Interview: Prince Turki AlFaisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud
How is rising instability in the region affecting Saudi defence spending and security priorities?
PRINCE TURKI ALFAISAL ABDULAZIZ AL SAUD: Rising regional instability is a national security concern not only for Saudi Arabia but for all states in the region. However, Saudi Arabia as an important regional power has a special responsibility in addressing such challenges, both to preserve its own security, stability and prosperity, and to contribute to redrawing a regional order to bring peace and security back to the entire region. In a world of “self-help”, as seems to be the case, no state can deal with such immense challenges without acquiring all the necessary capabilities, including state-of-the-art military means. Saudi Arabia will therefore continue developing its military power by developing its own military industry and by importing what it needs to meet its new responsibility in a region of uncertainty. Defence and security are at the top of our national agenda.
What sort of leadership role should Saudi Arabia look to play within the region and globally?
PRINCE TURKI: Certain countries may look for roles to play in their regions and at a global level, but in the case of Saudi Arabia, its leading role, both regionally and globally, is a dictate of its religion, its history, its geography and its economy. All of these factors have granted Saudi Arabia a special role to play in the Gulf region, in the Arab world, in the Islamic world and in the world at large.
In this light, Saudi Arabia is not looking for a new role to play but, as mentioned before, it has a special responsibility in moving the GCC countries towards greater unity and greater coordination in matters of defence and foreign policy. It has a special responsibility with other Arab countries to put the Arab house in order, and a special responsibility with other Muslim states to put the Islamic house in order. Those are all big duties, but Saudi Arabia is endowed with all of the requirements necessary to fulfil such a role. By achieving this, Saudi Arabia is, as it has been for many decades, a constructive actor in these matters at all international levels.
In what ways can the US leadership reassure Saudi Arabia that nuclear negotiations with Iran will not endanger its security, economic or geopolitical interests in the region?
PRINCE TURKI: The Iranian nuclear issue is an international one, and Saudi Arabia is not the only country in the region that will be affected if Iran succeeds in legitimising its pursuit of a nuclear military capability. The US will be responsible for putting the region’s security at risk. Succeeding only in delaying the possibility of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons is a shortsighted strategy. The only reassurance for us is making this possibility an impossibility. If this goal is not realised in the nuclear negotiations, Saudi Arabia will not hesitate to prepare itself for all options. However, working towards a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction is the Kingdom’s stated position on the nuclear issue.
To what extent is Saudi Arabia working to improve coordination with foreign governments in addressing transnational issues such as terrorism?
PRINCE TURKI: Throughout its history, Saudi Arabia has been a strong believer in the importance of cooperation and coordination with both foreign governments and regional and international institutions in addressing transnational issues. The Kingdom is at the forefront of supporting international efforts to deal with refugees, poverty, diseases and natural disasters. With respect to terrorism, Saudi Arabia supports all anti-terrorism efforts, because it is itself a victim of this phenomenon. It believes that fighting terrorism should and must be international, and therefore has proposed and financed, with $100m, the formation of the UN-based International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, where intelligence and financial resources can be pooled to coordinate the fight against such forces. The Kingdom is not only talking the talk but walking the walk in facing this international danger, and is engaged with other nations in countering Islamic State and Al Qaeda, and calling for more international cooperation against this cancer.
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