SPEAKER 1: This is a production of Cornell University.
WASIF SYED: Good afternoon, everyone. If we can have your attention, please.
Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, friends, my name is Wasif Syed. And on behalf of the Prince Turki Al-Faisal Welcome Committee, it is indeed a privilege to welcome you all to tonight's monumental evening.
First and foremost, let me get the logistical aspects out of the way. Flash photography will only be permitted sort of in the first five to 10 minutes once the prince takes the stage. After that, it seizes for the remaining event till the first two or three minutes of Q&A. And can everybody please turn off their cell phones?
I am absolutely delighted to welcome first and foremost to today's lecture His Royal Highness Prince Turki Al-Faisal and, of course, his delegation. Today's lecture is part of the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies Foreign Policy Distinguished Speakers Series. It is being sponsored by a plethora of organizations on campus.
I am required and I shall recite all of them. They are as follows-- obviously, the Prince Turki Al-Faisal Welcome Committee, the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, the Johnson Graduate School of Management, the Cornell Law School, the KAUST-Cornell University Center, Cornell's Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, the School of Hotel Administration, College of Engineering, Alice Cook House, Department of Nursing Studies, Department of Government, Cornell International Affairs Review, University Communications-- thank you Tracy Vosburgh and Tommy Ruth-- and the Office of the Vice Provost for International Relations. Thank you, Laurie Damiani.
The Foreign Policy Distinguished Speaker is designed to provide Cornell students and others at Cornell and the wider community an opportunity to engage directly with world leaders and better prepare themselves to participate in our global world.
Prince Turki Al-Faisal, as one of the most senior ranking members of Saudi royalty and one who has served as the Saudi Ambassador both to the United Kingdom and Ireland, as well as the United States, is uniquely positioned to speak volumes to this very important issue, particularly to US and Saudi relations. So it is indeed a privilege that he is with us tonight and brings great distinction to this lecture series.
Saudi Arabia plays a pivotal role in the 21st century and will continue to do so for many decades and centuries to come. And it is indeed a privilege for all of us that you have graced us with your presence. And we are obviously very much looking forward to your insights.
On a personal note-- and I will digress a little bit-- I would like to take this opportunity to thank-- profusely thank, I should say-- Day Hall, with all of whom who I've worked with over these years, especially Tommy Bruce, Susan Murphy, Steve Johnson, and, of course, Davis Gorton, as well as many others. I'm indebted to all of you. Thank you.
With that said, to officially welcome His Royal Highness, Prince Turki and to introduce his lecture, I am honored to introduce a good friend and Cornell's president, David Skorton.
Before he comes up the stage, he did not want a full introduction. I will say that he is learning Arabic. He's an eager student. And tonight's introductory remarks by him will be in Arabic. There will be no translation, and so I apologize for that.
Just kidding, Dave. In any case, so without further ado, put your hands together for Cornell's president, David Skorton.
DAVID SKORTON: Wasif, thank you for all the things that you have done on this campus. I've been worried that you're a little too quiet and reticent. And I see you're coming out of your shell. It's terrific. It's really good.
And for the photographers in the audience, right now, you can take as many pictures of Wasif as you like.
I'm going to go into English now so that Ross can understand the rest of the lecture.
Before I have the tremendous honor to introduce our honored guest, I want to again acknowledge General Zinni, who's with us today and who has graced us with his presence during the week.
Thank you for spending the time with us, General.
I want to welcome everyone to this Foreign Policy Distinguished Speakers Series lecture and especially to welcome His Royal Highness, Prince Turki Al-Faisal. His Royal Highness is one of the most senior ranking members of the Saudi royal family, former Saudi Ambassador to the United States, a founder of the King Faisal Foundation, the largest philanthropic organization in the Middle East and one of the largest in the world, and current Chair of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh.
I want to add my thanks to those of Wasif to the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, the Office of the Vice Provost for International Relations, the Prince Turki Al-Faisal Welcome Committee, and other sponsors of this event for making this come to fruition.
Cornell is pleased and I am personally and professionally honored that we have strong and growing interactions with the people of Saudi Arabia. Cornell President Emeritus Frank Rhodes was instrumental in writing the charter and bylaws of the new King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia. He currently serves on the board of trustees for the new university, which is set to open in September of 2009. I had the honor of being there for the groundbreaking of KAUST, and it's a very impressive vision.
Also on the 20-member KAUST board is our alumna and trustee, Lubna Olayan, a Saudi business leader who earned her Cornell degree from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in 1977. And she currently provides enormous and welcome guidance to Cornell as a member of our board of trustees and has taught all of us much about Saudi Arabia. She's also serving as a mentor to me as I learn more about the culture and try to serve as a guide for all of us in this endeavor.
Here on the Cornell campus, as Prince Turki had a chance to see today, Professors Lynden Archer and Emmanuel Giannelis are organizing a new interdisciplinary scientific research and education center that will focus on applications and fundamental studies of nanomaterials developed at Cornell with a $25 million grant from KAUST's global research partnership, a very competitive grant that we were very pleased to win.
And the Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar gives us a strong presence in the Middle East, enrolling right now over 200 students from more than 30 countries on five continents in pre-medical and medical programs. And Your Highness, last year, we were honored to give the first American MD degrees given outside this country in Doha. And I'll be returning there in 10 days' time to give the second batch of degrees.
We are delighted that you're with us today to deepen our understanding of Saudi Arabia and its relations with the United States. To tell the group assembled here a little bit about his background, His Royal Highness studied at the Lawrenceville School in Lawrenceville, New Jersey.
He earned a bachelor's degree in international relations from Georgetown University, where he was a classmate of former United States President Bill Clinton, and went on for advanced academic work at Princeton, Cambridge, and the University of London, where he studied Islamic law and jurisprudence.
The son of the late King Faisal, nephew of King Abdullah, and brother of Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal, Prince Turki was appointed an advisor in the Saudi royal court in 1973. He served for nearly a quarter-century as Director General of the General Intelligence Directorate in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In 2002, he was appointed Saudi Ambassador to the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.
And from 2005 to 2007, he was Ambassador to the United States. Currently, in addition to his leadership as Chair of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, he serves on the board of trustees of the International Crisis Group and the Oxford Center for Islamic Studies. He is also Co-Chair of the C-100 Group, which has been affiliated with the World Economic Forum, since 2003.
We're very honored that you could be with us today for the Foreign Policy Distinguished Speakers Series. The topic is "What We Expect from America-- a Saudi Perspective." Please join me in welcoming His Royal Highness.
TURKI AL-FAISAL: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much.
When your president sat with me here before Wasif took the stand, he asked me how he should address me. And I said, "Call me Turki."
And that reminded me of my first day at Lawrenceville so many years ago, when I arrived with a suitcase and feeling extremely lonely. And somebody hit me on my backside and said, "Hi. What's your name? Mine is Tom."
And I turned. And I said, "My name is Turki." He said, "Oh. Is that like a Thanksgiving turkey?"
That was my introduction to America, if you like.
But it was a wonderful experience that I had in school here in the '60s and subsequently as ambassador, as well. And in between, as a government official, I had the privilege and the pleasure to visit your country many times.
