CHARLIE ROSE: Prince Turki Al-Faisal is here. He is Saudi Arabia`s ambassador to the United States. He succeeded Prince Bandar at the end of last year. From 2002 until 2005, he served as his nation`s ambassador to Great Britain.
From 1977 until 2001, he was the director of the Saudi Arabian Foreign Intelligence Service. For more than 25 years, he`s spearheaded Saudi Arabian efforts in the Cold War, including the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
He now returns to this country, where he attended high school and Georgetown University. I am pleased to have him back on this program. Welcome back.
PRINCE TURKI AL-FAISAL: Good evening, Mr. Rose. Thank you for receiving me.
ROSE: And you reminded me that your brother was here in 2004...
PRINCE TURKI: Yes, indeed.
ROSE: ... the foreign minister. You`re here to dedicate a new consulate...
PRINCE TURKI: That`s right.
ROSE: ... in New York and to speak at the Council on Foreign Relations.
PRINCE TURKI: Yes. This morning we had the ceremony of dedicating the new consulate building near the United Nations, actually, building. Also this evening, I will be speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations.
ROSE: And taking questions and engaging a dialogue there?
PRINCE TURKI: That`s right.
ROSE: How do you characterize U.S.-Saudi relations today?
PRINCE TURKI: I think they`re improving. On the official level, they`ve never been better. The King Abdullah met with President Bush last April, when the king was still crown prince. This was the second meeting that they had. And they, as you say in America, they hit it off from the beginning.
ROSE: Yes. Or as Margaret Thatcher once said of Mr. Gorbachev, “I can do business with Mr. Gorbachev.”
PRINCE TURKI: Well, more than that. I think they reached some kind of intellectual empathy for each other and developed mutual admiration for each other.
ROSE: You can notice that in the photograph.
PRINCE TURKI: Absolutely. And so since then, government-to-government business has been going very, very smoothly.
We have a long way to go still in your country, following from the September 11th attacks on the United States, not just with the people of the United States, but also, more importantly and just as equally significantly, with the Congress in the United States.
So my brief from my government is to approach those two, if you like, entities, the Congress and the American people, as much as I can, and help and try to explain what Saudi Arabia is, where it comes from and where it is going.
ROSE: Take a look at this. This was the president at his State of the Union address. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Keeping America competitive requires affordable energy, and here we have a serious problem. America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world.
The best way to break this addiction is through technology. Since 2001, we have spent nearly $10 billion to develop cleaner, cheaper and more reliable alternative energy sources, and we`re on the threshold of incredible advances.
Breakthroughs on this and other new technologies will help us reach another great goal -- to replace more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025.
By applying -- by applying the talent and technology of America, this country can dramatically improve our environment, move beyond a petroleum-based economy, and make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROSE: When you heard this, it is said, you called up the White House and said, what did he mean? And what resulted was a meeting with Stephen Hadley, the national security adviser.
PRINCE TURKI: Yes, indeed. As you know, as I told you, when the king met with the president last April, they agreed on a joint energy policy, whereby Saudi Arabia would increase oil production, and with investment amounting to nearly $50 billion over the next few years to increase that production, and also increase the refining capacity for oil products, plus joint energy research into making fossil fuels and oil more ecologically friendly and thereby less dangerous to use than it might be now.
So the president`s statement, of course, was a surprise to -- not just to me, but to all of us in the area, and hence my seeking to get explanation from the White House.
I talked with Adviser Hadley on that issue, and the talks will continue through other means and officials, and through me and Mr. Hadley and others in your administration.
ROSE: Were you disappointed by it? Did you think that it suggested America doesn`t understand the nature of its -- the use of oil in this country, or where it gets its oil from, or the impact of buying less oil from Saudi Arabia?
PRINCE TURKI: As a diplomat, one of the things I`ve learned over the last three years is not to be disappointed. I think we and the United States have worked very closely over the last 60 years over many issues of importance, not the least of which was the oil issue, and therefore my major thrust now is to get as much as possible clarification of where the United States is planning to go on this issue.
And as I told you, Mr. Rose, others in the administration will be carrying the ball forward and talking with their counterparts.
ROSE: You mean oil ministers and foreign ministers?
PRINCE TURKI: Oil ministers, foreign ministers, maybe even the president and the king. But what I received from Mr. Hadley was a very thorough discussion of this issue, which is not surprising. As I told you, the relationship between our two governments now are extremely good and above board.
