"Crises in the Middle East: A Saudi Perspective." In his speech, Prince Turki highlighted how Saudi Arabia reads the nature of the problems and the challenges facing the region. He also spoke on how Saudi Arabia has been responding to such crises within the context of principles guiding Saudi\s foreign policy. His Royal Highness gave a very insightful speech, and mentioned that during the past four decades Saudi Arabia and its sister countries in the Gulf and the Arab World have succeeded through diplomacy, international alliances, and internal cohesion, in preserving their relative security and stability. He stressed his belief, that through such means, Saudi Arabia can still deal with the crises facing the region. However, the absence of world leadership and the reluctance of world powers to act responsibly is allowing the continued deterioration of the situation in the Middle East. He concluded his speech hoping that the world come to its senses, soon.
Speech title: Crises in the Middle East: A Saudi Perspective
Speaker: HRH Prince Turki AlFaisal
In the Name of God the Merciful, the Compassionate
May God’s Peace and Blessing be upon you
I extend my thanks to his Excellency Valerio De Molli CEO and Managing Partner of Ambrosetti for his kind invitation to speak to such a distinguished audience at such an esteemed institution. It gives me great pleasure to share with you my thoughts on what is going on in our troubled region and on how Saudi Arabia looks at it.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I will talk on how we, in Saudi Arabia, read the nature of the problems and the challenges facing the region and on how we have been responding to such crises within the context of principles guiding our foreign policy.
Nowadays, uncertainty is the prevailing order in the Middle East. The speed and nature of unleashed events in the last six years are changing the nature and dynamics of internal, regional, and international politics of the region. It is still early to know or to determine the end result of this unfolding process but no doubt such change will create a new strategic environment, offer new opportunities and pose new challenges for all the nation-states in the region.
One of the most dangerous outcomes of the prevailing uncertainty which threatens the future of the region and all of its nation-states is the vacuum that widens every day as a result of crumbling order and social contracts in certain Arab states. This vacuum is responsible for unleashing all kinds of political, social, and religious forces, the rise of none state actors, and for opening the door for all kinds of outside interferences that complicate finding indigenous solutions to indigenous crises. Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya are issues at hand.
The outcome of these upheavals, so far, does not offer any safeguard to a bright future. And therefore, it is the responsibility of leading powers in the region and the world to manage such situations to guarantee the birth of healthy peaceful national and regional orders.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Saudi Arabia is a major actor in regional and international affairs, and therefore, the security and stability of the regional order has been always a priority and a basic determinant to its foreign policy and its national security and the Kingdom is bound to lead in this respect. While this should be always the case in the world of nation-states, alas, it is not always the case when it comes to our region.
In this light, Saudi Arabia has taken these changes as domestic upheavals driven mainly by domestic factors. At the same time, we are cautious about its outcome on regional stability because the region is already weighed down by a heavy load of protracted problems complicated by Israeli and Iranian ambitions.
Saudi Arabia bases its policy on a set of principles that clearly explain where Saudi Arabia stands on such crises and their regional implications.
First, Saudi Arabia believes in the concept that legitimacy of any government is derived from its own people. It is the duty of any government to protect and promote the rights, dignity, safety and welfare of its citizens. Therefore, Saudi Arabia had and will support developments that make governments more responsive to the demands of their people, and abler to meet their aspirations.
Second, the Kingdom believes in the viability of the Arab-nation state system and sees it as the best option to serve the interests of the Arab people. Saudi Arabia stands against any civil strife or external interventions that threaten the national unity, territorial integrity, and the social fabric of any Arab country. Anarchy, chaos and disorder are not in the interest of the people or the internal and external peace and security. In this respect our only interest is that countries that have witnessed dramatic changes begin to stabilize and proceed to a brighter future.
Third, we believe that transnational ideologies, whatever their origins, that do not recognize the existing nation-state system, constitute a major threat to the national and regional order. Saudi Arabia rejects such trends.
Fourth, we believe in the importance of having the best possible bilateral relations with all Arab countries on the basis of mutual respect to our independence and sovereignty, and working through regional, multilateral institutions, such as the Arab League, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and the United Nations on common issues in order to preserve stability and security that every country needs to achieve any kind of development or progress.
Fifth, Saudi Arabia believes in international law and international treaties and conventions, and in the role of international bodies in implementing such rules and norms in order to preserve regional and international peace, and therefore it complies and respects such rules and institutions.