First, let me thank the people at Cornell for inviting me and for your presence here. Wasif has been indefatigable in arranging this. And [? Hamed, ?] as well, has been helping him, [? Hamed ?] [? Ashiha, ?] who is a Saudi student here. And I must tell you that both of them give me a sense of being extremely lazy, because they are so energetic. But nonetheless, the hospitality and the reception have been overwhelming.
And also, I must say that I envy you the beauty of your location here in Ithaca and the Cornell campus. It is out of this world, literally. And when you think of paradise in Muslim terms, this is the place on Earth that represents paradise in my view. So enjoy it.
Another thing that your president mentioned was the cooperation between this university and the King Abdullah University for Science and Technology, which is a groundbreaking relationship because it means that both institutions will work together in developing what hopefully will be issues that will benefit all of mankind and particularly on the CO2 capture and sequestration, which is a very hot topic in these days, photovoltaic cells and solid stone lighting, water treatment and desalination, which is very important not only for Saudi Arabia but for the rest of the world-- because as everybody knows, there is a growing shortage of such availability of sweet water for everybody-- and then nanomaterials for enhanced oil production.
You can imagine what that means to a country like Saudi Arabia. And also, as His Excellency mentioned, the President Emeritus of Cornell is a member of the board of KAUST. And we are very pleased that also Lubna Olayan, which was an alumnus of your university, is on that board.
So going through those introductions, I was reminded of what I was told, that Afif Safieh, the ex-ambassador of Palestine in the United States, also gave a lecture in this hall. And he was a good friend.
And he always prefaced his remarks by saying that "I will give you a telegraphic exposition of my ideas." And then he goes on to write a whole book about his introductions. I will stick to being telegraphic.
The relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States is more than 81 years old now. And there are significant dates in that relationship.
1928, King Abdulaziz, the founder of Saudi Arabia even before it became Saudi Arabia, was in the Port of Jeddah but at sea when he was told that an American philanthropist and industrialist had just berthed his boat in the port and that he was on a trip around the world. And his name was Arthur Crane.
Those of you who know toiletries will know that the Crane name is very much a founder of those toiletries. He was an industrialist and a philanthropist, and he met with the king over dinner. And the king was complaining to him that alas, Saudi Arabia or the territory of Arabia was very large, but no water resources.
And Crane turned to the king. And he said, well, let me send one of my geologists to see if we can find some underground water for you and other advice that he might give.
And sure enough, within a year, one of his geologists by the name of Karl Twitchell came to Saudi Arabia, spent six months in the country, touring it from north to south and from east to west, and came back to the king and said, King, there is no water in Arabia. And further, anybody who tells you otherwise is lying to you. But-- and this is an important but-- there may be oil in Saudi Arabia.
And ladies and gentlemen, the rest is history. American companies developed that oil. And the relationship having started in a nongovernmental way subsequently and very quickly turned a very official relationship with the first minister representing your country coming to Saudi Arabia at the beginning of the Second World War.
But in 1945, there was an important meeting between King Abdulaziz and Franklin Roosevelt aboard a United States ship, the Quincy, in the bitter lakes in the Red Sea. And President Roosevelt was returning from the conference in Yalta, and he wanted to pass by and meet with King Abdulaziz, whom he had heard about from Arthur Crane.
So they met onboard the ship and reached an understanding between them on the future relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States. The King wanted from the United States technical, economic, and political support because his country was still young. And nobody knew what was going to happen after the Second World War.
All of the Arab world was then almost under colonial rule, either British or French or some other European colonial power. And the kingdom was the only independent country beside Yemen in all of the Arab countries. And the king sought support from the United States because the United States did not have any colonies in the area and was not a colonialist power.
And he also agreed with President Roosevelt that the production of oil in the kingdom would be expanded, and an airbase, an American airbase, would be established on the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia after the Second World War. The president wanted from King Abdulaziz support for a program to transport what by then had become evidently a humanitarian problem, which was the Jews of Europe, which had been persecuted by the Nazis, to Palestine.
And this was the first disagreement between the two, because the king turned to the president and said, if the Jews had been persecuted by the Nazis, well, why should the Arabs pay the price for that? And he suggested that the best lands in Germany should be given to the Jews of Europe in return for the suffering that they suffered at the hands of the Nazis. That point remained a point of contention, and subsequent history has also kept that point as a point of contention between Saudi Arabia and the United States.
Nonetheless, on the other issues of support and aid and technical and political engagement with Saudi Arabia, your country was very much forthcoming and helped us in our developing days in establishing not only educational institutions and accepting Saudi students to come to your country, but also in the technical support, military, and otherwise that was established in the kingdom.
A very important date was in 1948 in the relationship between us, which was the date when Israel was established at the United Nations at the strong support of the United States. And there was much recrimination and bitterness between our two countries, because when President Roosevelt met with King Abdulaziz in 1945, he had given a promise to King Abdulaziz that on the issue of Jewish immigration to Palestine, that the United States would take no action until it consulted with its Arab friends.
Alas, President Truman, having succeeded President Roosevelt at that time, did not feel that he was obliged to fulfill President Roosevelt's promise and went ahead and literally established the state of Israel through United Nations bureaucracy and with the support of many Europeans. Curiously enough, even the Soviet Union supported the establishment of the state of Israel.
But nonetheless and despite this setback in the relationship between us, the kingdom and the United States continued to develop economic, political, and other relationships until 1953, when our then foreign minister, subsequently King Faisal, visited the United States and met with President Eisenhower.
And at that time, of course, the Iron Wall had fallen on Europe. And Communism had become the enemy of the West and the rest of us. And Saudi Arabia and the United States embarked together on a program of combating Communism not just in the kingdom and the area around the kingdom, but also wherever it showed its head.
A subsequent important date in the relationship was in 1956, when Britain, France, and Israel invaded Egypt over the Suez Canal dispute. Those of you who are not old enough to remember that, it was very much a time of crisis. And there was on the Soviet side a lot of rhetoric about the use of rocketry and atomic weapons to stop the invasion.
But the fact was that it was President Eisenhower who literally forced France, the United Kingdom, and Israel to withdraw from their invasion of Egypt. And so the relationship with the kingdom improved and not just with the kingdom, but with the rest of the Arab world, between the United States and the Arab world.
In 1962, there was a revolution in Yemen, which was supported by the socialist nationalist forces in the Arab world, led by then Gamal Abdel Nasser, president of Egypt, and also supported by the Soviet Union. Saudi Arabia stood on the other side, supporting the traditional monarchy that was overthrown in Yemen.
And President Kennedy at the time equivocated in his support for the kingdom. While maintaining verbal support and sending an Air Force squadron to Jeddah to protect the Saudi border from Egyptian incursions, he also at the same time recognized the Republic of Yemen. And things went on from there.
I could go on a list of dates like that between us, but I will shorten that for you and jump from those days, 1962, to 1973, an important date in the relationship because it was the time and the year when the Ramadan War started between Egypt, Syria, and Israel. And the subsequent support of the United States for Israel led to Saudi Arabia and the Arab oil producing countries to impose an oil embargo on the United States and those countries that supported Israel in that conflict.
And Foreign Minister or Secretary of State Henry Kissinger began his shuttle diplomacy at that time to try to bring an end not just to that conflict that started in 1973, but also to the overall conflict between Israel and the Arab countries. And King Faisal only lifted the embargo when he was reassured by President Nixon and Secretary Kissinger that the United States will work to end the conflict in the Middle East.
