2003 Transcript
 

05/18/2003
Foreign Policy Advisor Adel Al-Jubeir on FOX 'News on Sunday'

HOST TONY SNOW: Relations between Saudi Arabia and the United States were further tested Monday, when terrorists hit three residential compounds in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, killing eight Americans and 26 others.

How has the blast changed Saudi policy toward terror? For answers, we turn to Adel Al-Jubeir, foreign policy adviser to the Saudi crown prince.

Mr. Al-Jubeir, first, has your government made any arrests yet in Monday's bombings?

AL-JUBEIR: We are looking at the situation. We're investigating the crime scene. We're investigating the forensics. We have had a large number of people come from the United States to Saudi Arabia. We have, in fact, as we speak now, another 60 or 70 showing up.

I think the statements by the director of the FBI have been very clear about how thorough and how meticulous the Saudi law enforcement effort is.


SNOW: But at this point, no arrests?

AL-JUBEIR: At this point, no.

SNOW: All right. Now, there has also been reporting that that was sort of an inside job, that Al-Qaeda members may have gotten access to National Guard uniforms, to keys to sentry booths. What can you tell us about that?

AL-JUBEIR: Not in terms of keys to sentry booths. To the uniforms, yes, but remember, you can buy these uniforms at any surplus store. They were mainly seeking military fatigues in order to throw off a guard at one of the compounds.

SNOW: Are Al-Qaeda responsible for the act?

AL-JUBEIR: We don't have any definitive evidence, but I would be very surprised if it is not an Al-Qaeda operation.

SNOW: Now, a number of Americans -- you've heard the criticism of the past -- say, "Well, Saudi Arabia is now reaping the rewards of having a number of citizens who have supported Al-Qaeda in the past." What are you going to do to cut off support from within your own country for Al-Qaeda?

AL-JUBEIR: Well, to begin with, I think it's unfortunate that people will think so. One can never say "You deserve it" when innocent people die.

Secondly, we have tried our best in the past to cut off funding to terrorist organizations coming out of Saudi Arabia, making sure that people don't abuse our charities, and being very harsh when it comes to looking for terrorists and punishing them.

That turned out to be not enough, and we need to do more. We need to eliminate the environment in which they can recruit our young people. We need to create an environment that's conducive to immunizing our population from them. We will have to look seriously at every facet of our culture and our society in order to make sure that we can deal with this threat.

SNOW: There's been an extraordinary gusher of commentary from within your country. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal told Time magazine, and I'm going to read a quote, he said, "In this country, extremism has been given a voice and has not been subdued. If any person has doubts that we have extremists in Saudi Arabia, they ought to shut up now. There is very big extremism here, and extremism has shown its very ugly face by killing Arabs, Saudis, Americans and Westerners altogether. There has been too much tolerance of extremism."

Do you agree?

AL-JUBEIR: To a large extent, yes.

SNOW: And what will the government do about that?

AL-JUBEIR: We have -- the crown prince has made it very clear in his address to the nation, we will go after the terrorists, those who support them, those who condone them. He issued a warning to anyone who uses religion to justify such acts, and he described anyone who does so as a partner to the terrorists who will suffer their fate.

SNOW: Your government, a Wahhabi Muslim government, has a great deal of say over which clerics sit in judgment and make statements. At least three clerics before the attacks recently -- Ali al-Kudur (ph), Nasser al-Fad (ph), and Ahmed al-Khalidi (ph) -- all had not only defended but praised some of the people responsible for carrying out the bombings in Riyadh.

AL-JUBEIR: Well, Tony, the thing to keep in mind is that a lot of these clerics are underground. A lot of these clerics issue their fatwas, which are really their opinions, on the Internet, and that gets bandied about.

Our minister of Islamic affairs has made it very clear over the past eight months that you cannot use religion or the pulpit for political purposes. Our supreme religious council, which is composed of our senior religious scholars, in February issued a fatwa, a religious ruling, saying it is un-Islamic to call people infidels and to incite people, because that leads to violence.

Over the past six months, Saudi Arabia has dismissed over a thousand preachers at various mosques who have transgressed. The fact that we haven't talked about it does not mean that we're not doing it. We need to be more public in what we do. We need to be more forceful. We need to educate our people, and we need to educate the world.

SNOW: Are you about to have a showdown in your own country between forces of extremism in your government?

AL-JUBEIR: We are not about to have a showdown in our government...

SNOW: Between forces of extremism.

AL-JUBEIR: But we have having -- we are in a showdown with the forces of darkness in Saudi Arabia.

SNOW: You had mentioned earlier the fact that there are 60 FBI agents on the soil. Your interior minister, Prince Nayef, has said that in fact they're merely there in an observer role, they're not going to be playing an active role in doing an investigation.

How can that be the case? American citizens died, as well as Saudis. Why should not the FBI have an operational role? After all, I thought this was the idea behind the joint task force that has been under contemplation for a long time, now seems to be ready to get up and running.

AL-JUBEIR: Yes. No, no, they're inside Saudi Arabia. They're helping us with the investigation. They're providing support to us. They're sharing whatever information they have. They're sharing their expertise. We asked for them to come. The United States offered to send them. We're very grateful that they are there.

This is an enemy that we are pursuing who is targeting both of us, and we would be remiss if we didn't do everything we can and if your government didn't do everything it could to find the clues and...

