When Prince Turki al-Faisal talked with SUSRIS a few months ago, he focused on regional issues, Saudi-US relations and challenges in the Kingdom. In the exclusive interview, “What Can Be Done,” he included a tour d’horizon of Middle East trouble spots and offered perspective on approaches for decision makers. Prince Turki recently wrote a year-ending “roundup” which laments the pattern of “loser” stories among “vital, eclectic, and prosperous (or potentially prosperous) countries” that must “stop their ravenous infighting and start nurturing, protecting, and sustaining their people.”
In his essay, which was published on the “Project Syndicate” web site, he gives us an assessment of regional security issues in the Middle East, taking issue with analysts who tally winners and losers, saying that “in the bloody, hostile miasma of the Middle East” there are only losers. He goes down the list of crises that encircle the Arabian Peninsula – Syria, Iran, Palestine – providing his perspective on the state of play and offering a shorthand version of what must be done from the perspective of the Obama Administration, the leadership in Riyadh and among the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council. What is the bottom line, from his perspective, for the region to go from losers to winners, the “How to Win?” Break the mold of the unilateral playbook.
Prince Turki al-Faisal is Chairman of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies and is one of the founders of the King Faisal Foundation. He served as the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United States of America from September 13, 2005 until February 2, 2007. He previously served as Ambassador to the United Kingdom and as Director General of the General Intelligence Directorate (GID), the Kingdom’s main foreign intelligence service. Prince Turki is not currently serving in the Government of Saudi Arabia but he regularly provides insights that help understand the perspective from Riyadh. [Please also refer to the extensive list of SUSRIS articles with Prince Turki and related articles, provided below.]
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How to Win the Middle East
Prince Turki al-Faisal
Analysts the world over are assessing the situation in the Middle East in 2012 by listing the region’s “winners” and “losers.” Hamas won. Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi won, then lost. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won. Syria lost. Iraq lost. Iran had a draw (tougher sanctions, but closer to nuclear-weapons capability), as did Saudi Arabia (growing clout, but unable to stop the killings in Syria or Gaza) and Israel (avoided massive bloodshed, but became even more isolated).
All of these lists, however, are merely the pastimes of policy wonks. In the bloody, hostile miasma of the Middle East, being a “winner” in any sense of the word is fallacious. The region continues to breed only losers. The victims of the conflicts in Syria, Iran, and Palestine; the friends and families of the victims; those who hope for peace: all lost. This is a grim reminder that when it comes to killing one another, repeatedly missing opportunities for peace, and botching all efforts at progress, no one can beat the Middle East. In 2012, the region proved once again that it is truly the best at perpetrating the worst.
When will these vital, eclectic, and prosperous (or potentially prosperous) countries stop their ravenous infighting and start nurturing, protecting, and sustaining their people? While there have been many prescriptions, I will provide my own 2012 Middle East roundup, with a look toward what must happen in 2013 if we want it to bring fewer losses.
The Israeli killing machine must be stopped by a determined United States using its leverage to bring about implementation of the land-for-peace principles of United Nations Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, the Madrid Conference, the Oslo Agreement, and the Abdullah Peace Initiative. This is the only way out of the current unworkable predicament.
Borrowing a term from nuclear strategy, the situation between Israel and the Palestinians can be described only as “mutually assured destruction,” also known, fittingly, as MAD. It benefits no one, so why let it continue? Only the US has the ability to push the Israelis out of their MAD-ness, so I look forward to the Obama administration recognizing and acting on that moral obligation in the coming year.
The Assad killing machine must also be stopped. In this case, it is through the West agreeing with Saudi Arabia to arm the Free Syrian Army with the defensive weapons that it needs to ground Bashar al-Assad’s aircraft and immobilize his tanks and artillery. Unlike some conflicts in the region, this is a case with a clear and simple solution. Those being attacked merely need weapons to defend themselves; if they get them, the entire dynamic of the conflict will shift, in turn ending the bloodshed.