Alas, King Faisal was assassinated in 1975. And subsequent events within the Arab world and also within the United States, with Watergate and the removal of President Nixon and the diminution of the effectiveness of the American foreign policy because of the Watergate situation, that promise to bring an end to the conflict between Israel and the Arab world did not come through.
More recently, in August 1990, if you all remember, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. And at the invitation of the late King Fahd, your country sent half a million troops to Saudi Arabia to repel that invasion. Now, you can imagine what half a million troops are like coming to any country, let alone a country like Saudi Arabia and troops like United States troops.
But nonetheless, because of the foresight of both countries and the friendship that existed between them, not only was that effort successful in repelling the invasion of Kuwait, but also in maintaining the security and stability of Saudi Arabia. And Saudis will remain forever grateful to your country for sending your kids to stand shoulder to shoulder with our soldiers when the need arose for us to defend ourselves.
I would jump from there to more recent times. In the year 2000, if you remember, President Clinton began his talks to bring about an end to the Israeli-Palestinian problem through the Camp David talks between then Prime Minister Barak and the President of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat.
In the meantime, in between 1990 and 2000, events on the ground had developed initially in a very positive manner, but subsequently turned sour. And if you remember, after the removal of Iraqi troops from Kuwait, the United States called for a conference in Madrid, at which the Arab countries and Israel for the first time sat together, including Palestinian representatives, to negotiate peace for the Middle East problem.
From that developed the secretly agreed-to Oslo agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which led to the Oslo Accords and the establishment not only of relations between Palestinians and Israelis, but also potentially between Israel and the rest of the Arab world.
Alas, in the year 1996, the Israeli architect of the Israeli side of the Oslo Accords, Yitzhak Rabin, was assassinated by an Israeli terrorist. And things went downwards from then on with Mr. Netanyahu, who is now becoming prime minister and not fulfilling some of the promises that the Israeli government had made before that and Yasser Arafat, as well, not living up to some of the promises that he had made, which led finally President Clinton to try to get the Israelis and the Palestinians together.
Now, that particular accord or rather attempt at an accord at Camp David was initially started totally in isolation of any other Arab country. It was just the Palestinians and the Israelis and the Americans. And sure enough, it did not succeed because there had not been enough preparation for it.
And the blame was put on President Arafat by President Clinton, but subsequent revelations have shown that everybody was to blame for the failure of that. President Clinton, when things seemed to go sour at that discussion, called then Crown Prince Abdullah and asked him for support.
And the crown prince turned to him. And he said, Mr. President, what are you talking about? We don't know about these Camp David accords. And President Clinton said, well, I'm sorry we didn't consult with you beforehand. But we need your help.
But it was too late by that time. And by the end of that year, December, although the Palestinians and the Israelis met in the town of Taba in Egypt and almost reached an agreement on the issue-- with one Palestinian telling me that the only thing that separated them and remained a point of difference between the Israeli side and the Palestinian side were hundreds meters along the Wailing Wall-- a refugee issue was agreed to.
Borders were agreed to. East Jerusalem as a capital for the Palestinians was agreed to and all of the other important issues. But January 20 came along, and Mr. Clinton was succeeded by Mr. Bush. And just before that, Mr. Barak was succeeded by Mr. Sharon.
Now, of course, the kingdom couldn't do anything about these things because at that time, we were not consulted. But another event that took place subsequent to that was in August 2001.
Then Crown Prince Abdullah sent to President Bush a letter, telling him that having seen that President Bush had turned his back to peacemaking in the Middle East and almost abandoned everything that Mr. Clinton had almost succeeded in bringing about in the Taba agreements, King Abdullah told the president that Saudi Arabia and the United States were coming at a crossroads. And either we go together in the road that we choose, or we go our separate ways.
Of course, immediately, that almost acted as a wake-up call to President Bush. And he instructed Secretary of State General Colin Powell to meet with the Saudi ambassador at the time in Washington, Prince Bandar. And they sat together from August until September 10, 2001, hammering out a formula statement that the president would make presumably at his speech, which was scheduled for September 12, 2001 to the General Assembly.
And the issue of the two-state proposal of Mr. Bush was agreed to at that interlocution between the Saudis and the Americans. But alas, September 11 intervened, and everything had to be put on the table. So the kingdom and the United States worked very closely during those months to try to bring together some kind of formula that would bring peace to the area.
By that time, of course, the Second Intifada in the West Bank and Gaza had been in full swing, as it were. And bloodshed was widespread in that area, Palestinians and Israelis killing each other left and right and everybody suffering. September 11 added that further complication. And there was a period of almost hostility, if not downright enmity, between the kingdom and the United States at that time because 15 of the 19 hijackers of those days were Saudis.
Now, the thing that must be looked at is that despite this hostility that developed in those days, the two governments remained cool-headed and would not succumb to the emotions that arose as a result of that horrific and criminal act. And by keeping cool heads, the two countries managed to overcome the effects of that situation.
I remember subsequently in 2005 that King Abdullah as a crown prince came to see President Bush in Crawford, Texas. And both of them agreed to a joint program that was made up of the following points. They agreed on energy policy, whereby Saudi Arabia would increase oil production and invest in increased refining capacity so that there would be no shortage of oil in the market.
The United States in return would increase research into making oil a cleaner energy source than before. And on other issues, the United States agreed to open up its visa arrangements to allow more Saudis to come to the United States, particularly students. And a joint strategic dialogue committee was established between the foreign secretary-- by that time, Condi Rice-- and Prince Saud Al Faisal, our foreign minister.
Now, the important thing about the joint strategic dialogue was that it moved the relationship between us from a personal one, where a president and a king would get together-- they would decide things, and the rest of us will have to follow through on that-- to a more institutional setup, whereby ministries and departments and nongovernmental organizations between the two countries can get together and discuss issues like education, like culture, like visa regulations, like trade, even energy policy, et cetera, and security and defense matters so that it becomes a more diffuse but a more structured and institutionalized relationship than the whim or the will of one or two persons at the leadership on both sides.
And it's been going on since 2005, these meetings of the strategic dialogue. I had the privilege of participating in two of them when I was ambassador in your country. The first one was in 2005 and subsequently in 2006, before I retired.
And I can tell you that all manner of subjects were discussed in those strategic dialogue talks, issues that are sensitive from both sides, like freedom of religion, education, promotion of hatred and antisemitic issues, Islamophobic issues. All sorts of juicy subjects were discussed in those meetings quite openly and directly without any inhibitions.
This was all at the direction of both President Bush and King Abdullah. In subsequent meetings between President Bush and King Abdullah, both in the kingdom and subsequently at the last meeting of the G20 in Washington, when President Bush was giving up his term, the king also continued to value the relationship with your country and maintain a healthy and open dialogue with President Bush, which he subsequently carried on with Mr. Obama when they met at the recent G20 meeting in London.
Now, in all of this, we must take into consideration that other things are happening on the ground that affect the relationship between the kingdom and the United States. You must all remember the price of oil hike that took place between 2006 and 2008.
And I remember being in the United States as ambassador at the time at the beginning of that price hike and listening to President Bush at his State of the Union talk in January 2006, where for the first time, President Bush started talking about energy independence.
Now, you can imagine my surprise when he mentioned that-- and I was sitting there in the Congress, listening to him-- because just a few months before, he had met with King Abdullah and agreed on a joint energy policy. There was no talk about energy independence in that meeting.
But nonetheless, President Bush brought it up and as a surprise to me. I complained to Stephen Hadley, his advisor on national security, at least you could have informed us beforehand. And believe it or not, what Stephen Hadley told me was, forgive me, Your Highness. But this was an economic issue, and it didn't pass by me.
And I said, yeah. Sure.
But nonetheless, the frankness of the discourse between me as ambassador and Stephen Hadley as the advisor to the president on national security was the hallmark of the relationship between the two countries. And subsequently, of course, President Bush sent a letter to King Abdullah, saying that he maintains his position that he agreed to with the king at their meeting on the joint energy policy.
But the other issues, of course, were Palestine, Lebanon, and Iran and Afghanistan and all of the hotspots around our part of the world. It's not enough for us to have a hot climate there, but we also have to have hotspots.
And incredibly, despite various disagreements that we may have had with your leadership on some issues, like Palestine and perhaps even on the-- if you remember-- war between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006, yet the king made sure that the relationship with the president would be maintained in as friendly a manner as can be and to be as frank as possible within that framework of friendship, because there is a saying in Arabic.
And I will say it in Arabic first and try to translate it in English. The saying goes like this.
And a poor translation of that is "your friend is he who tells you the truth, not he who tells you what you want to hear." And this has been the hallmark of King Abdullah's relationship with the president, first President Bush, of course, and now with President Obama.
And let me just mention here a few factors I think that are important to the relationship between the two countries. One, of course, is Palestine. And what we as Saudis-- and I can speak as a Saudi citizen now because, thank god, I am retired from official work.
And believe me, retirement is the best thing in the world. I advise it to anybody, even those who are starting work now. Retire before you work.
But nonetheless, all the plans in the world about the Middle East have been presented and dissected and simply put into pieces and put under microscopes. And everybody knows exactly what is needed for a peace settlement. We don't want any more plans. There is enough on the ground to make for everything else.
The other thing we don't want is we don't want President Obama to say to King Abdullah or to President Mubarak or to Bibi Netanyahu or to whoever it is, Bashar al-Assad, come and tell me what you want. No.
We want Obama to come and tell us what he wants, in other words, for Obama to put an end vision to this conflict that has bedeviled not just the area, but the rest of the world and where so much bloodshed and costing has been a part of the humanity that should not be. And it is important for President Obama to do that.
And I can imagine now that we read that he has invited three leaders from the Arab world to come and talk to him about this, President Mubarak and Bibi Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas, sitting in the White House. And each one of them will come and will want to tell President Obama, Mr. President, I think you should do-- he should immediately stop them and say, Mr. President or Mr. Prime Minister, no, no, no.
Don't do that. Let me tell you what I want. And I want your support for what I want. And I think this will galvanize all of us in the Middle East to come together and be more implementative rather than simply rhetorical, because we've had a lot of rhetoric without any implementation.
And I've always maintained in my previous talks to American audiences that politicians not just in the Arab world, but everywhere, especially when it takes an engagement with the United States, which is the number one power in the world, they want to be pushed by this big bear behind their back to do things so that they can meet whatever obstruction or opposition within their political framework in their countries and say, the guy is pushing me. You want to tackle this big bear?
So it is very important for the United States to play that role. Alas, during Mr. Bush's two terms, there was no such role being played. And I think that was one of the reasons why, despite Mr. Bush's very commendable and much appreciated statements about a two-state solution, about a roadmap, about wanting to see a viable Palestinian state contiguous to Israel, nothing was accomplished because the US simply did not push enough.
Now, Mr. Obama has raised expectations tremendously in the Middle East. I'm sure all of you have had similar experiences with Mr. Obama here, as well. And we're willing to listen to what he tells us and to be led by him in hopefully achieving a permanent peace in the Middle East. So he should take advantage of that.
And he should put his foot forward and step on the ground, rather than simply giving us more promises or more rhetoric. And he's very, very eloquent, and his rhetoric is very beautiful to listen to. But in the final analysis, it will mean nothing if he does not implement it.
Positive factors from Mr. Obama that we've heard, of course, a few days ago with King Abdullah of Jordan is that he is still committed to the two-state solution and that he thinks the Middle East problem should be solved sooner rather than later. His appointment of George Mitchell was much appreciated and is a positive step forward.
And also, when Secretary Clinton mentioned that Mr. Mitchell is going to be operating out of the Middle East, rather than out of somewhere else, that is a clear indication that this administration wants to do things on the ground. So we're holding our breath and waiting.
There's been a short time from January to now. I think President Obama has exhausted the lead time for things to be done.
I hope that by the middle of the summer, if not sooner than that, that we will see something concrete happening on the ground, whether it is knocking heads together and bringing the Arab and Israeli leaders together and putting some sense in them or whatever it is that is may be required and will be devised by his advisors, particularly Mr. Mitchell. And that is one subject.
On Lebanon, which is a key factor in all of this situation, despite the fact that Lebanon is a very small country and has its own political problems, Mr. Obama should ask the Israelis to withdraw immediately from Shebaa Farms.
Shebaa Farms in Lebanon, for those of you who don't know it, are even smaller than the campus of this university. Yet there are Israeli troops still on Lebanese territory, which gives Hezbollah and the other forces in Lebanon that talk about national liberation an excuse to maintain their weaponry and their armed conflict against Israel and the threat of sending rockets across the border.
You remove Israeli troops from Shebaa, and that issue will become moot. And it will disappear by itself. And it will allow the Lebanese forces inside Lebanon politically to get together and to start talking about Lebanese issues, rather than national liberation issues, which is bedeviling the situation inside Lebanon.
On Syria, President Obama has indicated that he wants to talk to the Syrians. And president Bashar al-Assad has indicated that he wants to talk to the Americans. So go ahead and talk. You don't need a midwife to bring you together. You can do it, and it's very easy.
And President Bashar al-Assad has also indicated that he wants to reach an agreement with Israel. Please encourage that. Don't stand in the way. Let the Israelis and the Syrians, even if it's done through the Turks, achieve a peace treaty. Why not? This will be all the more helpful for the rest of us.
And on Iraq, I think it is very important before American troops withdraw from Iraq that a Security Council resolution be passed under Chapter 7 guaranteeing the territorial integrity of Iraq, because I'm afraid that the centrifugal forces in Iraq are still strong and would take advantage of the withdrawal of American troops from there to exercise whatever ambitions or agendas they may have, whether it is the Kurds in the north or the Shia in the south or the Sunnis in the center.
Within those groupings, there have been those who have called for some kind of dismemberment of Iraq. This will only turn all of us into a lot of-- how can I put it-- not only desperate, but vicious interlocutors in a civil war that will erupt immediately inside Iraq.
But also from outside, whether it is the Turks from the north or the Iranians from the east and the northeast or the Saudis from the south or the Syrians from the west, it will simply draw us all in in a conflict that is not needed and should be stopped before it takes place. So this is, I think, an important issue to maintain the stability and the coherence and the territorial integrity of Iraq.
On Afghanistan, I think President Obama has followed the right policy. He has declared, if you remember during the campaign, that he was going to go after the terrorists in Afghanistan. And that should be his end game in Afghanistan. But in the meantime, he should solicit support for that effort from the world community.