ROSE: It is said that the United States, many people, Tom Friedman and others, as you know, write about this oil addiction and say the United States has to reduce its dependence on Middle Eastern oil, because it affects the politics, that we find ourselves with Iran or with Saudi Arabia or with other places. If we don`t reduce our dependence, we will be in an entangling foreign policy relationship.
PRINCE TURKI: Mr. Rose, the United States imports about 15 percent of its oil imports from the Middle East. Out of that proportion, probably 10 percent of that, slightly more, comes from Saudi Arabia. And particularly Saudi Arabia has been very consistent and very stable as an oil producer for the last 50 to 55 years. So we see no endangerment for U.S. requirements when it comes to importing oil from Saudi Arabia.
As to entanglements, the United States, if I may say, is entangled in the Middle East not simply for the oil issue. You have issues like Palestine and Israel, where that has become, if you like, a major issue in the United States politics itself internally.
ROSE: And a factor in America`s relationship in the region.
PRINCE TURKI: Absolutely. You have the issues of Iraq now, since the American invasion of Iraq. The issue of terrorism. So the entanglement is there, regardless of where the oil is and where it comes from. And the point that we`ve always made to our American friends on oil is that the kingdom`s policy is to, as much as possible, meet world requirements and help maintain equitable prices and supplies of oil, for not just the United States, because the United States, after all, is a rich and wealthy country that can afford to pay the prices of oil when it goes up, but the poor nations are the ones that suffer.
So we have that concern as well, and we have a very huge aid program to poor countries in order to try to help them, perhaps sometimes offset the costs of the rise in oil prices.
So we`ve been a consistent and very stable supplier of oil to the world community, and we do not give the United States or export to the United States more than 10 percent of its oil. So weaning away, as it were, or an addiction are words that perhaps I think from our point of view, need more clarification.
ROSE: At the same time, it is noted by everyone that the king went to China.
PRINCE TURKI: Yes.
ROSE: That China has a huge demand for oil, and that demand in part and the demand of India is helping push up the price of oil.
PRINCE TURKI: Yes.
ROSE: And some wonder if the kingdom is looking east now and developing other relationships to counter-balance its traditional relationship with the United States.
PRINCE TURKI: We don`t think we need to counter-balance our relationship with the United States. The market for oil is an international market. It`s a fungible market, where everybody pours in what they have in that pot, and then people draw from that pot, regardless of where the oil comes from, whether it is the Middle East, West Africa, Northern Europe, Canada, et cetera.
China and India are in the market for oil. We have oil to sell. So the king has gone there and hopefully expanded the trading relationship with both countries.
But may I remind you also that the United States is going to China, and also...
ROSE: Everybody in the world is going to China.
PRINCE TURKI: ... expanding their trade with China. So there is no contradiction whatsoever or competition in our eyes from selling to China and India and maintaining a stable and thoroughly beneficial relationship in oil exports to the United States.
ROSE: At the same time, China is going to Iran and China is going to Venezuela and going to other places.
PRINCE TURKI: Going everywhere, yes. I`m sure from Canada and Mexico, as well, your traditional suppliers.
ROSE: You mentioned a stable, and certainly Saudi Arabia, with its capacity, has done a lot within OPEC and raising its own production to maintain a stable price. It is now around $60, is it not?
PRINCE TURKI: Yes.
ROSE: If it -- what`s the impact? Where do you think this price is going to stabilize? And what impact will it have on the global economy?
PRINCE TURKI: I am not an expert on these things...
ROSE: I understand, but you`re part of the conversation in your country...
PRINCE TURKI: Indeed.
ROSE: ... because of the central role you play.
PRINCE TURKI: I will tell you what our oil minister said at a recent speech that he gave in Houston...
ROSE: (INAUDIBLE) Cambridge Energy...
PRINCE TURKI: ... just a few days ago, in which he said that from his point of view as the man who is responsible for oil production and so on, price range between $40 and $50 per barrel now seems to be the acceptable range that people can afford within the framework of the world market for oil. And also, I would like to remind you that in real terms, the price of oil today is less than it was in 1970 in dollar terms, taking inflation into consideration.
So of all of the commodities that have been sold in the marketplace over the last 35 years or so, oil is the only commodity that has remained below its actual price in 1970 terms. You take other commodities -- coffee, other minerals, gold, silver, et cetera -- you name it, they`ve all gone way beyond their original prices back in 1970.