By now, all of the actors in Syria are known. There are no hidden jihadis, terrorists, or gangsters. They are all well documented. So the moderates are the ones who should get the anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons. Having them, their prestige among other fighters will soar, and so will support for their moderate stance.
Iranian intervention in Iraq must stop. It is tearing Iraq apart and endangering the countries around it. Western and Iranian support for Nouri al-Maliki’s government, which is controlled by Iran’s Basij militia, must be withdrawn, enabling the Iraqi people to determine freely their own destiny. Did the Americans defeat Saddam Hussein, and did more than 100,000 Iraqis die in the process, so that their country could become a puppet of the hostile Iranian regime? Iran’s meddling in Bahrain, Kuwait, Yemen, and other Gulf states must end as well.
In addition to these major tasks, Palestine’s main political rivals, Hamas and Fatah, must reconcile and turn their united efforts toward improving the lives of the Palestinian people. Egypt must get over its post-revolutionary squabbling and reassume its leading role among the Arab states. And all Arab states must coordinate their efforts to realize common ambitions, rather than continuing to pursue only narrow national interests.
Central to all of these tasks is a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) that is united into a confederation that can meet the challenges of Iran’s regional ambitions and bring major military deployments to bear on regional conflicts. If anything has become clear in the last year, it is that states like Israel, Iran, and Syria will act with impunity if no one is ready, willing, and able to stand up to them. It is time for the GCC, anchored on Saudi Arabia’s power, to take up that role.
The Middle East has been losing for too long, because its national leaders have been seeking to win in their own way, for their own purposes, and at everyone’s cost but their own. Such unilateralism is impossible in today’s globalized world. We must join together, or else we will rip each other to shreds. The choice is simple: Do we want to be winners or losers?
HRH Prince Turki Al Faisal Al Saud
Prince Turki is Chairman of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies and is one of the founders of the King Faisal Foundation. He served as the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United States of America from September 13, 2005 until February 2, 2007. He also serves as a member of the Boards of Trustees of the International Crisis Group and the Oxford Center for Islamic Studies and is co-chair of the C100 Group, which has been affiliated with the World Economic Forum since 2003. Prince Turki was appointed an Advisor in the Royal Court in 1973. From 1977 to 2001, he served as Director General of the General Intelligence Directorate (GID), the Kingdom’s main foreign intelligence service. In 2002, he was appointed Ambassador to the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland by then Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd bin Abdulaziz.
Born on February 15, 1945 in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, Prince Turki began his schooling at the Taif Model Elementary and Intermediate School. In 1963, he graduated from the Lawrenceville School in Lawrenceville, New Jersey and subsequently pursued undergraduate studies at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
The King Faisal International Prizes, awarded by the King Faisal Foundation, are presented to “dedicated men and women whose contributions make a positive difference.” These annual prizes, which are awarded in five fields of endeavor – Service to Islam, Islamic Studies, Arabic Language and Literature, Science, and Medicine – have been likened, for the Arab and Islamic worlds, as similar in stature to, and nearly as coveted as, the more renowned and longer established annual Nobel Prizes. The King Faisal International Prizes, in addition to being bestowed upon Arabs and Muslims, have been granted to outstanding achievers from virtually all corners of the world.
