US-Saudi National Policy Forum: Scowcroft and Turki Early Headliners

-

clemons&princeturki.jpg(pictured to left: New America Foundation foreign policy programs director Steve Clemons and then Saudi Ambassador to the US HRH Prince Turki Al-Faisal)
On the 27th of April, less than two weeks from now, the New America Foundation and Committee for International Trade of the Saudi Chambers of Commerce will be presenting a significant national policy forum titled “US-Saudi Relations in a World Without Equilibrium.”
I have long been a fan of the “no false choice” framing that Senators like Chuck Hagel, (then Senator and now Vice President) Joe Biden, John Kerry, Richard Lugar and others apply to complex issues like Israeli-Arab relations, NATO-Russia issues, China-Japan complexities and so on. Most serious strategic challenges cannot be met with binary responses or simple zero sum games.
But the truth is that in Washington, DC there are not enough forums that allow open, candid discussion about the geostrategic challenges facing the United States and other global stakeholders — whether or not their system of government approximates our own.
And in this basket, i think that some of the most significant global actors today are China, Russia, Germany, Japan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Turkey, France, the United Kingdom, Israel, Pakistan, India, and perhaps a few others.
Saudi Arabia, in any serious accounting, is fundamental on a great number of levels — but Washington too frequently tries to sidestep or to indirectly use winks and nods to manage a vital strategic alliance in the Middle East that not only has relevance to global oil and energy realities, but impacts the ecosystem within which Israel exists, in which other Arab states are evolving, and Iran’s regional aspirations are given some counter-weight. On top of this, Saudi Arabia is now being called on to help significantly enhance the resources of the IMF during this major global financial crisis.
scowcroft legacy.jpgThis conference will be part public and part private — with the public part streaming live on The Washington Note and New America Foundation websites from 8:30 am EST on Monday, 27 April until approximately 3:30 pm EST on the same day.
The kickoff speaker for this major conference at a private dinner on Sunday evening, the 26th of April, will be former National Security Adviser to Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, General Brent Scowcroft.
The speaker and participant roster is quite impressive in my view — and I believe that we will generate a constructive discussion about challenges that have yet to be met in the bilateral relationship, in economic coordination, and in the broader Middle East.
The former Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to the U.S. and the more than two decade Director of Saudi intelligence HRH Prince Turki Al-Faisal will also be appearing in this national policy forum.
In coming days, I will announce other speakers and parts of the schedule — but I wanted to give an early alert of this forum now — as well as acknowledge the participation of General Scowcroft and Prince Turki.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

22 comments on “US-Saudi National Policy Forum: Scowcroft and Turki Early Headliners

  1. Don S u loser says:

    Don S, it is not Israel, but the brutal totalitarian ideology that all anti-Semites like you apologize for, Islam. All the places where Islam is strongest (Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, etc..) have spread terror throughout the middle east and the world.

    Reply

  2. Steve Clemons says:

    Dr Hijazi — with all due respect, your note is so at odds with my experiences in Saudi Arabia with both the regular and the elite. It’s ridiculous to paint Saudi Arabia with the brush of bin Laden — just as it would be ridiculous to overcharacterize America based on the criminal act of Timothy McVeigh. I don’t mind you posting here — but please, really do try and elevate your commentary to something rational and reasoned.
    best regards,
    Steve Clemons

    Reply

  3. DR -HIJAZI says:

    You are right TONY.saudi regeme is not afriend for america ,not afriend for the humanity measures ,not afriend for Islam it self,the Wahabism call are guiding the royal familly to hate all others it carry acriminal and terror ideas,saudia arabia is the fertile soil of terrorism,it is rare to found that there is no asaudi hand in the terror events allover the world. the questiin is to how much extent america but hands on eyes about the saudi crimes against humanity? it is time to answer this question.america not need the saudi oil,saudi family supported with Wahabi ideas will do more and more bad things for us and for the nighbooring,11 september was made in saudi arabia,Osama ben laden made in saudia arabia,Taliban made in saudi arabia,Fath aleslam in lebanon made in saudia,radical islamic movements made in saudia arabia . Really it is bad family and time now to eleminate this family and bring ademocratic humanitarian regeme in place.the american pepole shoul d startb protests agiainst this ununderstood relatio between US and SA.
    Tony, there is no benefit from relation with this terror royal family it is the factory of terrorism seeds
    hijazi1111@hotmail.com

    Reply

  4. suvro says:

    I have been traveling to Saudi Arabia since early 2008 and am going next week. I have a passing familiarity with Saudi issues, but am more familiar with Indian and Pakistani concerns, and write from that perspective.
    What I see in Saudi Arabia right now is an intense desire on the part of some to fast forward their society to 21st century. I am advising their national science lab on establishing centers of research excellence at universities. Interestingly, our Saudi hosts told us that we should put in a strong recommendation to raise the number of women in the science and engineering fields through these centers. But one of my Pakistani cab drivers said that it is the Saudi men who don’t want their women to get the right to drive, and that the Saudi government actually does not have a strong objection to giving this right to women! So there are contradictory push and pull from various parts of the society. Another example is the declaration of Prince Najef as the next-in-line to the current King Abdullah, who has been more progressive than was expected at his ascension to the throne.
    Part of the equation has to be the flow of money from Saudi Arabia to Islamist terrorist organizations, and fundamentalist madrasas. Greg Mortenson made such a compelling case for women’s education in Pakistan (Swat Valley in particular), and Afghanistan (Badakshan province), and he documented how Saudi clergy would land up with bags full of money for madrasas. Now all the gains he had painstakingly built up has vanished with the Taliban control of Swat Valley under Sharia law. Women’s education has been an early target.
    This strategy has also got to bring in US military aid for Pakistani army, who are the paymasters for the ISI and Taliban/al Qaeda. Unless these complex issues are tackled together, from an Indian perspective, it is like watching the US reinventing the wheel over and over again, and never learning from the past.

    Reply

  5. DonS says:

    Tony, this is not a defense of the Saudis. For my own comment to wig wag, I am merely noting the consistent lens through which he skews comments on the ME. As in tail wags dog. One could argue that others have an anti-Israel bias. Fair enough, but it is Israel which is throwing its weight around terrorizing the neighborhood. Whereas there are dozens of states that have repressive human right’s practices,Israel not only represses it’s neighbors, but demands fealty from a neutered US foreign policy establishment. Something’s very wrong.

    Reply

  6. TonyForesta says:

    I’m with WigWag here, and don’t see the Israeli bias in his commentary.
    The larger point is that SA does NOT care about America, or Americans outside of oceans (hundredsofbillions) of Petro dollars funnelled into sundry offshore House of Saud accounts.
    Oil alone links the US to SA, and who exactly benefits from this unholy alliance? A nation whose state religion proselytizes, and 85% of its population seeks the death of every American, Jew and infidel, is NOT – and NEVER can be – a friend of America.
    Oil and energy oligarchs may bow to, hold hands, and ally with the wababist salafist jihadis in the House of Saud for oil profiteering, – but the best interests of the American people are better served distancing and divorcing from the malignacies and perversions promoted and bruted by the SA government. These people loathe Americans, but love petrodollars. Get green. Reject and repudiate the oil oligarchs and cartels. Seek new ways to power our societies. Oil is a dead resourse, toxic, costly, and peaked. Find new ways. Seek new solutions. Move away from oil based products, and the world will change. Proceed along these malignant and unholy vectors, and the world will end in noxious slurries and fire.
    Predator class operators may love SA, and bow to the House of Saud, – but SA, and the House of Saud are enemies, supporting enemies of America, and no friend of Americas poor and middle class!

    Reply

  7. DonS says:

    Wig wag, once again your deceptively reasonable ‘argument’ performs the task, really, as a provocateur for Isarel.
    The underlying presumption of your ten questions relies on pillorying Saudi Arabi for being a quasi-feudal and reactionary country, disregarding 1) it’s strategic importance to the US and 2) the, admittedly marginal, improvements in its cultural advancement, from a western perspective.
    You leave yourself open to the question of Israel’s terrible record as supposed exemplar of a “democracy” in the mideast, as well as its horrible record as a cruel agressor.
    This is no level playing field. As you usually do, you ignore the fact that pro Israel bias is endemic throughout US media, government, and conventional assumption. While you would probably scream ‘intellectual honesty’ demands all questions are fair, in fact the disproportionate hype for “Israel the wonderful” renders totally deceptive the call to bring the Saudis down a peg. When Israel stops mocking the rest of the world, particularly the US, with its embedded psyops, then maybe we can take equivalence.

    Reply

  8. WigWag says:

    Steve, thank you for leaving my questions up on your site. They may impolitic but in light of recent history, I don’t think they are inappropriate.
    As for creating a set of similarly provocative questions for the incumbent Israeli government, I would suggest that you and your guest posters such as Daniel Levy, Amjad Atallah, Nir Rosen and others ask provocative questions about the Israelis on a fairly regular basis; so do many of the people who comment at the Washington Note. It seems perfectly obvious that the volume of criticism directed by you and others towards Israel far exceeds anything directed towards the Saudis.
    Ironically it is widely believed in the Arab world and in Israel that the Israeli behavior in Gaza that you and others roundly criticized was actively encouraged by the Saudis. In fact Tom Friedman suggested in a recent column that at the same time the Saudis were bemoaning the terrible destruction meted out to Gazans, the Saudis, Egytians and Jordanians were quietly criticizing the Israelis for not finishing the job, consequences be damned.
    I think a candid discussion with the Saudis would have to include some queries about how on one hand they claim to favor reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, while at the same time they were urging the Israelis to be relentless in disabling Hamas.
    A “candid duscussion” would also have to cover how Saudi Arabia feels about a nuclear-armed Iran; it would be very interesting to know what they are saying to George Mitchell about the topic. My guess is that the Saudis are as apoplectic about the prospect of a nuclear Iran as the Israelis are; perhaps more so.
    As for the history of corruption of the Saudi royal family or Saudi behavior towards gay people, women, Christians, Jews and Shiites; what is there really to say?
    I do wish you the best of luck with your meeting.

    Reply

  9. