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Target Terrorism: Interview With Richard Murphy and Daniel Pipes

Aired October 18, 2001 - 19:30   ET



GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The war against terrorism is an international war. We are fighting with a broad, broad coalition. Many nations around the world have joined with us in this cause, including nations from the Islamic world.


ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: As a coalition member how helpful has Saudi Arabia been in the fight against terrorism? And did the Saudis pass up a chance to help capture Osama bin Laden? This is CROSSFIRE.

Good evening. Welcome to CROSSFIRE. Saudi Arabia's government today for the first time vowed to rid the kingdom of Osama bin Laden sympathizers. That followed complaints by Americans that oil-rich Saudi Arabia has become a haven for the Al Qaeda terrorist organization. But today, the powerful Saudi minister of the interior warned bin Laden's Saudi sympathizers that they no longer can be accepted in Saudi society.

The other voice of Saudi Arabia was also sounded today, when a dissident cleric called on America to stop bombing the Taliban. While the state department relies on the Saudi royal government, an article by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh in this week's "New Yorker Magazine" quotes American intelligent official as saying, "Saudi Arabia has gone to the dark side in helping bin Laden."

So, is Saudi Arabia a cautious friend or a covert foe in the war against terrorism?

We are asking Daniel Pipes, Director of the Middle East Forum, and Richard Murphy, former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia. Bill Press.

BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: On September 11, Saddam Hussein condemned the bombings at the World Trade Center. The president of Iran did so also. There was total silence from Saudi Arabia. And only today, October 18 -- five weeks later -- they finally said they were going to try to get rid of the Al Qaeda networks inside of Saudi Arabia. Why should we consider these people a friend?

RICHARD MURPHY, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SAUDI ARABIA: Because they are? The choice was cautious friend or foe. There's no question. They are a cautious friend and that the cooperation is considerable in the military and in the investigative field.

NOVAK: Dr. Pipes, better late than never. Can't we say that the statement -- which I think required some courage by the Saudi government -- does put the kingdom on the side of friendship with the United States rather than as a foe?

DANIEL PIPES, EDITOR, MIDDLE EAST QUARTERLY: Well, I'd put it somewhere in between. I can't call them a foe, but they're certainly not a friend. We have got interests in common. We have and they have both lived up to our interests, more or less, over the last half century. They are neither friend nor foe. They are just in the middle.

PRESS: Ambassador, the president keeps saying -- and I agree with him -- that we are in this war against terrorism. We are not only going after the terrorists but the countries that support the terrorists. And people then talk about Iraq, they talk about Iran, they talk about Syria.

If we look at Saudi Arabia, Osama bin Laden came from there. At least eight of the 19 terrorists on September 11 were believed to be Saudis by the FBI. 50 members of the FBI's list of most-wanted terrorists in the world are from Saudi Arabia as well. Should we be adding Saudi Arabia to the list of terrorist nations?

MURPHY: Absolutely not. As I say, the Saudis have been cooperative. And above all, the Saudis know that today, cooperating with us -- they are at the top of his hit list.

Their king, Saudi King Fahd, made a grievous mistake -- an unforgivable mistake, in the eyes of Osama bin Laden -- by inviting the American military and the international coalition into Saudia Arabia back in August of 1990. For that he is not forgiven. He is the host to the infidel West, particularly the infidel Americans, whom bin Laden has given license to be killed wherever they can be found around the world.

PRESS: It sounds like what we hear from the Saudi princes that they say one thing and -- I believe -- do another. I'd like you to listen first of all to something that Prince Bandar said, which I think is the standard line from Saudi Arabia. He said this to our Larry King just a little while ago. Let's listen.


PRINCE BANDAR BIN SULTAN, SAUDI AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: Our role is to stand solid and shoulder to shoulder with our friends, the people of the United States of America. In 1990, when we needed your help you came through for us. And it's our turn now to stand up with you.


PRESS: That's what he says. And he said on October 1st. Yet even today, it was reported in the "New York times," we have asked Saudi Arabia to send us the list -- like we have asked other countries -- of the passengers onboard flights coming into this country, to send it by computer so we can check that list against our list of criminals or terrorists that we are looking for. We are ready for them when they land here.

94 nations have said yes. Saudi Arabia today still says no. They are not cooperating with us.

MURPHY: Says no or hasn't moved?

PRESS: Says no.