SNOW: So it's not the case that they're merely observers? They're active participants?

AL-JUBEIR: No, you only need one observer, you don't need over a hundred.

SNOW: It's also been reported that a number of senior Al-Qaeda officials now are operating out of Iran. Is that your understanding?

AL-JUBEIR: We have seen reports to that effect, but we don't have anything to verify it.

SNOW: What about bin Laden? Osama bin Laden's family is from Saudi Arabia. The family clearly ought to know, have some idea where he is.

AL-JUBEIR: We have been working with the family -- and by "we," I mean not just the Saudi government, also the American government -- since the mid-1990s.

We have no doubt that the family is innocent of his actions. We have no doubt that the family has suffered terribly as a consequence of the reputation that he has created for them.

SNOW: Do you have any doubt that he is alive?

AL-JUBEIR: God only knows. We hear tapes, we see statements, we intercept phone calls where people talk about (inaudible) and so forth. But I don't know.

SNOW: Can you assure the American public -- you mentioned earlier charities. That was a term that spanned everything from charitable organizations to those that were underwriting terror. Can you assure the American public that terrorist financing out of Saudi Arabia has come to an end?

AL-JUBEIR: Yes.

SNOW: Completely?

AL-JUBEIR: Well, look, completeness belongs to God. But what we have done is we have financial intelligence units in our financial institutions. We track every dollar that comes in and leaves Saudi Arabia. We have audited 245 domestic charities. We have looked at the activities of four charities that operate internationally.

We have then -- every charity has to have financial control mechanisms and procedures in place. They have to have outside auditors. They have to have a board of directors.

We then looked at the offices of those charities outside Saudi Arabia. We discovered that most of them employed essentially non- Saudis, whose backgrounds we're not aware of. They could be the nicest people, but we don't know where they came from.

And now, one of the charities that had the most suspicions around it is shutting down eight further offices outside Saudi Arabia. We're focusing our charitable activities domestically.

I think we have done more on the issue of financial controls of our charities and our donors than any other country in the world.

SNOW: In the wake of Monday's bombings, there have been a series of reports that the United States had requested help and security at a number of sites. And there's been a lot of back-and-forth. A more basic question: Are Americans now safe in Saudi Arabia?

AL-JUBEIR: I hope so.

SNOW: You hope so, but you cannot assure that?

AL-JUBEIR: We are as safe, I believe, as we have ever been, certainly safer than a week ago. The issue of safety is relative. But no, we take the issue of the safety of our citizens and our residents very seriously.

SNOW: Your crown prince and your king have been talking about reform, democratic reform, opening up the society. One of the principles, at least in American governance, is freedom of religion. Americans work in Saudi Arabia, but they may not practice their religion freely.

Is your government prepared to say to Jews and to Christians and to others of other faiths that they may practice their religion within Saudi Arabia?

AL-JUBEIR: Well, we -- every non-Muslim has the right to practice their religion in Saudi Arabia in private. We don't stop them, as a policy of our government.

When it comes to the issue of reform, Saudi Arabia has to -- we have to open up our economy, we have to generate jobs, we have to create civil society, we have to allow institutions to flourish, and we have to broaden...

SNOW: But would this mean also the establishment of other religious facilities? In other words, a church, a Christian church, a Jewish synagogue?

AL-JUBEIR: I doubt that, because Saudi Arabia is the heart of the Islamic world. The role of Saudi Arabia in the Muslim world is similar to the role of the Vatican. And so, that's -- I think that's -- I doubt that that will happen.

SNOW: One of the other further questions is the nature of education. Because there has been, for instance, and it has been reported that in Saudi textbooks that Jews and Christians were referred to as (inaudible) or, in other places, infidels, because for various reasons they were seen as being polytheists and therefore at odds with the teaching of your religion.

Do you think it is time to revisit the instruction that is being given to Saudi youth when it comes to viewing the West, the United States and other religions?

AL-JUBEIR: Absolutely. Absolutely. And we've looked at our textbooks, we've looked at the teaching methods. We've made changes to them. We have put in place two pilot programs, one in Riyadh and one in Jeddah. We are assessing its effectiveness, and we may roll it out on a nationwide basis.

You cannot be a Muslim if you do not believe in the Old Testament and New Testament. You cannot be a Muslim if you don't believe in Judaism and Christianity. And anyone who says otherwise is not being...

SNOW: So you must honor people of the Book?

AL-JUBEIR: Correct. Absolutely.

SNOW: A final question. Prince Bandar, your ambassador to the United States, was supposed to do a number of these Sunday programs, we're very happy that you're joining us...

AL-JUBEIR: Thank you.

SNOW: ... but can you tell us why he's not able to appear?

AL-JUBEIR: He has, he was sent on a mission by the government, and it happened at the last moment and, literally, hours before the show, and as a consequence he could not be in the studio to do it out of Saudi Arabia.

SNOW: A mission where?

AL-JUBEIR: You'll find out when it's done, some things are done confidentially.

SNOW: Does this have anything to do with the peace process, or does this have to do with the war on terror?

AL-JUBEIR: I believe it has to do with the war on terrorism.

SNOW: All right. Adel Al-Jubeir, thanks for joining us.

AL-JUBEIR: Thank you, my pleasure.

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