And as said, oil is a fungible commodity, where everybody pours their exports into this big world bowl, and the buyers exact and buy from that bowl what they can.
ROSE: But you are also saying if oil stays at $60 a barrel, it could have a real detrimental impact on the world economy?
PRINCE TURKI: And that`s why we`re working very hard to try to bring the price of oil down. As I told you, the king agreed with the president on Saudi Arabia increasing its oil production. Now we produce about 11 million barrels at maximum production rate from the kingdom. We`re raising that to 12.5 in the next three years. And putting in nearly $50 billion in the ground in order to bring that extra oil up.
Our investments in refineries are also as extensive. Two new refineries are being built in the kingdom that will produce nearly 800,000 barrels per day when they come onstream in a couple of years` time. We`re investing in China with a new refinery there. In India, we`re also investing. In Korea. So refining capacity is being increased with Saudi money in order to bring down the price of petroleum products.
That`s where the main reason of the oil price rise lies. It`s the fact that the refining capacity is short.
ROSE: Right. People like Lee Raymond from Exxon have made the same point here.
PRINCE TURKI: And we`ve been trying to sell in the last couple of years from Saudi Arabia nearly 500,000 barrels of raw oil, but nobody is buying it, because there is no refining capacity for that kind of oil. It is heavy crude, which is more difficult to refine and so on.
ROSE: But I have seen numbers like this, and that -- today I think production -- worldwide production of oil is about 80 million barrels a day. I think I`ve seen numbers that say by the year 2025, 16 years now, the worldwide need for oil will be 119 million barrels a day. An extraordinary growing demand. Is there in your judgment, before we move to these other points and geostrategic questions, is there enough oil to serve the demand, new discoveries to be made, and is the growth in new sources going to keep up with the demand?
PRINCE TURKI: These are big ifs, and you have to have, of course, real strategic stability in order to make sure that production costs and increase in production takes place, for example, in countries like Iraq. Iraq is a country that is second only to Saudi Arabia in terms of reserves, yet today it only produces something a little bit less than 2 million barrels a day. If that country can get its act together, and hopefully with the help of the contiguous countries, like Saudi Arabia and others, and the United States and the world community, that that will come about. Iraq can increase its production in the next 15 years dramatically to meet world demand as it grows. Saudi Arabia has reserves, nearly I think $250 billion, 50 billion barrels underground that will be increased in terms of production. Other countries in the area and in other places.
ROSE: Libya, for example?
PRINCE TURKI: Well, Libya. You have West Africa. You have other Gulf states. You have countries like Egypt. Mauritania has just discovered oil. We think that there will probably be oil in places like Morocco and in other countries that can hopefully meet the requirements by 2025, as you said. Or -- I don`t remember the date that you mentioned.
ROSE: 2025, 16 years.
PRINCE TURKI: Yes. To meet world requirements. But, of courts, regardless of what you and I say about this issue, in the final analysis, the market will decide whether there is enough oil or not. And if there isn`t, then people will invest in alternatives. And those alternatives, of course, are there. They`re more expensive than oil, but when the people face the situation that they have to turn to these alternatives, they will do that.
ROSE: Return to Iraq.
PRINCE TURKI: Yes, sir.
ROSE: You gave what you thought was wise counsel to the United States, and so did your brother, the foreign minister, and I`m sure then-crown prince-now-king did as well, as other people, not to invade Iraq. Because you believed, one, the consequences would be severe in terms of what we see now, but also because you believed that the regime might topple of its own weight at some point?
PRINCE TURKI: Of course. When I was director of intelligence in Saudi Arabia and from 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait, and then subsequently the United Nations put all those resolutions on Iraq as punishment for its invasion of Kuwait, the regime was literally surrounded, if you like, by the world community, and eating itself away from within.
As director of intelligence at that time, we talked with your intelligence people about helping the Iraqi people achieve some kind of recourse against this very brutal regime that had not only invaded neighboring countries, but also done so badly by its own people. And in those days, I remember all the contacts that we had within Iraq had two specific requirements and demands placed to us on whether they can act against Saddam Hussein or not.
The first demand that they had is that we guarantee them that Saddam Hussein will not use his air power, particularly the helicopters, against them if they moved. You`ve seen how devastating it was in the first uprising in Iraq after the withdrawal of Iraqi troops from Kuwait.