Based on these guidelines, we see that security and stability are a priority regardless of where the dust of continuing crises settles.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The challenge of Iran’s policy behavior and its revolutionary syndrome is a continuing security concern. There are overwhelming issues with Iran – its scheme to acquire nuclear weapons, its occupation of the three islands belonging to the UAE, and its persistent meddling in the affairs of Arab states, and Iran’s sectarian polity.
As for the issue of nuclear weapons, we have on countless occasions reiterated that Iran, like all other countries, has the right to pursue its schemes in developing nuclear technology for peaceful uses, but at the same time we continue to insist that Iran should give up its goal of acquiring nuclear weapons, support the creation of a Zone Free of Weapons of Mass Destruction in the Middle East, and abide by all requirements and obligations under the NPT regime. We also clearly state that once the term of the nuclear deal struck by the P5+1 with Iran, which the Kingdom supports, ends, and if Iran continues along this path, others in the region will be compelled to pursue policies that could lead to more proliferation and therefore more insecurity and instability.
We will be watching the way the deal is implemented and how it reflects on Iranian behavior.
On the second issue - that of Iran’s occupation of the Emirati islands, we support the UAE’s position and have urged Iran to accept a ruling from the International Court of Justice.
On the third issue - that of Iran's inserting itself into the domestic politics of Arab countries - there can be no flexibility. Sectarianizing our region is no less threating and destructive than the nuclear weapons. And here I may say that Iran should look in the mirror and see its foreign behavior since 1979 and see who is behind the igniting of such destructive acts. Nothing but Iran’s revolutionary syndrome is behind all of this. A thesis begets its antithesis; therefore, Iran must rethink its Arab policies. Funding non-state sectarian entities in Lebanon, Iraq, Bahrain, Yemen, and Syria to destabilize their national unity and social fabric will not serve anyone’s interests.
Saudi Arabia looks at Iran and considers what is to come, and only hope that the people of that nation will encourage their leaders to take a wiser and safer route than the one they are now bent upon travelling, much to the detriment of themselves and others. Destabilizing neighbors is not a guarantee of regional dominance and influence. It is a recipe for self-defeat. The grand project of Pax Iranica is doomed as it is based on sectarianism and lust for hegemony. We have been extending our hands to Iran for the last three decades, and we will continue to do so but we will never tolerate Iranian disruptive behavior and its destructive policies in our region.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As for the crisis in Syrian, it has already spilled over not only to its neighbors but to Europe. The exodus of refugees to Europe is an issue at hand. The international community has so far failed to address this crisis in a rational way and it is unfortunately becoming an issue of power politics between great powers. A peaceful solution of the crisis that preserves the unity, sovereignty, and stability of Syria, and achieves the aspirations of the Syrian peoples is the ultimate goal of all, but this will not be attainable without real international pressure and achieving a balance of military power between the regime and the opposing legitimate forces. Using the threat of use of force and the submission of the Syrian regime to the demand of ridding itself from chemical weapons proved the feasibility of such an option. The mentality of Asad, as we know it, responds when faced with force. The world has watched how he has turned the peaceful demonstrations of the Syrian people into a sectarian conflict; the world has watched as he brought into Syria Hizballah, the Iranian revolutionary guards, al Qaida, Fahish, which is my name for Daesh; it means obscene; and, finally, he has called in the mighty Russian military machine in order to subdue the brave Syrian people; without success. The world watches as his planes and his Russian allies bomb innocent civilians, deliberately. And yet, the world refuses to provide these innocents either the means to defend themselves or safe havens that stop their slaughter. What a shameful neglecting of all humanitarian considerations.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Saudi Arabia is not war mongering or happy to see the destruction and human suffering there, and we have wished from the beginning that Asad listened to the voice of his people and the voice of wisdom to avoid all of this. Alas, he led his country to this disastrous situation and was allowed to do so by the lack of international will. In this respect, all efforts to find peaceful solutions failed, and no promising initiative is on the horizon.
Saudi Arabia will continue to support the Syrian people in finding a peaceful solution reflecting their aspirations and to preserve the unity and sovereignty of their country.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The crisis in Yemen in which Saudi Arabia is involved is not isolated from the rest of the crises in the region. However, it is much closer to Saudi national security.