MURPHY: Because we are moving at express train speed on a war footing, and the Saudis haven't reacted instantly in every case. They sent over to this country to talk to our Treasury Department a week or so after the Saudi foreign minister was here in September -- they sent two senior finance officials to say, "We need help on tracking monies through foundations that move through foundations." They stand accused of financing Osama bin Laden.

PRESS: We will get to that. But why not assist with the airline passenger list? What is the big deal?

MURPHY: I'm sure they are going to assist with the airline lists. I'm sure also that we hit them out of the blue with that. They think and they get together by consensus. They will reach that decision. There is anything harmful to their sovereignty in giving to list.

NOVAK: Daniel Pipes, isn't this a remarkable statement by the interior minister of Saudi Arabia -- very powerful figure there -- in which he said that these people, these supporters of Osama bin Laden, were like a rotten stump that had to be amputated. They were going to be found out. It wasn't a vague thing "war against terrorism." Doesn't this mean, as Dick Murphy says, they act slowly, but the Saudis have finally decided which side they are on in this struggle?

PIPES: I fear not. Let's look at where the Saudis have take a stand. First, as you just discussed, they haven't handed over the list of passengers.

Secondly, they won't allow American flights to bomb Afghanistan from Saudi Arabia.

Third, they have not cracked down -- although today they said they will -- on the so-called charitable institutions, which have funded the Taliban and Osama bin Laden.

And fourth -- and perhaps most important, most profound -- is that the Saudis have expressed no remorse, no sadness about what happened. Imagine had it been 12 Japanese attacked and killed 5,000 Americans. Can you imagine what would have happened in Japan. The remorse, the forthcomingness. Nothing of that sort has come out of Saudi Arabia. Nothing. NOVAK: Mr. Pipes, I suggest you look at the statement by the interior minister. It's a very strong statement. But you know, this business about the airline thing -- Egypt has also refused it. So it isn't just Saudi Arabia. But I want you to listen, please, to what the official State Department spokesman said this week.


PHIL REEKER, STATE DEPARTMENT DEPUTY SPOKESMAN: We are very satisfied with our cooperation with Saudi Arabia. They have agreed to everything we have asked of them in our campaign against terrorism.


NOVAK: Now, obviously we have not -- the United States has not asked Saudi Arabia to be a landing platform for planes. As President Bush has said, they asked different countries to do different things. Isn't that a strong statement by the State Department, that the Saudi Arabian government has done everything they have been asked to do?

PIPES: It's a very strong diplomatic statement, as you yourself just pointed out. We haven't asked for something we know we won't get. We have wonderful facilities in Saudi Arabia that we have built up over the years for precisely this kind of contingency.

And now we are operating out of Uzbekistan. We're operating out of aircraft carriers. It's far more difficult, it's more restricted, far more expensive. They are not helping us. When it really counts, they are not helping us. But what do you expect from a State Department spokesman? He's a diplomat. Does the diplomatic thing.

MURPHY: I'm not a diplomat anymore. But I do happen to know something about the Saudi position. A few years ago, they said no attacks on Iraq will be conducted out of Saudi Arabian territory. Was that a problem for us? No. We worked around it. The Naval Air (UNINTELLIGIBLE) was there, the aircraft carrier was in the Gulf.

The logistic support and all of the facilities that go to support our efforts in that case against Iraq, and much of what we are doing against Afghanistan, relies on transit across Saudi Arabia. Logistic support. I've been there.

As far as remorse, I know there is remorse. I heard it myself two weeks ago when I was there with the senior officials.

PIPES: But it's not public.

MURPHY: Why does it have to be public? Why do we have to have everybody stand up shoulder to shoulder and say, "I'm with you. I'm with you all the way." That is not their style. And you know that very well, Daniel.

PIPES: As an American, I would like to hear that the country from which our main enemy and his main henchmen have come feel something bad. They feel badly. They feel remorse. I feel it's missing. And I think most Americans feel it's missing. PRESS: Let me follow up, Ambassador. You know, when people see Osama bin Laden on the screen -- he's even on our networks. People ask, who is this is guy? Where did he come from, and how did he get where he is today? There were a couple of headlines recently in the "Washington Post" that may answer that question. I would like to show them and get your comment on them. If we may, there is the first one. "Saudi missteps help bin Laden gain power." And the second, "Sudan's offer to arrest militants fell through after the Saudis said no."