And the second demand that they made for us was to guarantee that there would be no outside interference from neighboring states in Iraq. And these were people that we were talking to within the armed forces and within the leadership of the Ba`ath Party and other political interests inside Iraq.
And we always proposed to the United States particularly two things -- one, an extension of the no-fly zone so that it covers all of Iraq, because in those days only the south, in Operation Southern Comfort, and in the north were there no-fly zones. But the middle of Iraq, where the capital was and the heartland, if you like, of Saddam and his supporters, there was no air cover on that piece of Iraq.
But we never really got an answer from the United States from 1990 until 2001, when I left the intelligence department.
I believe that if something like that had happened during those years, that there would have been a successful change of regime in Iraq undertaken by Iraqis from within Iraq. As it is, even without these two guarantees, many Iraqis attempted to overthrow Saddam Hussein during those years. But they failed, because he had the air power capability and because people feared that there may be outside interference should something happen inside Iraq.
ROSE: I want to talk with you about two things. One is, how severe -- what the United States believes that what has to happen now after the constitution and a new government is formed and the Iraqi security forces take over more and more of the security role, the United States can withdraw, and the Iraqi government can go about taking care of the insurgency, and the occupation issue will no longer be. Is that a realistic outcome that you can foresee?
PRINCE TURKI: I think it is realistic if all things work right. There has been a very concerted effort on the part of Saudi Arabia to try to work with all Iraqi factions, to bring them together so that they can overcome whatever differences they may have developed over the last two and a half years. That resulted in the Cairo meeting that took place in the Arab League last November, which set a course of inter-Iraqi reconciliation, if you like, and getting together that will presumably be followed by a meeting either at the end of this month or early next month in Baghdad itself, where all of the Iraqi players will get together and try to overcome their differences and achieve a national cohesion and a national government.
The good news is that in the process, in the meantime, elections took place in Iraq, in which there was nearly full participation by all parties, including the Sunni. And one of the factors I think that was not so much mentioned in the Western press particularly was that during those elections, particularly in the Sunni regions, the resistance, the local resistance played a role in protecting the voting booths from the foreign elements that were trying to disrupt the elections, and allowed Iraqi citizens to go in huge numbers, particularly the Sunnis, and vote in these elections.
So that was a signal from those elements within the resistance who are absolutely Iraqi and seek the welfare of their Iraqi citizenship and so on that they are willing to be part of the process, the political process, by protecting the voting booths for Iraqi Sunnis.
Now, the new government that is hopefully going to be formed by Mr. Al-Jaafari will have a chance to try to bring about a national government that represents all factions in an equitable and fair manner.
The two things that the Sunnis have been seeking since the toppling of Saddam Hussein are, first, that they have an equal share in the resources of Iraq, mainly oil, and secondly, that they will be safe from retribution.
ROSE: By militias?
PRINCE TURKI: By other groups and militias once the allied forces withdraw from Iraq.
ROSE: Because your brother, the foreign minister, once said that there is no -- while you have all these force that might be pulling it apart, the desire of the Kurds to separate and all that, there was, he said at one point, no internal dynamic that was pulling it together. But this election and the participation may very well be the internal dynamic that pulls it together?
PRINCE TURKI: Well, we hope so.
ROSE: Right. If -- do you worry, does the kingdom worry that if, in fact, you have a government that is primarily Shia, with respect for the minority rights of the Sunni, you have a Shia government in Iran, you know, that you`re looking to some kind of great Islamic conflict between Shia and Sunni?
PRINCE TURKI: Not at all. I think that is basically a scenario devised mostly in American think tanks, if I can respectfully say. The dynamics of the fact are that on the ground, people, whether in Saudi Arabia or in Iraq or in Iran or in Syria or in Lebanon, wherever they may be, their basic desire is to have a good life.
ROSE: It was King Abdullah of Jordan that said that. He worried about a Shiite crescent.
PRINCE TURKI: Yes.
ROSE: Not a think tank in America when I mentioned it to you. Although think tanks...
PRINCE TURKI: Many think tanks in America have mentioned that.
ROSE: They have, indeed.
Iran, I want to come to that, because there are a whole lot of things I want to make sure that we talk at this visit. Iran, do you believe they are trying to get a nuclear weapon?
PRINCE TURKI: I would beg you not to talk about Iran, because there are contacts taking place on Iran in our part of the world, and I would not want to say something that may in one way or another be interpreted, particularly by your media, and have it reflected back there as meaning one thing or another.
