Greta Van Susteren Interviews Stephen Schwartz, Richard Murphy
by Greta Van Susteren
VAN SUSTEREN: It's this simple. Is Saudi Arabia with us or against us?
Joining us in New York, former United States Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Richard Murphy. He's now fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
And with me here in Washington, Stephen Schwartz, senior policy analyst with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy and the author of "The Two Faces of Islam: The House of Saud From Tradition to Terror."
Welcome to both of you.
Ambassador, first to you. I said it's simple, but the relationship the United States has had with Saudi Arabia is anything but simple. Why is it so complicated? We can't decide if they're our friends or our enemies.
RICHARD MURPHY, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SAUDI ARABIA: Well, I think it -- the questioning started when they said that they didn't want Saudi facilities used as a base for attack, first of all, in Iraq about three years ago, then on Afghanistan.
They cooperated in a number of ways with our military on both fronts. They've been the base for our aircraft going on patrol in Southern Iraq.
But they have hedged and they have said they don't want to see their territory used to attack another Muslim state. So that's what stimulated all these questions against the backdrop of 9/11.
VAN SUSTEREN: Stephen, you know, it seems to me that, you know, they need to make a decision whether they're with us or against us in this, and they don't seem to be making it particularly easy when they seem to --now the ambassador said the term "hedge." You know, some -- you know -- but it's different -- it seems like it changes all the time. Why is it -- why are they making it so difficult?
STEPHEN SCHWARTZ, "THE TWO FACES OF ISLAM" AUTHOR: Well, the history of Wahhabism, the ruling sect, and of the Saud family, the ruling family, is a history of essentially manipulating us, manipulating first the British and then the Americans, of telling us that they love us and they're our best friends at the same time as they support Islamic terrorism, Islamic extremism.
In my view, the Saudis are going to continue to try to get away with as much as they can. They're going to continue to try to have their cake and eat it.
VAN SUSTEREN: Are they -- you're saying that they're not our friends then? Is that -- to be blunt, are you saying they're not our friends and that we're being -- the wool is being pulled over on our eyes?
SCHWARTZ: I think they're our -- they have been our friends at certain points, and I think the economic relationship has been beneficial for both sides.
But, in the final analysis, when it comes to the issue of terrorism and Islamic extremism, I don't think that it's going to be easy for them to disengage, and they have never given us an accounting of Saudi involvement in 9/11. That's not the action of a friendly power.
VAN SUSTEREN: Ambassador, I mean, what about that? I mean, I think 15 of the 19 hijackers, give or take a number, were of Saudi descent on 9/11. I mean, it hardly does seem that -- unless they're ferreting out these terrorists against our country, that they are our friends, even though they -- if they ultimately let us use their military bases, it's almost begrudgingly so.
MURPHY: Greta, look at it this way. It's no mistake that 15 out of the 19 were Saudi. Remember that the principal target of 9/11 was not the United States or at least we were paired with the house of Saud. Get the Americans out of Saudi Arabia. The house of Saud will fall into our hands.
The Islamists like overripe fruit, and selecting those foot soldiers, those 15 -- they weren't the brains of the outfit. The brains, apparently, Dr. Zawahiri back with Osama and Mohammed Atta as the leader -- the Egyptian leader in the states itself, but to have Saudis there was extremely useful, and it's worked beautifully, and it's led to your questions tonight: Enemy or friend? What are they?
VAN SUSTEREN: But, Ambassador, if you go back to 1996, the truck bomb at the Khobar Tower, the Saudis weren't particularly cooperative in letting the FBI investigate that incident.
VAN SUSTEREN: There was also a '95 bombing at our military base in Riyadh in which two Americans -- or five Americans were killed. You know, we didn't get the sense that the -- that the Saudis were our friends then. So what is the -- what is the evidence that they are our friends?
I mean, I can point to some things that are disturbing, but I can't point to some things of -- that convince me that -- you know, that they're our friends all the time.
MURPHY: All the time?
Well, look, they've got protests from their own people, and they have got a public opinion, which many Americans denied over the years. They said, "Well, whatever the king wants, the king gets."
They have got a people who feel that it was wrong to invite the infidel armies, the Western armies, non-Muslims into the kingdom back in 1990 and -- to be used against another Muslim state. That was an element in their society, which they arrested. They arrested a few back then.
And then this movement, this network, grew during the '90s, and they honestly didn't pay enough attention to it.
VAN SUSTEREN: Stephen, can we blame them for that element of the society which -- that, apparently, when they don't like something that, you know, the Americans do, that their reaction is violence? I mean, is Saudi Arabia responsible for that element in their own society?
SCHWARTZ: Well, that element is funded by the Wahhabi wing of the royal family, and -- the hard Wahhabi wing of that family, and it's funded -- it's the state religious clerical apparatus. You know...
VAN SUSTEREN: So are you saying they're one?
SCHWARTZ: I'm saying that a very significant and powerful faction of the royal family continues to support the most extreme Wahhabi clerics. The point...
VAN SUSTEREN: Why?
SCHWARTZ: Because they're Wahhabis. Because they believe in it. Because they believe in the doctrine. The bottom line about this whole thing is this: The United States had a base in Saudi Arabia from 1946 to '62. The British helped install the Wahhabis.
The Wahhabis were always more concerned to attack Muslims with the support of the Christian powers than they were to fight the Christian powers in the peninsula. They've always -- this stuff about how they're upset about us attacking the Muslim power -- they've done nothing but attack Muslims.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. And with that, you're going to get the last word. I'm sorry. We're out of time.
VAN SUSTEREN: Ambassador, Stephen, thank you, both.
SCHWARTZ: Thank you.
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