In other words, as the "Post" points out, the king from Saudi Arabia was a major funder of the Taliban in the beginning, at the time that Osama bin Laden moves into Afghanistan. And then earlier that the country of Sudan offered to round Osama bin Laden, hand him over to the Saudis -- and the Saudis refused to take him! If he had -- wouldn't you have to agree, there may have been no September 11. No Khobar Towers bombing. No USS Cole bombing. Down the list. Why didn't they?

MURPHY: First of all, you are assuming that he is as powerful and omnipotent that we have built him up to be through our discussion of his Qaeda network.

Secondly, yes, Saudi Arabia was a major funder of Osama bin Laden along with a lot of the other fighters against the Soviet Union and the Red Army in the decade of the '80s. Saudi matched America's contributions to that fight dollar for dollar. So we sponsored something which had gone terribly sour after the Soviet Union was defeated.

PRESS: I admit we've made our share of mistakes. But still today, according to U.S. Treasury Department, most of Osama bin Laden's money is coming from individuals, from foundations, and from charities inside the Saudi kingdom. And you know that kingdom. You knowing happens there unless the government is aware of it. Aren't they really two faced? They're condemning terrorism on the one hand and they're funneling the money to him on the other.


PRESS: Saudis.

MURPHY: Individuals. The Saudis. The government? You are not suggesting the government is funding its own suicide?

PRESS: I'm suggesting nothing happens in that monarchy that they are not aware of and tolerate.

MURPHY: I think you are going far too far. You are assuming an omniscient center of control which simply doesn't exist. You know that there are some $600 billion in the private hands of Saudi citizens outside of Saudi Arabia, untrackable by the kingdom's leadership. These are invested in New York, in Geneva, in London, all over the world. In Asia. So control also -- tracking money through charitable foundations. Do we have an unspotted record on tracking that kind of transaction? I say no. PRESS: Mr. Ambassador, Mr. Pipes, just hold on there. We are going to take a quick break. And when we come back, we'll explore whether or not the U.S. friendship with Saudi Arabia has anything to do -- maybe -- with oil.



EDWARD OJERAJIAN, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I think that the Saudis are doing a great deal as privately and discretely as possible, perhaps more than meets the public eye. But there are specific issues, such as going after the money trail and the funding of terrorist organizations, that much more needs to be done.


PRESS: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. The search for terrorist leader Osama bin Laden has taken American forces to Afghanistan. That's where he is now. But he came from Saudi Arabia. His money still comes from Saudi Arabia, and many of his terrorist followers are young Saudi males. Is Saudi Arabia -- America's public ally -- the private breeding ground and sponsor of anti-American terrorism? Can we really trust the Saudis as friends of the USA? Richard Murphy, former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia under President Reagan, says yes; Daniel Pipes, editor of the "Middle East Quarterly," says, "Don't count on 'em." Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Daniel Pipes, there was an interesting incident last week where Prince Alwaleed of Saudi Arabia, a very major investor in the United States and in New York City came to New York, offered ten million dollars in relief. And Mayor Giuliani turned it down.

The reason he turned it down was this statement by the -- given by the prince in writing. I would like to read it. "At times like this one, we must address some of the issues led to such a criminal attack. I believe the government of the United States of America should reexamine its policies in the Middle East and adopt a more balanced stance toward the Palestinian cause."

I happen to agree with that completely. I'm a loyal American. I really believe that Secretary of State Colin Powell would agree with the second half, at least. Don't you think it is extreme to deny the money needed by the city of New York because he advocates a reexamination of U.S. policy toward Israel?

PIPES: I say, "Bravo, Rudy." I say that what Prince Alwaleed was implying is that our policy toward the Arab-Israeli conflict is what led to the atrocity in New York and Washington. That is not something that we -- I believe you -- can accept.

We are not morally responsible for what happened there. The perpetrators are responsible, and we must not be associated with that crime.

NOVAK: But that's turning it on its head, Dr. Pipes. What he was saying is, they have to reexamine Palestinian policy. And indeed, the Secretary of State has said we should consider a Palestinian a state. I just wonder if some of this criticism -- this intense criticism of Saudi Arabia doesn't come from people who feel that the United States should have no other ally in the Middle East but Israel, and that perhaps it should be the United States and Israel against Islam.

PIPES: Come on. That's silly. First of all, our only NATO partner in the Middle East is Turkey, and I know of no one who wants to exclude Turkey from that.

Secondly, the goal in criticizing Saudi Arabia and Saudi relations with the United States is not to put Israel up on top and say, "This is our only ally." It is rather to say, let's get a better relationship. Let's get more from the Saudis. Let's get people who really help us. Let's have them crackdown on the sources of terrorism. Let's have them be a real and reliable friend. Nobody is trying to exclude them. We just want to turn them into a real ally, as opposed to a nonreal ally.