Now, these terrorists, whether they are in Afghanistan or in Pakistan, they don't have friends in the rest of the world. The Russians don't like them. The Chinese don't like them. We are fighting them. The Pakistanis are fighting them. The Iranians are fighting them. And the rest of the world is fighting them, because they are terrorists.
So you can imagine how much support, whether military, economic, or political, can be galvanized if a call came out of President Obama for that effort. And once you provide all of these resources to get the terrorists, even the people within whom the terrorists are living now, who for the past seven or eight years have seen no concerted effort to get the terrorists, will support such an effort.
And once you get them, then you declare victory and get out. Don't leave your armies in Afghanistan. Nobody throughout history has ever succeeded in doing that. Go back to Alexandrian times and more recently to Soviet times. Afghanistan has always been the deathbed of invading armies.
So please remember that American armies may be the best equipped, the best trained, but they're not going to fare much better. Eventually, you will have to withdraw from Afghanistan. It is better to do it after you have accomplished something concrete, like getting rid of these terrorists, rather than simply being pushed out because of the large body count that is coming out of Afghanistan. This is very important.
And on Pakistan, equally, I would say that the incursions into Pakistan by these predator pilotless aircraft are doing most harm to the Pakistani armed forces and also in galvanizing anti-American support within the tribal areas and within Pakistani population. Stop those. You don't need them.
Once you galvanize the support that I was talking about against the terrorists, you will have the Pakistani people and the Pakistani armed forces with you, instead of against you. And all these predator aircraft do is simply increase the anti-Americanism within the areas where they hit. In most cases than others, more civilians are killed than intended targets, whether they be Taliban or terrorists.
And on the issue of the Taliban, don't think that the Taliban is one cohesive political party, like the Democrats or the Republicans. The Taliban is a collection of tribal groupings, some criminal elements, drug traders. And you can wean out and distinguish between those who are nationalists and those who are doing things either for the criminal activity or the drug trade and not.
And President Karzai is trying to follow the right thing there in talking with some of these people. And I think he should be supported by President Obama. This is what we heard, anyway. But we still have to see what is done on the ground.
I will close, ladies and gentlemen, by telling you that it's been a privilege to speak to you, truly. You've been very, very silent.
And that, to me, is a sign of attentiveness, which I don't think I deserve. But now that I have received it from you, I am most grateful for you for doing it. And I say to you again [ARABIC]. Thank you very much.
DAVID SKORTON: Please sit down. Make yourself comfortable.
Hello. Prince Turki? Is it on?
TURKI AL-FAISAL: Yes, thank you.
DAVID SKORTON: Prince Turki, I want to thank you for a most engaging and eloquent set of opinions and facts mixed very carefully together. And it is uncharacteristic for Cornellians to be so quiet. But we're going to give them a chance to get even now.
We have microphones on both aisles, and I will serve only to moderate. As usual, if you can keep the questions concise, that will allow more people to ask questions. And we have plenty of time. So let's start with you please.
AUDIENCE: [SPEAKING ARABIC]
Thank you, Prince Turki, for coming. So my question is there are a lot of monarchs in the world, but most of them parliaments associated with it, like forms of democracy. And with many Saudi citizens pushing for democracy in Saudi Arabia, isn't it time that you either start a parliament or renounce your throne?
TURKI AL-FAISAL: That's a good question because the kingdom, when it was first established as a unified country, before even it became Saudi Arabia in 1926, at that time, it was called the "Kingdom of the Hejaz and the Sultanate of Nejd and its Dependencies."
And a consultative assembly was established at that time. And it had the responsibility of issuing the laws and overseeing financial aspects, et cetera. The country, of course, was then still very small, without many resources.
But nonetheless, King Abdulaziz wished for that consultative assembly to have the kind of authority that would give it not only respect within the population, but also as a means of alleviating some of the weight of governing from him as king. That consultative council continued to exist until the death of King Abdulaziz in 1953. So from 1926 until 1953, that consultative council existed.
From 1953 to 1993, there was a hiatus in which the authority of the Council of Ministers, which was established by King Abdulaziz before he died but held its first meetings after his death and subsequently, took on the responsibilities, if you like, of legislation, as well as financial direction of the kingdom and development programs.
And within the framework of the council, depending on how many members there were chosen for that council, the leadership generally made sure that representation from different parts of the country was on that council.
In 1993, the late King Fahd issued what were then called the "basic clause" for Saudi Arabia, in which for the first time, a definition of what the kingdom is was put on paper. And it was identified as an Islamic country, an Arab country, whose constitution is the holy Quran and with the establishment again of a consultative assembly composed of different members from different parts of the kingdom.
Initially, there were 50 members in the consultative assembly. And also, within the basic law, there was a definition of the separation between the judiciary, the administrative, and the legislative branches of government and an amendment or a law that governed the succession in Saudi Arabia, for the first time something written down, rather than simply left to practice or custom.
And from 1993, there have been amendments to that basic law. And the consultative assembly issue, the number has increased from 50 to 150 now and, as I said, composed of different parts of Saudi Arabia, mostly people who have had either experience in business or government or in other matters.
And if my figures are not right, more than 70% of those members of the consultative assembly today have PhDs either from American universities or international universities, including Saudi universities.
In 2005, King Fahd was still alive. And of course, the then Crown Prince Abdullah issued a law that would restart municipal elections in the kingdom. And more than 180 municipalities participated in that practice. And the next round is coming up next November.
It's a four-year term. And so from 2005 to 2009, the terms of the people who were elected will come for renewal or for new members to be elected.
So these are just some tips I'm giving you very briefly as to where the kingdom is heading, as far as so-called-- and I say between quotation marks-- "democratization," because if you look at what democratization has meant in previous experience, it's a wild swing from way to the right to way to the left.
And as far as the kingdom is concerned, we'd like to see that process coming out of the kingdom and taking advice from those who have preceded us. So when it came to the question of municipal elections, we invited experts from United Nations organizations and from different governments, like the German government and other governments, to come and advise us on how to make elections effective, rather than simply a sort of a picture show for people that can point, yes, they have elections.
We want them to be meaningful, rather than simply cosmetic. And we're still in our baby steps, if you like, when it comes to so-called "representative government," but we're heading in that way.
And my view is that in the next five to 10 years, we will see that members of the consultative assembly will also be elected in the kingdom. And also, I forgot to mention that each province in the kingdom-- we have 13 provinces-- has its own council under the guidance of the governor of that province.
And I think sooner than the national consultative assembly, these councils of governorships will become elected and have more responsibility. So it's a learning process for us, but I think we're heading in the right way.
Some people, of course, point to the fact and say that you're going about it very slowly. Well, that's a matter of opinion. And as far as the kingdom is concerned, we'd rather be sure rather than quick. And this is the way that we've followed our development historically, and we'll continue to do that.
AUDIENCE: Can I ask you a quick follow-up question?
DAVID SKORTON: No.
TURKI AL-FAISAL: I think you should let--
DAVID SKORTON: No.
DAVID SKORTON: Thank you. But so many people are waiting. Please.
AUDIENCE: Your Highness, thank you so much for joining us today. It is really an honor to talk with you. I'm a student at the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs.
TURKI AL-FAISAL: I can't hear you.
AUDIENCE: I'm a student at the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs, and I'm very much interested in the situation in Pakistan. I was wondering if you can speak a little further about the current political situation in Pakistan and, in your view, who are financing the Taliban forces there.
TURKI AL-FAISAL: Who?
AUDIENCE: Are financing the Taliban forces there.
TURKI AL-FAISAL: Ah. You want to put me in trouble with Pakistan.
DAVID SKORTON: Welcome to Cornell.
TURKI AL-FAISAL: Now, as I said in my presentation, I think Pakistan at the moment-- or rather, let me put it this way. The Pakistani armed forces at the moment are being undermined and not just by these predator attacks, but things that are happening within Pakistan itself. The political rivalries in Pakistan have not worked to create the kind of stability that a country like Pakistan needs in order to meet all of these important challenges that face it.
One thing that many people who blame Pakistan, for example, for the Taliban or for the terrorists there in Pakistan forget to mention is that Pakistan itself is a victim of these very same terrorists. If you've seen the pictures of the bloodshed that took place in Pakistan over the last 10 years, let alone in the last few months or so, you can imagine what impact these terrorists have had on Pakistan.
All I can say is that the politicians had better get their act together in Pakistan. Instead of political rivalry now, they should be working for national cohesion. But they're not, unfortunately. Some people will say-- and I won't say that I'm saying that-- that this is a result of democratic practice.
But on the other hand, if you're going to have democracy, you're going to have to bear the consequences of having democracy. And this may be one of those consequences, where you have such rivalries at a time when national unity should be the guiding factor.
DAVID SKORTON: Thank you. Please.
AUDIENCE: Your Royal Highness, in 1996, the Sudanese government offered to arrest and extradite Osama bin Laden to Saudi Arabia, which was hoped by the Clinton Administration that he would go and be executed for treason. In 1998, you personally were sent to Afghanistan to negotiate Osama bin Laden's handover.
TURKI AL-FAISAL: You've been reading up on me.
AUDIENCE: I'm wondering, if the kingdom refused in 1996 to extradition, what changed in the passing two years?
TURKI AL-FAISAL: The offer by then President Bashir to then Crown Prince Abdullah during the pilgrimage season of that year was that we'd be willing to send bin Laden to you. But you must promise not to prosecute him.
And King Abdullah turned to President Bashir. He said, nobody is above the law. If you want to send bin Laden to us, we'll take care of what is required according to our legal system. So they didn't.
I might add that in that same year, President Bashir offered to send bin Laden to the United States. And President Clinton or his advisors told the Sudanese, unfortunately, we don't have enough to make a case against him in an American court of law. And so he was not sent to the United States.
Eventually, of course, he was asked to leave Afghanistan and he-- I mean Sudan. And he arranged for a reception, if you like, with one of the smaller Afghan mujahideen parties that were opposed to the Soviet Union in previous years and who knew bin Laden, of course, because he was operating in Afghanistan or rather in the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan as a provider of humanitarian aid in those days in the '80s against the Soviets.
So that small party, which was led by a very distinguished and-- I knew him-- very worthy gentlemen called Yunus Khalis-- I don't know if there are any Afghans here. But I'm sure if there are, they would know who Yunus Khalis is. And so he was hosted by Mr. Yunus Khalis when he left Sudan.
In 1998, because he had begun to not just disseminate and publicly declare war against the kingdom and others, as well, the late King Fahd and Crown Prince Abdullah sent me to Kandahar to meet with Mullah Omar and advise Mullah Omar that this man is doing harm to Afghanistan by his statements and his actions, because the kingdom at the time also was arresting some people who had been sent from Mr. bin Laden to do some terrorist work in the kingdom, and that we'd be very much glad to take him off your hands.
Mullah Omar-- the first meeting was in June, I think it was, 1998. He said, well, we have given him refuge and protection. So we can't simply just hand him over. So I suggested that a joint sharia committee would be established between Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan to decide on the judicial issues of whether Afghanistan can hand over someone who had been given protection, if you like, under Islamic law.
And he agreed to that, Mullah Omar. And I left Kandahar with the expectation that within a couple weeks or so, we would be setting up the committee and carry it forward. Unfortunately, two weeks passed, three weeks.
The fourth week, Mullah Omar sent over his then advisor who subsequently became the foreign minister, Mr. Muttawakil, to the kingdom to reassure the king and the crown prince that they were still working out the modalities of how to set up this joint committee or the Afghan side of this joint committee, but that they were still carrying forward what we suggested to them.
And this was in July. By August, the Dar es Salaam and Nairobi terrorist attacks took place against American embassies. And President Clinton at the time demanded the extradition of bin Laden to the United States and fired off these missiles against Afghanistan, presumably to hit terrorist targets in Afghanistan.
And when by September we had not received any answer from the Afghan government about this joint committee, I was sent again to Kandahar to meet with Mullah Omar, which I did. And in that meeting, he was a completely different man from previously.
Previously, he had been very cooperative, very pleasant, very hospitable, and so on. But in this meeting, he was extremely strident and even insulting to Saudi Arabia, saying things like, how can you persecute such a worthy individual like bin Laden? Why don't you-- pointing at me. Why don't you put your hand in mine and let us go together and fight the infidels? And bin Laden will be our partner, et cetera.
So I just stood up and said Mr. Mohammed-- Mullah-- Omar, what you are doing is going to bring harm to you and to your country. And I left. That was the end of our relationship with the Taliban government at the time, because diplomatic relations were suspended. Our embassy was closed in Kabul, and we closed their embassy in Riyadh. And the rest is history.
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
DAVID SKORTON: Right here, please.
AUDIENCE: Thank you very much for coming to speak to us. I was wondering, one, what's the barometer for stability in Afghanistan that the United States would know that it can withdraw? And how can the United--
TURKI AL-FAISAL: Can you repeat the question, please?
AUDIENCE: What's the barometer--
SPEAKER 2: You need to speak up a little bit. Don't whisper in the microphone.
AUDIENCE: What's the barometer for stability in Afghanistan that the United States knows that it's stable enough that it can withdraw? And how does it ensure that once it withdraws from Afghanistan, it doesn't go back to warlords?
TURKI AL-FAISAL: As I said, getting the terrorists should be the end target in Afghanistan, either by arresting them or by eliminating them, and once you've done that, the removal of the armed forces from Afghanistan.
There is no way that you can ensure or assure that conflict in Afghanistan is not going to continue with the removal of American or NATO forces from Afghanistan. But I will tell you that the presence of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan also has not assured an end to the conflict in Afghanistan.
My point about the removal of American forces and NATO forces from Afghanistan is that more and more and the longer they stay there, the more you will have the people turning against the these forces. And it becomes an issue of national liberation again, with foreign invaders this time-- being the Americans and the NATO forces-- becoming the targets of Afghan opposition.
And there will be more galvanizing around that core of repelling the invader, rather than concentrating on getting the terrorists or whoever is doing the harm there. And it is from that context that I think the Americans and the NATO forces should leave, but only after achieving their target.
There has to be a finality. You can't just leave it now without having done what President Bush said he was going to do when he invaded Afghanistan. He said, we're going to get those terrorists.
And so the more that these terrorists survive simply by waking up every morning in whatever cave or whatever hilltop or whatever village they're in, they acquire more of an aura of invincibility and, if you like, prestige because they have been declared already a target by the United States. And yet they manage to survive the might of the United States and NATO, this time around.
