Director of Information at the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington DC Nail Al-Jubeir was interviewed on CNN’s ‘American Morning’ by Bill Hemmer on August 18, 2004 concerning the current series of radio ads.
HEMMER: To hear the Saudi government tell it, the Royal Kingdom is getting a bad rap here in the U.S. - and now it's launching a radio ad campaign in 19 American cities, trying to put the ‘enemy-or-ally’ debate to rest. Here is a listen for one of those ads now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM SAUDI RADIO AD, FROM THE ROYAL EMBASSY OF SAUDI ARABIA IN WASHINGTON) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fear, uncertainty, prejudice. Americans have been skeptical of Saudi Arabia since the 9/11 attacks. Finally, the impartial conclusions of the 9/11 Commission answer lingering questions. Does the Saudi government fund al Qaeda?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution, or senior Saudi officials individually, funded the organization. (END VIDEO CLIP)
HEMMER: Well, Nail Al-Jubeir is the Saudi Embassy spokesman, with us now from Washington to talk about this. And good morning. Welcome back here to 'American Morning'.
NAIL AL-JUBEIR, SAUDI EMBASSY SPOKESMAN: Good morning, Bill.
HEMMER: Why do you feel it necessary to play these ads across the country?
AL-JUBEIR: We want to put to rest the charges that have been lingering around since 9/11 that the Saudi government or Saudi officials have funded terrorism or extremism. I think the 9/11 report from the commission vindicated us on this and we want to make sure that people in this country are aware of it.
HEMMER: Well, we just played one clip. Here's another one now for our viewers to listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM SAUDI RADIO AD, FROM THE ROYAL EMBASSY OF SAUDI ARABIA IN WASHINGTON) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did the Saudis curry favors to flee on clandestine flights post-9/11?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We found no evidence that any flights of Saudi nationals took place before the re-opening of national air space. We found no evidence of political intervention. No one with known links to terrorism departed on these flights. (END VIDEO CLIP)
HEMMER: That goes directly to a claim that's made in Michael Moore's documentary, "Fahrenheit 911," that grossed well over $150 million. Is that the reason why you're responding specifically to that charge?
AL-JUBEIR: Well, let's be careful with the term documentary here. A documentary is based on facts, not fiction. And Michael Moore's book, when it refers to Saudi Arabia, is based on Greg Unger's book, which has been debunked and they're not willing to accept that. I was on your show earlier on when he first reported it and we challenged him on that.
But it has nothing to do with Michael Moore's book. It has to do with the report. Our view is this is what the report says; this is what I've been saying for the last two years on a number of shows, that nothing illegal has happened. And we just want to make sure people are aware of it.
In the last few weeks, there's a lot of debate on, about the 9/11 Commission report. But most of it was focusing on domestic issues here, about the intelligence czar, about the failures - but little focus on the Saudi role. And we want to make sure that people are fully aware of that, that this is what the report also says about Saudi Arabia.
HEMMER: Yes …… The tag line on these spots say this: "A message from the people of Saudi Arabia, strong allies, committed friends." Ultimately, you're out to change minds here, aren't you?
AL-JUBEIR: Well, what we want to do is set the facts straight - and this is what happens. We have been allies for over 70 years. We worked together - through the thick and thin: we were allies in the fight against extremism, against communism, against socialism, whether it's in Africa, Central America, our part of the world, and also in Afghanistan, to fight the Soviet occupation. So it goes longer.
What distracters have been saying is they're trying to define U.S.-Saudi relations based on 9/11 and as if the Saudi government has -- was fully complicit in that attack. And those ads are saying no, there's more to it. This -- we have nothing to do with it and this is what your own Commission is saying.
HEMMER: Well, there's also a little more to it, based on what the Commission found, too, talking about the problems with Saudi Arabia and fighting terrorism and being an ally. Concluding and quoting now, "Saudi Arabia" - from the 9/11 report - "Saudi Arabia has been a problematic ally in combating Islamic extremism." You couple that with the fact that 15 of the 19 hijackers from almost three years ago are from your Kingdom. This is going to take an awful long time to live down. What is being done now in your kingdom to change that impression?
AL-JUBEIR: Well, for starters, we have been cracking down on extremism in Saudi Arabia long before the Riyadh bombings and we continue to do so …… There is not a day that passes by when we don't report attacks or killings of extremists. This is an all-out war against extremism. And let's remember, Al-Qaeda was after us before it came after the United States. And this is a struggle. And the 9/11 report even mentions that we have uncovered and stopped possible attacks against U.S. interests.
But it went unnoticed in Saudi Arabia because we don't publicize what we do. Now we're doing it. I think that people need to know what Saudi Arabia is doing, what our relationship is, and we welcome any change in that relationship to make it more - much more - transparent. The more people know about Saudi Arabia, the less ammunition it gives to the enemies of the relationship.
HEMMER: Help us gain an understanding here in the short time we have left now. And I think this is very critical. How much more progress needs to be made in your Kingdom before you can officially claim victory there?
AL-JUBEIR: Well, I think we have made - there is major progress made. The Al-Qaeda is on the run. We have seen that those spectacular attacks that happened in Riyadh back in May and November of last year aren't there. What we have seen is random killings, no longer of high target, but random killing and sort of walking into an office building and killing people. That's more of a criminal element.
They're on the run. We have disrupted their communication. I don't think we are out of the woods now, but I think we see the light at the end of the tunnel.
HEMMER: All right, Nail Al-Jubeir, come on back and talk again when we have more to discuss, OK?