What we had to say about Iran, our foreign minister has already said that in many meetings -- I think perhaps with you as well when he met with you -- and on other occasions. So please forgive me on that.
ROSE: I respect that, but can you give me some indication of what you might be -- a hopeful scenario that is taking place?
PRINCE TURKI: As I told you, as I told you, I would really beg you not to ask me to do that, because I would not want to be quoted on any specific subject there in one way or another.
ROSE: You can imagine my curiosity.
PRINCE TURKI: Indeed.
ROSE: To know what you think. Has Saudi Arabia pretty much rolled up most of the al Qaeda influence in its country? Have you captured most of the people?
PRINCE TURKI: We still have a few that were -- whose names were published just a few months ago that are still about, but they are on the run, and the security forces in Saudi Arabia have the initiative. They are interjecting -- interdicting and preventing the terrorists from doing any harm. And (INAUDIBLE), we`ve been free of terrorist attacks for just over a year now.
ROSE: There is a feeling in the United States in some quarters that you were late in coming to the game in terms of really fighting -- making it a high priority to fight terrorism in Saudi Arabia.
PRINCE TURKI: When I was director of intelligence and before I retired in 2001, in 1997, a group of al Qaeda operatives tried to infiltrate from a neighboring country with anti-tank weapons and other military material and explosives. They were captured by Saudi Arabia. This is following from the attack in 1995.
We shared information at that time of this group with your intelligence agency, and then-defense minister, now crown prince, Prince Sultan, came on a visit to the United States to meet with President Clinton and other officials, at which he proposed to President Clinton that Saudi Arabia and the United States form a joint committee to pursue intelligence on al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, in -- not just in our area, but worldwide.
And Mr. George Tenet at the time was the director of your CIA. He and I were in touch with each other over this committee, and it used to meet on an as-needed case, case by case, either in the United States or in Saudi Arabia. And all of the information that we had and the information that you had was exchanged between us so that we can be sure that nobody was off-line on that issue.
And that committee has existed until today. Today there are, as a matter of fact, two committees, one on intelligence and the other on the financial aspects of support for the terrorists. Officers from your Treasury Department and your intelligence community in all of its departments meet on a regular basis in Saudi Arabia to share intelligence on the financing of terrorist activity.
ROSE: Conventional wisdom on that point was that -- and this again is Mr. Friedman and other points, people who talk about independence and alternative energy and not -- an oil addiction. The point they argue and people within the government as well, argue that the United States, because it spends so much money on Saudi oil and all, and realizing that it`s not as much as some people think it is, that that money goes to support charities, and those charities -- and you`ve given money to charities yourself.
PRINCE TURKI: No Muslim can avoid giving charity.
ROSE: And some of those charities spend that money to support terrorist organizations. And there is Mr. Crumpton, I think, has recently -- he`s going to be on this program tomorrow.
PRINCE TURKI: Yes, it is Mr. Crumpton.
ROSE: He`s with the State Department, anti-terrorist expert, have said that they believe -- that they believe that there`s less of that today, but that the Saudis, the government and Saudi individuals, have not been as diligent as they would like them to see in terms of restricting the amount of money that goes to charities and then makes its way into coffers for terrorism. Could you speak to that?
PRINCE TURKI: And that is why we have this committee, standing committee, on the finances of terrorist groups in Saudi Arabia. Just two and a half weeks ago, three weeks ago, an official from your Treasury Department was visiting the kingdom with a group of his colleagues, and met with all of the departments that deal with issues of charity, of financial transfers, et cetera, et cetera. And his name is Stuart Levy (ph). He, when I met him before he left the kingdom, he told me that he was extremely happy with that visit, and that it had met a lot of his questions, in terms of answers for those questions, but that he had to go back and sift through what he had seen there, to see if there was still more to be done on our side.
We have offered all of the information that we have on those issues to U.S. officials. Plus the fact that all of the charities in Saudi Arabia from last year have been prevented from exporting any money from inside Saudi Arabia.
ROSE: Can`t give any money to any groups outside Saudi Arabia?
PRINCE TURKI: Anything whatsoever. All the money that comes in is kept in Saudi Arabia and dealt with through government agencies to needy people inside Saudi Arabia, under the supervision and the direction of Saudi financial institutions, whether banks or other financial regulators in the kingdom. So all of the charities that may at one time or another have aroused suspicion of exporting money from Saudi Arabia to any suspicious entities or individuals outside the kingdom have absolutely been prevented from doing that since a year ago in Saudi Arabia.
