2003 Transcript

Crown Prince Abdullah's adviser Adel Al-Jubeir on CNN with Wolf Blitzer (subject: terrorism, bin Ladin, democratization)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR:  Despite a push for change in the Middle East, the region continues to be engulfed in terrorism and turmoil. We're joined now by the foreign policy adviser to Saudi Arabia's royal family. Adel Al-Jubeir is in Washington. Thanks very much, Mr. Al-Jubeir, for joining us. A week ago at this time, everyone was very, very upset about what happened in Riyadh. You're just back from Riyadh. What's the latest in your investigation? You've said this was the work, this terrorist attack, of al Qaeda.

ADEL AL-JUBEIR, FOREIGN AFFAIRS ADVISER TO CROWN PRINCE ABDULLAH: Right, yes, the way it was planned, the way it was executed, al Qaeda has the motive to do so. They have as one of their declared objectives the destruction of the Saudi state. And so we're not surprised. We have broken up over a dozen terrorist cells in Saudi Arabia since the May attacks in Riyadh, and we've discovered a common link between all of these groups. We have no doubt it was al Qaeda, and we also have -- we want to leave no doubt that we are determined to pursue them vigorously and without mercy until we crush them.

BLITZER: And have you rounded up any suspects, any collaborators?

AL-JUBEIR: There has been some questioning of individuals. There are some bodies we still need to identify from the explosions, based on DNA in order to ascertain their identity, but in terms of having someone in jail as of this time directly linked to this, no.

BLITZER: How much support does al Qaeda have from average, rank- and-file Saudis?

AL-JUBEIR: I would imagine very little support. We estimate that this is a small number of individuals that are around the country. They have common experience of having fought in Afghanistan and possibly Bosnia. They come from dysfunctional families. They are very radical in their outlook and, as a consequence, are a part of this entity. There were two public opinion polls taken in Saudi Arabia over the past summer, which showed that over 90 percent of the Saudi public does not support or condone what bin Laden is doing or the positions.

BLITZER: But 10 percent -- 10 percent could be a lot in terms of creating opportunities for Osama bin Laden's remnants to score points, to kill people in Saudi Arabia.

AL-JUBEIR: No, I wasn't saying that if 90 percent did not support him, that 10 percent would support him. Most people -- most of the 10 percent did not express an opinion. They just didn't know.

If you look at the numbers, for instance, in Europe, you would find that the -- I would imagine the numbers for Europe would be much different than from Saudi Arabia, in that the Europeans probably would be more undecided when it comes to this issue than our people are.

BLITZER: Of supporting al Qaeda?

AL-JUBEIR: Not so much al Qaeda, but if you ask people about bin Laden, they may say, "I don't know. I don't have an opinion." In our case, over 90 percent say absolutely...

BLITZER: Osama bin Laden is, of course, a Saudi himself.

AL-JUBEIR: We stripped him of his citizenship, but he was a Saudi citizen at one time.

BLITZER: And 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis.


BLITZER: That's generated a lot of concern. Listen to what the former NATO supreme allied commander, General Wesley Clark, now a Democratic presidential candidate, had to say this week. Well, let me read it to you.

"I would press Saudi Arabia to join U.S. forces in creating a U.S.-Saudi commando force to work the Afghan-Pakistani border where bin Laden is thought to be hiding. The Saudi regime is as responsible as anyone for the rise of al Qaeda."

AL-JUBEIR: Well, I think, with all due respect to General Clark, who I have tremendous respect for, I believe that our ability to conduct commando operations 2,000 miles from our home territory is a capability that we don't have. I wish we had it.

We have been working closely with the Pakistani government and with the United States and with other countries in trying to determine where bin Laden is, so we can capture him and bring him to justice. We have as much interest in doing so as any country in the world, because we and the United States are the two main targets of Osama bin Laden.

With regard to the responsibility for the rise of Osama bin Laden, it goes back to the time of the war that the mujahedeen in Afghanistan fought in order to eject the Soviet Union from Afghanistan in the 1980s.

The United States and Saudi Arabia were the two main sponsors. We contributed each over $500 million a year to support the mujahedeen in their effort. And the mujahedeen succeeded in ejecting the Soviets from Afghanistan. Bin Laden emerged out of that. I don't think that it serves a purpose to try to point fingers or assign blame. We all had something to do with it.

BLITZER: What are your intelligence services, your security services, telling you right now about future -- about any imminent threats, terror threats, in Saudi Arabia?

AL-JUBEIR: We are preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. We still have some cells that we need to unravel. We still capture people. We still capture munitions and arms caches.

We are going after the financiers of terrorism. We are looking at bank accounts. We have set up two joint task forces with the U.S. We have set up these on relationships with other governments.

We cannot discount the possibility of another attack, unfortunately.

BLITZER: On November 6, President Bush spoke out about the need to promote democracy throughout the Middle East, the Arab world, the Muslim world. Listen to this excerpt from what the president said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BUSH: Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe. Because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty. Therefore, the United States has adopted a new policy, a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Among the countries he was addressing was your country, Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom. What are the prospects of real democracy ever, ever developing in Saudi Arabia, including the right of women, for example, to vote?

AL-JUBEIR: I would imagine very real. Saudi Arabia has been on a path of reform since the first Gulf war in 1990. We set up a consultative council. We streamlined our government departments. We offered an agenda for reforming the Arab position that includes broadening political participation, opening up the economy, attracting investment. We have done, in the last two years, tremendous things in the economic area. We have done things in terms of building institutions: a center for national dialogue, a journalist association ...

BLITZER: But that's all men, basically. Do women have any rights in Saudi Arabia?

AL-JUBEIR: In the -- for example, in the chambers of commerce, women are members and they have the right to vote, just like the men members. We have opened up opportunities for women in terms of jobs. Women have access to education. Over 50 percent of our students at the college level and above are women. As our society develops, more women will enter the job force because we need to have...

BLITZER: When will women be able to get driver's licenses in Saudi Arabia?

AL-JUBEIR: This is a question that I have no idea. I would imagine that...

BLITZER: Why can't -- what's wrong with letting women drive cars?

AL-JUBEIR: That's a good question. I ask myself this question every day. There are a number of Saudis who feel women should drive. It makes it easier. It makes it more practical. There are Saudis who believe that women should not drive. And I believe that this is an issue that has to be worked out within our society. And in time, it will be worked out...

BLITZER: Is it true that women can't even sit in the front seat of cars in Saudi Arabia?

AL-JUBEIR: No, that is not correct. If you go to Riyadh, you can see women sitting in the front seat. I would imagine if a woman decides to sit in the back seat, that's her prerogative, or in the front seat, that's her prerogative ...

BLITZER: Because when we were there, when I was there in -- almost a year ago, we were told no women sitting in the front seat.

AL-JUBEIR: If you were driving in my car, I wouldn't mind if you wanted to have your crew sit next to ...

BLITZER: But you could envisage the day where the Wahhabi religious leadership of Saudi Arabia will give women these kinds of rights?

AL-JUBEIR: I would imagine. It's a function of our society. Personally, I think yes, eventually it will happen. I can't tell you when. I can't tell you how it will play out. But you cannot have a society that moves forward into the future if half of your members are dysfunctional or can't participate.

BLITZER: That's an accurate point.

Thanks very much, Adel Al-Jubeir, for joining us.

AL-JUBEIR: You're very welcome. Always a pleasure.