Nail Al-Jubeir, Director of the Information Office at the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington DC, was interviewed by telephone on April 22, 2004, by Bill Colley in Syracuse, for the radio talk show of AM Central, New York, on the topic of Saudi-U.S. relations.
Bill Colley: I was a schoolboy back in the 1970s and I remember reading newspaper accounts of the unique relationship that existed between the United States and Saudi Arabia – and that is still in existence until this day: although at times very strained, and probably a lot of that strain has come just in the past couple of weeks. Joining us this morning is Nail Al-Jubeir. He is the information director for the Saudi Embassy in Washington. Good morning.
Nail Al-Jubeir: Good morning
Colley: Do you ever recall a time that the relationship between our two countries seemed to be so strained – or at least the media coverage of it?
Al-Jubeir: I think it’s the media coverage. It seems that most of it is media-driven more than the relationship itself. And there are those that take advantage of that for whatever reason. But I don’t think I’ve seen it this bad before.
Colley: The Saudi position has been that your government is really acting as a bailiwick in certain parts of the Middle East, against extremism. And I know that has been one of the arguments for continuing this relationship between the two countries - understanding that if the royal family were suddenly gone that the alternative would be very, very bad.
Al-Jubeir: Well, the alternative is not for us alone but for the whole region. We have been close allies with the United States not just in the region, but around the globe. We were partners in the war against communism in Central America back in the 70s – the same thing in Southern Africa as well as the Horn of Africa. So we were very heavily involved in supporting the U.S. and providing the support it needed in the Muslim and Arab world. And that still continues today. Most of it back then was not as public as it is today. But I think we are becoming much more public today in terms of what we are doing simply because we are living in a world now where technology has brought information instantaneously to people. You can sit in Saudi Arabia and see the American president talk or walk out of the White House to make a statement. And the same thing in Saudi Arabia – things happen and you see it live on television. So, you have to provide the people with the information. So we figure that we should go public with what we are doing so we do not provide those that would undermine the relationship the chance to put their own spin on things.
Colley: Is Saudi Arabia paying the price for its relationship with the U.S., citing something like the bombing that occurred yesterday?
Al-Jubeir: I think it could be, but I doubt that it was because of the relationship. I think that the people that are behind the bombing are simply using excuses. The bombings in Riyadh that happened back in May and November, especially the one that was in May, was after Saudi Arabia and the United States agreed that U.S. Forces would no longer be needed in Saudi Arabia to enforce the no-fly zone in southern Iraq. Yet the bombing happened after that. So that flies in the face of the idea that they want to get rid of American forces in Saudi Arabia. Their intent is to get rid of the Saudi state and replace it with a Taleban type government, but they are not going to succeed. The people of Saudi Arabia have come a long way to want to go back to that lifestyle that my grandfather actually lived.
Colley: You know that there is this book out by Bob Woodward that was released this week that suggested that the Saudi government had promised to lower gas prices before the U.S. election to ensure the President’s re-election. And I guess now, even Mr. Woodward is saying now, “no, no, no that isn’t quite what I was writing there.” Explain that?
Al-Jubeir: I saw his comments and our position has always been to maintain stable oil prices. The issue of oil has always come up with every American president. Kissinger came to Saudi Arabia in ‘74 to discuss oil and since then we have had every American president bring up the issue of energy – and understandably. At that time America was very dependent on Saudi oil and it needed a stable oil supply. Not to bring it up would be neglect on the part of the president. So it was brought up and they discussed the oil issue. The ironic thing is they push the president to lessen U.S. dependence on Saudi oil and in the same sentence they tell the president to pressure the Saudis to sell more oil. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t tell us to stop using Saudi oil and at the same time let them increase production. We want a stable world market. We know that there is enough oil on the market. We know that problems with gas prices in the U.S. deal more with the infrastructure here – the refining capabilities, the different formulated gasoline being used here. Putting more oil on the market at this moment is not going to solve the problem. The refineries in this country are basically working at full capacity. Remember, this country has not built a new refinery since Nixon was in the White House and I believe that they shut down a few of those in the meantime. But, the oil issue is something that is important to us. OPEC is going to be meeting, I believe, in September to decide their next move for the winter and I can see the extremists and those that are opposing saying: “Ah, now you are cutting production to help the President of the United States.” And if we don’t do it then others will come out and say: “Oh now you’re doing to make the President lose.” We are in a position now -we are in a tough position now. If we start to do something now we will get criticized one way. It is just too politicized right now.
Colley: Thank you so much for taking a few minutes for us for today’s program.
Al-Jubeir: Thank you for having me.
Colley: Sure, and best of luck to you.
Al-Jubeir: Thank you
Colley: That is Nail Al-Jubeir. He is the Director of Information at the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Washington taking a few minutes to share, I guess, his nation’s concerns about these issues that have come up in the past few weeks, as well as the past couple of years about this long-standing, unique relationship that has existed between the Saudi royal family and the United States.