MURPHY: Two quick points. On Alwaleed's offer of ten million. The statement accompanying it was delivered to the wrong man at the wrong time and place. I consider myself a loyal New Yorker. It was not sensitive to the fact he was looking at the smoldering ruins of the World Trade Center, where 4,000 at least still lay entombed.

Now, on the Palestinian issue, when I was in Saudi Arabia two weeks ago, it was brought up to me, saying "Take this weapon out of his hand." They weren't saying we need a basic change in U.S.-Israeli relations. They weren't saying they expected a quick and miraculous peace settlement, but they were saying: "He using it. He is manipulating it." And we are in his cross-sights. And that tragedy is in the living rooms of single Saudi every night of the year, this past year as the shooting went on. That is their tragedy.

PRESS: Ambassador, I want to get right to the bottom line here, which is: isn't it a fact, that the reason we are so buddy-buddy with Saudi Arabia just boils down to one thing, and that's oil. We still buy 20 percent of the crude oil in this country direct from Saudi Arabia. Because of that we are willing to overlook the corruption of the royal family, overlook the fact that they look the other way when there are terrorist camps inside their own country, just because we are greedy for that oil? And isn't that despicable?

MURPHY: I'm not here to defend any regime, including the Saudi regime. We went into Saudi Arabia militarily 11 years ago because of the invasion by Iraq of the state of Kuwait. We didn't expect to still be there in operational units.

We have had a training mission there for 50 years. The operational units stayed there because, counter to all our expectations, Saddam Hussein stayed alive and well in Baghdad. I'm reasonably confident the day he is gone and there is change in the Iraqi regime, there will be no need for us in Saudi Arabia.

PRESS: You mentioned the troops. I want to get to that too. I'm not saying that we change our policy depending on what the terrorists say. But the fact is, Osama bin Laden -- most people have told us -- turned against the Saudis and us when we sent the troops into what he considers sacred soil.

MURPHY: Right.

PRESS: They are still there -- which is certainly a tough point for a lot of these young Saudis -- in their own country. They one of the richest countries on the face of earth. Why can't they defend themselves? Why do we have to have 5,000 American forces and incite all this hatred on their soil? Why don't we bring them home?

MURPHY: That's a fair question. Are we certain that Kuwait and Saudi Arabia can withstand what is admittedly a cut-back threat from Saddam Hussein, but still there? He's still alive, he's well. He's kept a massive standing army and tank force.

NOVAK: Dr. Pipes, we don't have much time left. But I'd like you to answer this question. "The New York Times" editorial policy says, that it's probable that if this regime -- the royal regime in Saudi Arabia -- would fall, it would be succeeded by a fundamentalist Islamic regime hostile to the United States. Exactly what happened in Iran when the liberals in this country waged their long and President Carter withdrew support from the Shah. Isn't that a probability of what would happen if we had a different regime in Saudi Arabia?

PIPES: Probably. I'm not advocating the overthrow of the Saudi monarchy. I'm advocating a much stronger American approach to them. Let me give you my favorite example of how weak we have been.

11 years ago when the first President Bush went at Thanksgiving to rally the troops in Saudi Arabia, he went for Thanksgiving dinner and he was told, "You cannot have a Christian prayer take place on Saudi land." So the president had to go onto an American ship in order to have a Thanksgiving meal. That I think is a symbol of their telling -- they're driving relationship and our accepting it. I'm simply saying that's not the way it should be.

NOVAK: That will have to be last word. Thank you very much, Daniel Pipes. Thank you, Ambassador Richard Murphy. And Ambassador Press will be back with closing comments with me.


PRESS: Bob, I think it's pretty clear what the Saudi's game is. They're going to stay just close enough to us so we will continue to sell them arms and buy their oil and they'll stay just close enough to the terrorists so the terrorists don't come after them. Do you know what that means? We can't trust them.

NOVAK: Consider the alternative. An Islamic fundamentalist regime controlling that oil in Saudi Arabia. Is that what you want? That's what you've got in Iran. I guess you want history to repeat.

PRESS: How about a democracy?

NOVAK: Are you kidding? Naivete.

PRESS: No, I'm not. From the left, I'm Bill Press. Good night for CROSSFIRE.

NOVAK: From the right, I'm Robert Novak. Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.




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