For more information: www.kff.com
Articles and Interviews on SUSRIS about and with Prince Turki Al-Faisal
- “What Can Be Done?” – A Conversation with Prince Turki Al-Faisao – SUSRIS Exclusive Interview – Oct 31, 2012
- Confronting Tremendous Challenges: Prince Turki Al-Faisal – SUSRIS – September 27, 2012
- Saudi Arabia National Day 2012 – The World Stage – Prince Turki Al-Faisal – SUSRIS – Sep 23, 2012
- Toward a Union Formula – SUSRIS – Apr 30, 2012
- Change is the Only Constant – Prince Turki – Jan 2, 2012
- Taking Stock of Conditions: Prince Turki Al-Faisal – SUSRIS – Nov 16, 2011
- AUSPC2011: Prince Turki Al-Faisal Keynote – SUSRIS – Oct 30, 2011
- Saudi Perspective on Palestine UN Vote – Prince Turki Interview – Charlie Rose – SUSRIS – Sep 21, 2011
- A Saudi National Security Doctrine for the Next Decade – SUSRIS – Jul 11, 2011
- A Conversation with Prince Turki Al-Faisal – SUSRIS Exclusive - December 5, 2010
- Turki Al-Faisal on U.S. Middle East, Afghan Policy – SUSRIS – May 15, 2010
- When A Handshake is Not Just a Handshake – SUSRIS – Feb 7, 2010
- Land First, Then Peace – Prince Turki Al-Faisal – SUSRIS – Sep 15, 2009
- “Energy Independence” and Kissing Babies: The Politics of Oil – Prince Turki Al-Faisal – SUSRIS – Aug 27, 2009
- Gulf Forum: US-Gulf Relations Post-Election – Prince Turki al-Faisal Critical of US Gaza Stand – SUSRIS – Jan 7, 2009
- Peace for the Mideast Prince Turki al-Faisal – SUSRIS – Dec 29, 2008
- “What does Mr. Kissinger propose”? – Prince Turki Al Faisal – SUSRIS – Nov 25, 2008
- Saudi Ambassador Abruptly Resigns, Leaves Washington – SUSRIS – Dec 12, 2006
- A Voice of Peace; A Move Towards Stability – Prince Turki al Faisal – SUSRIS IOI – Nov 30, 2006
- Saudi Arabian Constitutional Evolution – Prince Turki al Faisal – SUSRIS IOI – Nov 6, 2006
- A Vision for the Future of Saudi-US Relations – Prince Turki al Faisal – SUSRIS IOI – Nov 4, 2006
- Region in Crisis: A Call for American Leadership and a Lasting Peace – Prince Turki al Faisal – SUSRIS IOI – Aug. 3, 2006
- I Think We Need to Talk – Prince Turki Al-Faisal – SUSRIS – Jun 20, 2006
- Educational Reforms in Saudi Arabia: We’re Trying Hard to Change – Prince Turki al-Faisal – SUSRIS – Jun 8, 2006
- Perspectives on Conflicts, Cooperation and Crises: A Conversation with Saudi Arabia’s New Ambassador to the United States – Part 2 – SUSRIS Exclusive Interview – Mar 14, 2006
- Outreach and Engagement: A Conversation with Saudi Arabia’s New Ambassador to the United States – Part 1 – SUSRIS Exclusive Interview – Mar 9, 2006
- Tackling the Information Gap – Saudi Arabia’s New Ambassador to U.S. Promises Openness and Engagement – Patrick W. Ryan – SUSRIS – Mar 8, 2006
- Prince Turki al-Faisal Talks With Charlie Rose – Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the US Takes His Message to Americans – Part 1 – Relations, Oil – SUSRIS – Feb 18, 2006
- Prince Turki al-Faisal Talks With Charlie Rose – Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the US Takes His Message to Americans – Part 2 – Iraq, Iran, War on Terror – SUSRIS – Feb 18, 2006
- Prince Turki al-Faisal Talks With Charlie Rose – Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the US Takes His Message to Americans – Part 3 – Middle East Peace – SUSRIS – Feb 18, 2006
- Issues of the Day: Saudi Ambassador to the US On Sunday Talk Show – SUSRIS – Feb 6, 2006
- Community and Cooperation – Prince Turki Al-Faisal – SUSRIS – Dec 2, 2005
- The Global Scourge of Terrorism: Ambassador Prince Turki al Faisal Shares His Outlook – SUSRIS – Nov 8, 2005
- Prince Turki Al-Faisal’s Views on Terrorist Attacks and Bin Laden – SUSRIS – Dec 7, 2004