So from that aspect, I think getting them and putting a finality to their presence in that area would allow for a legitimate and, if you like, an honorable withdrawal to take place from Afghanistan.
From the time of Alexander the Great, Afghanistan has existed as an entity of competing tribal and, if you like, charismatic figures in Afghanistan. And I think this will continue.
No matter how much hope or pretension you may put in developing a democratic system in Afghanistan, I don't think it will work. I think inevitably, it will be decided by tribal loyalties or by charismatic figures that will come out of these tribal loyalties in Afghanistan.
DAVID SKORTON: To here, please.
AUDIENCE: Thank you, your highness.
TURKI AL-FAISAL: Yes, sir.
SPEAKER 2: I had a couple of very brief questions. I won't talk about Afghanistan because I think--
TURKI AL-FAISAL: One question--
SPEAKER 2: Other students are asking about that. OK.
Then my question is I'll be very blunt about it, as you said that a friend usually tells you what's the fact. Why being dependent-- from your talk, when I listen, you have always been dependent on an external force to come and defend you.
We have all the resources. We have the manpower. We have young people. Why asking someone else and forces and defend us when we can do it ourselves?
TURKI AL-FAISAL: Well, I think this is not unique to us, if I may respectfully say. Throughout history, even the biggest empires that existed, they've always sought support from people outside their authority or their writ.
If you look at most recent events in-- well, not so recent. In the Second World War, for example, the United States by itself could never have accomplished what it did without the support of the British and the other Allied forces that fought against the Nazis and then the Japanese.
And more recently, whether it is in Afghanistan or in Iraq or whatever, President Bush went out of his way to try to get alliances made with other countries. So when a country like Saudi Arabia is faced, for example, with a crisis like we did during the invasion of Kuwait, we recognize that our native resources, if you like, will never be enough to overcome what had been arrayed against us by Iraq.
So we sought support from all over the world. And as I said, we've been very grateful to those who supported us. We had 33 countries that came together in that effort, and they were extremely helpful and forthcoming.
So it is not just us who seek support from others. The whole world, whenever it faces a crisis, needs support from somewhere.
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
DAVID SKORTON: Yes.
JACK LOWE: Good evening, Your Highness. My name is Jack Lowe, and I'm a first-year graduate student at the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs. And I had a question regarding how is Saudi Arabia in the decades to come-- as it hopefully experiences economic growth and potentially Western-style social progress, how would the kingdom balance those sorts of things with the conservative elements in society?
TURKI AL-FAISAL: Good question. In terms of the continuing economic development, the kingdom recognizes that its natural resources, particularly oil, is a depletable resource and hence put in place a program that develops our undepletable resource, if you like, which is our human resources, hence the very vast educational program that has been established in the kingdom.
The last budget, for example, in Saudi Arabia, slightly more than 25% of the budget is devoted to education. The scholarship program that King Abdullah established in 2005 now has not just in-- well, in the United States alone, there are now 20,000 Saudi students spread all over the United States.
And there are literally thousands of others spread all over the world, whether in Europe or in China or in Japan or you name it. Wherever any education institution will take Saudi students, you will find Saudi students there.
So the concentration is on the human resources so that they can acquire the skills and the know-how to be able to face the challenges that are coming at us in the future. And on-- the other issue is what?
JACK LOWE: How to balance that sort of progress with conservative elements in Saudi society.
TURKI AL-FAISAL: Right. When it comes to issues like education, like providing health services, like, for example, human rights issues, women's rights issues, all of these things, the belief in the leadership and I think in the majority of Saudis is that these issues are pretty much within Islamic belief and are not necessarily, as you put them, Western values.
And in that context, the contention, if you like, between those who would promote, for example, women's education, women's employment, et cetera and other such factors that deal with the rights of women and so on contend with those who oppose them as this is what Islam is and should be practiced, not that this is what the United States is doing. And therefore, we must imitate the United States.
And so that is how you deal with these conservative, as you call them, elements in the kingdom. But in any society, you're going to have people who have different points of view, those who see that "traditional values," between quotation marks, are values that they hold.
And therefore, they feel that they should protect them and prevent others from undermining them, whereas those who look to the future believe that well, maybe some of those values need to be reevaluated in order to meet the challenges of the world. And you have that contention always between these forces within a society. And the kingdom is very much like that.
JACK LOWE: Thank you.
DAVID SKORTON: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: Hi. Thank you again for coming. It was very enjoyable. You mentioned earlier that before the US withdraws from Iraq, they should ensure territorial stability there.
TURKI AL-FAISAL: Integrity.
AUDIENCE: What do you feel is the best method for ensuring that? And how should the US go forward? And what should the objectives be to make sure that Iraq is stable enough for us to withdraw?
TURKI AL-FAISAL: The United Nations Security Council should be asked by whether the United States or by Iraq or by a joint group of countries to issue a declaration guaranteeing Iraq's territorial integrity under Chapter 7. And it's important to say under Chapter 7, because that is the article in the United Nations Charter that allows for the use of force.
You have to put a credible face to a resolution like that to meet whatever either internal ambitions that some politicians may have in Iraq for going their separate way or for external ambitions that may come from countries around Iraq to take advantage of what might arise in Iraq when the United States withdraws its forces from there and some disturbance arises, that they want to take advantage of that.
So my contention is that having this resolution in place will forestall those kind of ambitions, either from internal forces or from external forces.
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
RAFAL MAHMOOD: [SPEAKING ARABIC]
My name is Rafal Mahmood. I'm an Iraqi American student at the law school. Thank you, Your Highness, for coming here today and sharing your wonderful insights with us.
I'd like to ask you just about where you see the future of Iraq and the role that the kingdom could play in helping to stabilize the country, bring some stability, maybe bring the parties together, and where you see the future of that nation.
TURKI AL-FAISAL: I have to be hopeful, because I can't believe that the Iraqi people will continue to allow what's happening or what happened in the past to happen.
The kingdom in November 2003, soon after the toppling of the Saddam regime in Iraq, was the first country to call for a meeting of the regional countries, the neighbors of Iraq, in order to see how we can deal with what has happened in Iraq. At that time, there was not yet an Iraqi government.
Mr. Bremer was still the head of the-- I think it's called the CAP. And so there was no Iraqi representation on that meeting. But in subsequent meetings, Iraq became a full member. And subsequent to that, the United States joined and the United Kingdom joined.
And it became a larger grouping that included countries like Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt, Bahrain, and Kuwait, as well as United States and the UK. And they meet regularly now, including Iraq, to see how we can be helpful to Iraq.
The kingdom was the first country to bring together religious leaders from Iraq, whether Sunni or Shia, in a meeting in Mecca in 2005 in the holy month of Ramadan and have them sit down together and discuss the differences that were then very much on the ground in Iraq between Shia and Sunni. And they came out with various resolutions, et cetera, and hopefully were helpful in dealing with some of these sectarian challenges that were happening in Iraq there.
And the kingdom was also the first to call for Iraqi political discussions to take place under the aegis or the banner, if you like, of the Arab League at Cairo in November 2005. And all of you remember the meetings that took place in the headquarters of the Arab League.
One of the more amusing incidents in that meeting-- I was not there, but I was told by those who were-- was that when all these Iraqi politicians from all shades of the political spectrum sat in a hall like this and each one had a chance to get up and speak, one of them stood up.
