Ambassador to the United States Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, in an interview aired yesterday morning on MSNBC's 'Hardball', praised Saudi-American relations, which go back over sixty years to before the Kingdom’s founder King Abdulaziz met with then-U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt. Criticizing the media campaign against Saudi Arabia, he agreed that this campaign was linked to the Kingdom's support to the Palestinian cause. Nevertheless, he said, Saudi-American relations are strong, and the Kingdom always backs the United States in bad as well as good times. Prince Bandar went on to again deny a false report claiming a deal between the Kingdom and the U.S. Administration for oil prices to drop in time to help re-elect President George W. Bush. The Kingdom’s policy, he said, has always been to keep oil prices between $22 and $28 a barrel, believing this level to serve the interests of both producers and consumers.
Below is a summary of the interview.
[Full transcript of 'Hardball' interview]
Saudi Arabian Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan denied that ranking members in the Bush administration are critical of Saudi Arabia, and said there is no reason for anyone to be anti-Saudi. Asked specifically about those neo-conservatives, Prince Bandar said: “I can assure you of those people when I meet them they are very friendly and nice with me.”
Refusing to be drawn in by this line of questioning by program host Chris Mathews, Prince Bandar stressed that the U.S.-Saudi relationship remains strong and has been so since the relationship was established with President Roosevelt. It is not a matter of merely good relations between the Bush family and Saudi Arabia, but a matter good U.S.-Saudi relations with every administration.
He did concede there is a party running a public relations campaign against Saudi Arabia, but refused to specifically say who the party is. “I think it is not a mystery who. Your audience knows,” said Prince Bandar, making clear that it was a reference to the pro-Israel lobby and the hardcore Christian fundamentalist right in the US.
Clearly, acknowledged Prince Bandar, some of these irrational attitudes have been generated in the aftermath of 9/11, and it proves that 9/11 planners intended to target not just the United States, but the U.S.-Saudi relationship was well. Bin Laden and his followers know that unless they control Saudi Arabia they cannot dominate the Muslim world, he said.
The history of the U.S.-Saudi relationship, observed Prince Bandar, has shown that Saudi Arabia has worked closely with the United States when it counted, even in times when it was not popular, and the United States has done the same for Saudi Arabia.
In 1990, the United States deployed a half of million soldiers to help Saudi Arabia confront the security threat posed by the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, observed Prince Bandar. That prompted the terrorists to realize that destroying the U.S.-Saudi relationship was crucial to achieve their ends.
“They almost succeeded after 9/11 and unfortunately there are some people who are misguided in the body politic in this country and in the media who still don’t want to take yes for an answer,” said HRH Prince Bandar. “They still talk about the people that I smuggled from this country, while the 9/11 commission just came out and said there was nothing there. They still talk about the charities.”
The fact is, stressed Ambassador Bandar, that the perception that everyone in Saudi Arabia hates the United States is just false. Bin Laden has crated a cult that believes that anyone that does not adhere strictly to its worldview is an infidel, including Saudis and many other Muslims. They hate anything that has to do with modernization, but they have made a major mistake in attacking Saudi civilians, he added.
Asked about the NY Times report that many Saudis are said to be going to Iraq to fight the Americans, Prince Bandar replied: “Just because the New York Times said it, it doesn’t have to be right” and that in his view the report did not reflect the realities in Saudi Arabia.