don`t they?
PRINCE SAUD: Of course they do.
CHARLIE ROSE: Hamas has to take a risk for peace. The king has to take a risk for peace. The Israelis have to take a risk for peace.
PRINCE SAUD: Of course.
CHARLIE ROSE: Somebody has to say...
PRINCE SAUD: He has come forward, put his proposal on the table, which was -- the risk was that he was -- that he was taking, that it was not going to be accepted or be popular, in his country or in other Islamic countries. But he took the risk. He came out with the proposal, and he convinced his Arab colleagues to accept the proposal.
It was out of hand refused by Israel, without any response or a different proposal from them that would be of equal consequence. You don`t know how to act with something like that. Somebody who tells you that it`s my security that is the arbiter for peace.
What is Israeli security? At one time, in their studies that they make, a security study, they said that their security extends from the Indus River to the Atlantic Ocean. How is that conceivable for a country of 3 million people, or 4 million people, or 5 million people, to conceive of these ideas? My God! We just want to live our lives in our country, build our country, have our citizens receive the education and economic level that we think they deserve. Where do these grandiose ideas come from? I don`t know how they develop these ideas.
They are there to live as part of the Middle East. They must live with the Palestinian, not with the United States. They must achieve acceptance in the neighborhood that they have come to. They have come by force, but they cannot remain by force. They can only remain by acceptance. And this is what was offered to them, on the table, acceptance, normalization. A country as small as that has to have normal relations.
CHARLIE ROSE: You know what they would say, with respect? They would say that suicide bombings continue, the violence against Israelis continues...
PRINCE SAUD: It continues because of the violence that`s perpetrated...
CHARLIE ROSE: ... not just the territories, but also within Israel.
PRINCE SAUD: It continues because it is perpetrated by the violence that they use against the Palestinians.
CHARLIE ROSE: Beyond what....
PRINCE SAUD: For one shot fired from a house in the West Bank, the whole house is razed and the family is driven out. Every time that some crazy from one of the militias in the West Bank or Gaza fires a Katyusha missile that hits a farm, or maybe sometimes it injures somebody, the whole section of the city that it came from is destroyed. The infrastructure is -- Palestinians are living in misery. These are the most educated people in the Middle East. A man or a woman cannot know what their family is going to -- whether they can feed them, whether they can put them to school, whether they can clothe them, whether they can even see them grow up.
What on Earth would drive a girl, a 16-year-old girl, to put dynamite on herself and blow herself up? A 16-year-old girl! And she`s a human being, just like the Israelis, just like that Saudis, just like the Americans. Except they`re scared. They are scared. They see no way through for themselves to get anything in life, except by doing these violent -- violence. They have closed every option for them to work as human beings, with the dignity that this requires of human beings.
CHARLIE ROSE: All right. But what`s wrong with what Tom Friedman suggested? Have King Abdullah...
PRINCE SAUD: This is theater. What...
CHARLIE ROSE: Theater?
PRINCE SAUD: Theater.
CHARLIE ROSE: Well, Anwar Sadat went to Jerusalem.
PRINCE SAUD: Well, did he make peace for the Middle East?
CHARLIE ROSE: He made a peace between Egypt and Israel.
PRINCE SAUD: All he could do was get Egyptian territory out of the Israelis. Although he was hoping for a breakthrough that would allow for total peace in the region. And remember, that is one of the prime telling elements of our security.
CHARLIE ROSE: So where do we go from here? Beyond Israeli initiatives, where do we go? Do we need more face-to-face talks? Do we need a conference of all the Arab neighbors? Do we need -- what?
PRINCE SAUD: Everybody, if you ask the experts here, everybody, even the ordinary man on the street in Haifa and Razza (ph) or Ramallah or Jerusalem, knows what peace is going to end up to be.
CHARLIE ROSE: They know the outlines of an agreement?
PRINCE SAUD: Everybody knows. All it takes is just the will to...
CHARLIE ROSE: But it can`t be the will of one person or one country. It has to be the will of everybody. It has to be the will of Saudi Arabia. It has to be the will of Egypt. It has to be the will of Israel.
PRINCE SAUD: We have...
CHARLIE ROSE: It has to be the will of the Palestinians. It has to be the will of Hamas. And they have to say things that they haven`t said, which is we`re not for the destruction of the state of Israel.
PRINCE SAUD: We have said that.
CHARLIE ROSE: I know you have, but Hamas hasn`t said that.
PRINCE SAUD: When we worked on Hamas, everybody got angry at us, because we tried to unify the Palestinians...
CHARLIE ROSE: But in that effort, you didn`t get Hamas to renounce that.
PRINCE SAUD: We got Hamas to agree to the Arab peace plan.
CHARLIE ROSE: But they announced the fact that they still consider it a principle, the destruction of Israel.
PRINCE SAUD: No, they...
CHARLIE ROSE: I`m sure you worked on it.
PRINCE SAUD: They didn`t renounce violence.
CHARLIE ROSE: Right.
PRINCE SAUD: It is not the destruction of Israel. They never said...
CHARLIE ROSE: But they haven`t renounced that either, did they? They don`t recognize...
PRINCE SAUD: They haven`t...
CHARLIE ROSE: ... the right of Israel to exist.
PRINCE SAUD: They haven`t renounced that. But remember, it took Yasser Arafat 10 years to renounce that. In one night, we had them agree to the Arab peace plan. If we continue to work with Hamas for a united Palestinian front for peace, is that or is that not good for peace?
CHARLIE ROSE: It is.
PRINCE SAUD: Well, why doesn`t everybody help in this process?
CHARLIE ROSE: Well, didn`t the United States respond at all?
PRINCE SAUD: On the contrary. I think the response was negative.
CHARLIE ROSE: Exactly.
PRINCE SAUD: And we are at a quandary to understand why it was negative. Because certainly peace cannot be made by one man. It can only be made by national consensus.
CHARLIE ROSE: So the United States has not...
PRINCE SAUD: As much of national consensus in Israel as it is in Palestine. This is an absolute necessity, and we will continue to work for that.
CHARLIE ROSE: Thank you very much.