And he said, I am the head of the Communist Party in Iraq. And you're all scoundrels and criminals and et cetera. Immediately, there were those within the Iraqis present took offense at that and huffily got up and left the room and wanted to go back to Baghdad.
So Amr Moussa, the Secretary General of the Arab League, and our foreign minister ran after them. And then the foreign minister turned to Amr Moussa and said, look. If we see that they are sitting on the chairs in the outside hall, then they're not serious about running.
But if they've already left the door, then we have to hurry up and get them back. And sure enough, once they left the doors of the conference hall, they were all sitting on the ground.
But they went to them. And I said, look. This is a free-for-all. Everybody has a right to express their opinion, and you're all here to express.
And why should you take offense at this man who is insulting you? He's just one man. The Communist Party in Iraq is not the most representative, if you like, of Iraqi political forces there. So are you going to let this guy drive you out of what is rightfully yours? And so they came back fortunately and so on.
So the kingdom has been very actively involved in efforts to bring together Iraqi political factions within and also outside support for Iraq. And we'll continue to do that. I hope that in the next few months or so, there will be a Saudi ambassador named in Iraq, where he can take residence and meet the requirements and the necessities of having such representation in Iraq.
DAVID SKORTON: We're going to take one more from each side. Please.
AUDIENCE: Hello. And thank you for speaking with us tonight. I was wondering, you spoke earlier of the importance of action over rhetoric.
TURKI AL-FAISAL: Yes.
AUDIENCE: And what actions have Saudi Arabia taken against terrorist groups, such as Hamas and Hezbollah? And how do you think that peace can be brought about in Israel when groups such as Hamas have it in their charter to bring about a violent destruction of Israel?
TURKI AL-FAISAL: Good question. The charter of Hamas, as you say, has these statements in it. But I would say to you also that in 1993, when Yitzhak Rabin met with Yasser Arafat to reach the Oslo Accords, that the PLO charter at that time had similar language in it.
Yet that did not prevent Mr. Rabin at that time to sit down with Mr. Arafat. One of the things they agreed about was that the PLO should remove these articles from its charter. And they did that and developed a working rapport between Arafat and Rabin until Rabin was assassinated.
So having these clauses in these charters, in my view, should not be a block to ostracize or to remove from any political discussion a group like Hamas, for example. I think Hamas should rather be brought in and drawn in to any political discussion, with the hope and the intention of eventually, they would get over these issues as the PLO did and remove that kind of language from their charter.
And Saudi Arabia believes that the support that we can give to the Palestinian people is what we concentrate on. We followed to the letter all of the United Nations restrictions on sending aid to Palestinian territories that excluded Hamas from receiving that aid. We never gave aid directly to Hamas once those United Nations restrictions were placed.
And when banking institutions, for example, throughout the world, because the United Nations restrictions were placed, stopped any transactions with groups like Hamas, we followed those restrictions without any hesitation. But we never let that prevent us from trying to get support to the people wherever they may be, whether in Gaza or in the West Bank and the rest of the Palestinian territories.
And let me say another thing again. Personally, I think Hamas has done great harm to the Palestinian people by the methods that it has used, whether it is suicide bombings or whether it is the rockets that they lob. And I would not even dare to call them rockets. They're more like fireworks.
But nonetheless, they're a frightening weapon that they use. This has done them and the Palestinian people more harm than anything else they could have done, in my view. And I have suggested in public to the leaders of Hamas and jihad and those who practice such issues that they should go for civil disobedience.
They should follow the example of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. They'll get more out of that than anything that they can achieve by either suicide bombings or these rockets that they lob over their borders with Israel.
And if you remember the First Intifada in 1987, '88, it was a slingshot intifada, with children your age-- I'm sorry. I'm not calling you a child. But I'm much older than you are, so you will forgive me that.
But young people your age were firing slingshots at Israeli troops. And that intifada did more for the Palestinian people than anything that has been done since then. And so my advice has been to Hamas and to those who would practice military means to oppose Israel is that you're choosing the wrong weapon.
How can you challenge the Israeli military might? Israel has the tanks, the aircraft, the helicopters, the most modern American technology. You just can't compete with that.
But challenge them on humanitarian grounds. Make them out to be the bullies that they are when they fire these enormous destructive weapons at you. And that's how you win. And this is, I think, the thing that people in Hamas and jihad and other groups like that should consider.
DAVID SKORTON: Last question, please.
AUDIENCE: [SPEAKING ARABIC]
My name is [INAUDIBLE]. I'm from Pakistan, and I'm a graduate student at the Cornell Law School. First of all, personally, a lot of thanks for the recent role that has been played by the kingdom in the Friends of Pakistan meeting.
My question very briefly is that, do you see the kingdom playing a specific role in developing understanding between US and Pakistan of the terrorism issue itself and finding a solution to it?
TURKI AL-FAISAL: The kingdom has always been engaged with Pakistan and with the United States. I remember when I was director of intelligence, we had a very close relationship with Pakistani and American officials on all issues and not just on the issue of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan at that time. So I'm assuming that since my retirement, that that kind of joint program has been continuing.
What I can say is that the United States does not need an interlocutor with Pakistan. I know that the president to president, secretary of state to foreign minister, head of intelligence in Pakistan with CIA chief, army chief of staff in Pakistan with US army chief of staff, et cetera, they have all sorts of links and communications that continue forever.
General Zinni here I'm sure at his time in CENTCOM was a practitioner of all of these communications. So I don't think either the Americans or the Pakistanis need Saudi Arabia to intervene between them. But as a friend of both countries, naturally, we express opinions to both countries.
Thank you very much.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, sir. Thank you very much.
WASIF SYED: Thank you.
SPEAKER 3: Thank you, Your Highness, President Skorton. We have one last item left in the agenda. But first, let me thank the audience for their attendance, for their enthusiasm, and for their engagement. I'm sure that this event has given all of us a new perspective into the topic of Saudi-US relationship, and I'm happy to see that.
I understand that having the event done earlier than usual in the day, many students had to miss classes, one or two. I missed six classes. But well, I hope our professors forgive us. If not, probably the prince will talk to them. So maybe we could get that done. But--
TURKI AL-FAISAL: You're not going to get away with that.
SPEAKER 3: But at this moment, I would like to ask President Skorton to present a plaque of appreciation to His Highness.
TURKI AL-FAISAL: Thank you.
DAVID SKORTON: And it reads "Cornell University, the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies and the Prince Turki Al-Faisal Welcome Committee, in Appreciation of His Royal Highness Prince Turki, Foreign Policy Distinguished Speaker, April 23, 2009, Ithaca, New York."
TURKI AL-FAISAL: Thank you.
SPEAKER 3: Thank you, everyone. Have a wonderful evening, and we'll see you in our next event.
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Prince Turki Al-Faisal, ambassador of Saudi Arabia to the United States from 2005 to 2007, spoke about U.S.-Saudi relations on April 23, 2009 in Cornell's Statler Auditorium.
The prince is a founder of the King Faisal Foundation and chairman of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh. He was appointed an adviser in the Saudi royal court in 1973. From 1977 to 2001, he served as the director general of the General Intelligence Directorate, the kingdom's main foreign intelligence service. In 2002 he was appointed ambassador to the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.
His visit is part of the Einaudi Center's Foreign Policy Distinguished Speaker Series.