Stability and tranquility of Yemen has always been a national strategic interest for Saudi Arabia due to geographic, historic, demographic, and strategic factors. Preserving peace and security, and empowering the Yemeni state under the friendly and brotherly legitimate government that keeps the national balance within Yemen and achieve these goals, is the Saudi priority. For the last five decades, Saudi Arabia invested more than sixty billion dollars in Yemen to achieve stability and peace by helping Yemen to develop its own infrastructure in all fields of development. In addition, Saudi Arabia has over the years hosted millions of Yemenis whose remittances contributed greatly to the wellbeing of a large segment of Yemeni society.
In 2011-12, Saudi Arabia and its sister states of the GCC came with an initiative that secured the abdication of Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, a transitional government, and a well-defined political path toward a new social contract. All Yemeni political and social forces participated in a national dialogue that produced agreed upon principles and procedures to move forward toward a united peaceful and democratic future. Alas, the Houthis, one of the religious and political forces participating in the national dialogue, armed with weapons and Iranian support, and the forces loyal to the former president, took advantage of the turmoil, to write a different future for Yemen. By hijacking the Yemeni State, the Houthis took Yemen to an uncertain future. The ideological enmity of this armed militia to Saudi Arabia and the legitimate transitional government in Yemen, breaking the national balance, and the failure of all attempts by the UN to broker an agreement with them to save the state and all legitimate state institutions left Saudi Arabia and its allies with no alternative but to save Yemen and to free it from this gang-minded militia by all means, and take it back to the legitimate path chosen by all Yemenis on deciding the future of their country. The UN Security Council resolution 2216 has blessed this effort. War was never an alternative to the Saudi leadership, but allowing the Houthis to get away with their agenda would not only threaten peace and security in Yemen but in the whole Arabian Peninsula and the Red Sea region. Supporting the legitimate leadership in Yemen is a noble cause that will save Yemen. Saudi Arabia is not in a war with Yemen but with a radical ideological putchist clique serving Iranian interest in destabilizing our region and sectarianizing its polity. We have encouraged the legitimate government of Yemen to reach a peaceful solution with its adversaries, and it has tried. It has been negotiating with them under the UN auspices to implement the Security Council Resolution 2216 demanding the Houthis to withdraw from all seized areas and to relinquish all seized arms, and established an arms embargo on the Houthis and forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. All the UN sponsored rounds of peace talks have failed because of the Houthi deliberate derailing of the talks. I hope that the most recent effort which is supported by the Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, the United States, the U.K., and the United Nations will succeed and allow Yemenis to go back to the political process that saves their country and its future.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Terrorism remains an important threat. But it is not just Fahish or Al Qaeda that continues to threaten the region. There are also various emerging and re-emerging non-state actors who are moving in to take advantage of power vacuums created by shifting political dynamics. However, failure of American political arrangements in Iraq, and failure of the international community and great and regional powers to deal seriously with the situation in Syria led to the emergence of Fahish and with it emerged a new wave of terrorism. That ideology is transnational by its nature, and therefore constitutes an existential threat to the concept of nation-state in our region. Saudi Arabia is not an exception in facing this threat. It is already targeting Saudi Arabia and committed terrorist acts within Saudi Arabia. We have countered and defeated Al-Qaida and I am confident that we will defeat Fahish. To defeat it in the region and the world we should work together to stamp out this scourge of individuals who feel it is their right to visit heinous violence upon others in the name of false and destructive ends.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Whatever the geopolitical changes in the region may be, they will never change the nature of the over looming challenge of far longer gestation, a situation that lies at the center of so many difficulties faced by our region. That is the plight of the Palestinian people. Solving the Palestinian and Arab Israeli conflict is imperative to a peaceful region. The responsibility for continued failure in reaching a just solution to this just cause rests on Israel and its supporters in the world. Israel’s ambitious design is no less doomed than the Iranian one. Unless UN Security Council resolutions supporting the peaceful resolution of this conflict, and the Arab Peace Initiative which is continuously refused by Israel are accepted by Israel, bloodshed and destruction will continue. The governments whose parliaments have called for the recognition of a free, sovereign, and independent state of Palestine should act upon that call. If they claim to believe in democracy, then they are bound to adhere to the call of the representatives of their people.
In conclusion, during the past four decades Saudi Arabia and its sister countries in the Gulf and the Arab World have succeeded through diplomacy, international alliances, and internal cohesion, in preserving their relative security and stability. And we believe that through such means we can still deal with such occurring crises facing our region. However, the absence of world leadership and the reluctance of world powers to act responsibly is allowing the continued deterioration of the situation in the Middle East. Let us hope that the world come to its senses, soon.
King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies
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