In an interview today with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Saudi Arabian foreign policy adviser to Crown Prince Abdullah, Adel Al-Jubeir, discussed British Airways’ decision to temporarily suspend flights to the Kingdom. Blitzer opened the segment by noting that according to U.S. officials, issues included documents seized during anti-terrorist searches in Saudi Arabia that detailed casing of the airport.
“It was a judgment call on the part of British Airways. They decided that given the threat that was there, given the possibility that the airline was targeted, that it may be wiser for them to suspend operations to Saudi Arabia temporarily”, Al-Jubeir said. “We believe that the security situation in Saudi Arabia is safe; we believe this was a successful attempt by Saudi law enforcement to break up a cell and arrest its members before they could do damage. It’s in line with what we have been doing for months now.” He went on to note: “We believe that the airport is very secure in terms of its perimeters and in terms of the defenses that are there. We doubt that the operation would have been successful.”
Al-Jubeir also stressed the security of airports throughout the country. “I believe that the security at our airports is among the strictest, if not the strictest, in the world, as we speak. We have beefed up our security substantially, after the bombings in Riyadh on May 12. We continue to look for areas to improve it. We have much better intelligence-gathering capabilities now, thanks to the hundreds of people we have arrested. We learn more as every day goes by, and we apprehend more terrorists as every day goes by. We are determined to crush this organization, and I have no doubt that we will succeed.”
At Blitzer’s request, Al-Jubeir also gave a short overview of Saad bin Laden’s role in Al Qaeda, commenting that Saudi Arabia will continue to work with Iran to try to bring about the extradition of Saudi members of Al-Qaeda now in Iranian custody.
In a subsequent appearance on MSNBC’s Buchanan and Press, Adel al-Jubeir responded to questions regarding the level of terrorist threat in the Kingdom by saying the situation has been of serious concern for a number of years and has been more so since the May 12 bombings in Riyadh. He noted that since 9/11 Saudi authorities have arrested over six hundred people for activities related to terrorism; and since May 12, 2003 police have seized large arms caches while breaking up terrorist cells. Saudi authorities, he said, will continue to press operations against terrorists until the threat is ended.
Specifically, regarding the cancellation of British Airways flights to Saudi Arabia, Mr. Al-Jubeir said that that is a decision the company’s management had to make based on its assessment, but added: “We believe that the security does not warrant the cancellation of flights to Saudi Arabia at this time.”
Mr. Al-Jubeir confirmed that the British were at potential risk of attack, noting that Saudi authorities warned the British after breaking up the cell that was plotting such an action. He added that as a result of Saudi investigations the Kingdom has also alerted the United States to a number of potential terrorist actions. He went on to point out that the United States had not suspended flights when a plot was uncovered to smuggle in shoulder-launched missiles, adding: “We can’t allow terrorists to disrupt the civil order in a country, because then the terrorists succeed.”
Asked to respond to those in the United States who believe that Saudi Arabia is complicit with terrorism, Mr. Al-Jubeir replied: “I don’t believe any country on this planet as done more in the war against terrorism alongside the United States than Saudi Arabia. We have disrupted the finances of terrorists, we have captured over 600 people in Saudi Arabia …… virtually the arrest of every major Al-Qaeda leader around the world, we had a hand in it.”
As to criticism from former Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations, Dore Gold, Mr. Al-Jubeir noted that Mr. Gold continues to be an adviser to the Sharon government and Gold's highly critical book regarding the Kingdom “is full of nonsense”. Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan, he said, has aptly described Gold as “hatred’s scribe”. Mr. Al-Jubeir further observed that Israel has been actively accusing Saudi Arabia for the past two years of funding Hamas, but has not provided one iota of evidence to substantiate its verbal attacks on Saudi Arabia.
As to those trying to fracture the U.S.-Saudi relationship, Mr. Al-Jubeir said they will not succeed. That relationship has been solid for the past 60 years and will continue to be solid.