ROSE: So that has been a great reduction in the amount of money that might have been going through charities to support terrorism, however large or small it was?
PRINCE TURKI: Not just reduction.
PRINCE TURKI: Elimination completely. Now, if there are moneys in Europe or America or in Asia or whatever, whether belonging to Saudis or non-Saudis or so on, who may wish to make that money reach terrorists or groups that support terrorism, that we ask our United States friends to tell us about.
ROSE: But you already share all the information you said.
PRINCE TURKI: Absolutely. And so far, nothing has come to us to indicate that that thing is happening.
ROSE: Why are there, Americans will ask, so many young Saudi men who are part of the jihadists in Iraq? More than any other country, they come from Saudi Arabia.
PRINCE TURKI: That is another misconception.
ROSE: It`s not true?
PRINCE TURKI: Not true.
ROSE: I`m so happy you`re here then.
PRINCE TURKI: Because the figures are -- six months ago, we sent a team of Saudi officials to Iraq to look at how many Saudis participate in this so-called suicide bombings and so on, or any of the so-called jihadist activities in Iraq.
And they sat down with American and Iraqi officials, and reviewed the number of Saudis that had either been captured or that had been killed in such activities.
Now, those that had been captured, at the time I think there was something like close to 500 people in custody. The Saudis were 10 percent of that total number, with other groups from other places in the world making up the rest, and many of them more than the 10 percent that the Saudis were.
ROSE: So there were other countries that had sent more, or had come from other countries more than 10 percent?
PRINCE TURKI: Absolutely. Absolutely.
ROSE: What were they, what countries were?
PRINCE TURKI: From various parts of the Muslim world.
ROSE: Syria, Iran?
PRINCE TURKI: From everywhere.
PRINCE TURKI: From the east to the west. Even from some Western countries, people that were of Islamic origin in those Western countries. Our border from our side is pretty much sealed up because of the border patrols, the electronic wiring that we have put there, the ultraviolet vision that -- binoculars and so on that we have installed all along the 900-kilometer border there.
Our problem is from the Iraqi side. Because there is no commensurate Iraqi presence or allied forces presence on the Iraqi side. The British have taken over a strip of land from the border of Kuwait across into Iraq and so on, nearly 150 kilometers and so on, but the rest of the border, from there to Jordan, is pretty much a free-for-all, and on a daily basis practically our border posts and our border patrols arrest infiltrators from Iraq coming into Saudi Arabia, and they probably come in for -- to find a living or sometimes try to smuggle away weapons or other contraband into the kingdom.
So we`ve asked your security people and the Iraqi government to beef up the border patrols on the Iraqi side, and we`re still waiting for action there.
ROSE: They have, in fact, done that on the Syrian side.
PRINCE TURKI: But not on our side.
ROSE: But not on the Saudi side, and not on the Iranian side?
PRINCE TURKI: Not on the Iranian side.
ROSE: So that`s where they`re primarily coming through, the Iranian side and the Syrian side?
PRINCE TURKI: Absolutely. From our side, it`s practically impossible, because it`s an open border, a very flat border. It`s a desert border. So they can be picked up very easily, whether they`re going across from Saudi Arabia into Iraq or coming from Iraq into Saudi Arabia.
ROSE: There is much talk in Iraq that somehow there is increasing tension between the insurgents who are made up of Ba`athists and nationalists, and the jihadists who come from outside.
Do you hear that? Can you confirm that based on your knowledge and how serious is that split?
PRINCE TURKI: What I mentioned to you about the elections of resistance protecting the polling booths...
ROSE: From the jihadists.
PRINCE TURKI: ... from the jihadists, so that the Sunnis can vote in large numbers definitely fortifies that impression and seconds it. And I think it is probably true. Nobody likes to see his countrymen being indiscriminately killed, and the jihadists have been targeting mostly Iraqis, whether at polling booths or at police stations, sometimes in shopping centers, in hospitals, in schools or whatever. So they`ve definitely alienated the majority of the Iraqi people, whether Sunni or otherwise. And so I would agree with that impression.
ROSE: You and everyone else talks about the centrality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
PRINCE TURKI: Very much so.
ROSE: To the problems in the Middle East.
PRINCE TURKI: Yes.
ROSE: So what do you make of the election of Hamas to leadership in the legislature in the Palestinian territory?
PRINCE TURKI: I think there were two reasons why Hamas has come to be what it has come to be. Definitely what has been discussed by everybody, including your government, is the fact that the previous government was not so efficient in meeting the requirements and the needs of the Palestinian people.
ROSE: And some history of corruption inside the administrations.
PRINCE TURKI: Absolutely. Whatever the reasons were...
ROSE: Perception on the part of the people on the ground...
PRINCE TURKI: ... for that inefficiency.
PRINCE TURKI: Another factor, of course, within that framework of the lack of viability of the previous government was the infighting that took place between Fatah factions themselves in promoting different candidates and so on. So they split the vote, as it were, to the benefit of Hamas.
The other factor, I`m sure, and nobody talks much about it, is the effect of the occupation on the people of Palestine. The occupation has been there 50 years or something like that. Now, the -- nobody could have asked for a more tailor-made individual to make peace and a two-state solution than Mr. Mahmoud Abbas. As a Palestinian, he was one of the few who stood up when Abu Ammar was still alive, and he stood up against the armed struggle. He said we should have a civil struggle against the Israelis, but not an armed struggle.
He was second in command of Fatah, which had historically been the leader of the Palestinian people and so on. He was willing to deal with the Israelis on all of the issues of security and other matters if they would allow him. But he got nothing in return.
ROSE: From the Israelis?
PRINCE TURKI: From the Israelis, or even...
ROSE: From the U.S.?
PRINCE TURKI: ... how do you say, from the world community.
ROSE: Including Saudi Arabia and the Arab neighbors?
PRINCE TURKI: Everybody. And it wasn`t just a question of money, but it was a question of showing the Palestinian people that he could do something for them.
ROSE: So the whole world failed?
PRINCE TURKI: Palestinian prisoners still remained in jail, in Israeli jails. Roadblocks still prevent Palestinians from going to...
ROSE: Some of those prisoners, Israelis want to point out, are there because of suicide bombings and other things.
PRINCE TURKI: Well, some. What about the others? They could have released them. In other words, something to give him to show his people that he was getting something out of the peace process, which has not happened.
ROSE: So the world community failed to give him support, and so therefore the perception within the Palestinian population was that Fatah couldn`t do anything, that the Palestinian Authority couldn`t do anything, and therefore they were looking for an alternative, out of desperation?
PRINCE TURKI: When people are desperate, they turn to maximalists.
ROSE: So what should be the policy today towards Hamas? Should the Israelis talk to them? Should the United States talk to them? Is that your recommendation to the American government, give them aid and talk to them?
PRINCE TURKI: What we have done is King Abdullah, on a visit, state visit to Pakistan -- this was just after the elections in Palestine were over and it was apparent that Hamas had acquired the majority of the votes there. He and President Musharraf -- King Abdullah and President Musharraf called on the leadership in Palestine, that means Hamas, to take into account the vital interests of the Palestinian people, the fact that the Palestinian Authority is committed to three important issues.
One, the Oslo agreements, which make up the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority and has given it the recognition of the world community. Second is the Abdullah peace plan, which calls for a two-state solution. Israeli withdrawal from Arab land in return for...
ROSE: Recognition of Israel.
PRINCE TURKI: ... recognition. Not just by the Palestinians, by all the Arab countries. And thirdly, the road map, which is also -- which also calls for a two-state solution, but it has a procedural process to reach that two-state solution. So we have asked Hamas and the leadership in Palestine to take these things into consideration.
ROSE: Have you -- and so therefore I assume from that you`re asking them also to accept the reality and the existence and the peaceful security of Israel...
PRINCE TURKI: Absolutely.
ROSE: ... and Israel`s right to exist, because that goes against, and they have refused to change that principle of their organization, which is Israel has no right to exist as a separate state on this land.
PRINCE TURKI: Right, yes. This is where the crux of the matter is. We would like to see the Palestinian Authority continue as a representative of the Palestinian people. We would like the get our aid to the Palestinian people to reach the Palestinian people, and not be interfered with or prevented by the fact that an official belongs to Hamas or does not.
The negotiations within the Palestinian community now are taking place with these issues in mind, and I think we are still premature in trying to judge where that is going to go. I think the Palestinians are now waiting for the Israeli elections to be finished in March, and to see who is their interlocutor after that. My concern and I think the concern of many in the area is that people like the prime minister of Israel today, as he has announced already, the interim prime minister...
ROSE: Ehud Olmert.
PRINCE TURKI: Ehud Olmert, is that he will go unilateral, like his predecessor. Mr. Sharon went unilaterally in Gaza, and establish...
ROSE: Because he said, you know...
PRINCE TURKI: Because now he says he has...
ROSE: Nobody to bargain with.
PRINCE TURKI: ... nobody to bargain with.
ROSE: That will be a disaster in your judgment?
PRINCE TURKI: I think so. In the final analysis, the people of Palestine must have a say and a role in deciding their future.
ROSE: And what would you like the United States to do?
PRINCE TURKI: I think the United States...
ROSE: Encourage the Israelis to do just that? Not that?
PRINCE TURKI: Not just the Israelis, but the whole world community has to come forward and convince the Palestinian people that their best interest lies in not changing course from the peace process to a course that nobody knows where it`s going to take them.
ROSE: And change whatever principles they had before as operative?
PRINCE TURKI: Because the commitment to these principles make up the legitimacy of their government.
ROSE: Do you expect you`ll see it?
PRINCE TURKI: I`m always optimistic.
ROSE: Finally, there is this issue -- I`m over time here -- democracy has been a central point of this president`s -- he almost wants to be defined by two things: One, Iraq, which he says an element to create democracy was part of it, and democracy in the Middle East. He believes that democracy in the Middle East will somehow make a difference.
PRINCE TURKI: Yes.
ROSE: How does that sit with you?
PRINCE TURKI: It`s laudable.
PRINCE TURKI: That someone would have such strong convictions about a system of government that has served his people so well for so long, and in my view, American democracy is still a work in progress. You may see the interaction between the various arms of government, whether the executive, the legislative and the judiciary are still operating. And if you like struggling to formulate a more perfect union for the United States, and what we would ask of our American friends is that they would allow us our chance to develop our own system of government. Call it democracy, call it whatever it is. I think a rose by any other name would smell as sweet in this case. But we have our own traditions and our own history and our own practices...
ROSE: But is there...
PRINCE TURKI: ... that we would like to move forward with them. And we`re already doing that. We`re moving forward. We`re not going back.
ROSE: Having to do with women and a whole range of issues?
PRINCE TURKI: Everything. The women particularly today, for example, they`re being elected to various institutions in Saudi Arabia. The Chamber of Commerce has had elections where women were elected. The Journalists Association has had women elected. The Engineers Association has had women elected. In the next round of election in three years` time, universal suffrage will be standard and not an exception.
All of these are being developed. The most prized women today in Saudi Arabia is a woman with a job, because she brings an income to the household. She`s sought after by suitors, by her siblings and her parents and so on. So all of that has changed within the kingdom, without religious fatwa and without government decree.
ROSE: But at the same time, the 6,000 members of the royal family have 90 percent of the power in Saudi Arabia.
PRINCE TURKI: I wouldn`t say 90 percent of the power.
ROSE: What would you say?
PRINCE TURKI: I would say that we have a responsibility as a family to serve the people, and that responsibility has not risen out of recent history. It goes back nearly 300 years, that the Al-Sauds have tried to be of service to the general public in Saudi Arabia.
We believe that with the support of the Saudi people, that we can achieve a lot for not just the people of Saudi Arabia, but for the Arab and Muslim community, as well. And we have (INAUDIBLE) maintain a very stable and a very forward-looking, if you like, society that has moved forward in the past 60 years to where we are today. And hopefully, in the next few years, we will move further on.
ROSE: Two things I would like to do as I say goodbye. One, is go to Saudi Arabia and talk about some of these issues there.
PRINCE TURKI: Please do.
ROSE: At your kind invitation already. And two, speak to you soon again when you can talk about the Iranian issue, which many people believe is of great significance at this time in terms of the world.
PRINCE TURKI: Absolutely. I`m not trying to duck the issue, but as you can imagine, already there`s much has been said by Saudi Arabia on that issue, if you look back on what the foreign minister said, et cetera, and just refer to it if you want to refer to that. But I will meet with you again, inshallah, and talk about anything that you want to talk about.
ROSE: Thank you for coming.
PRINCE TURKI: Thank you, sir.
ROSE: Pleasure to have you on this program.
PRINCE TURKI: Well, thank you very much.
ROSE: Ambassador Turki Al-Faisal from the government of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, their ambassador to Washington. Thank you for joining us. See you next time.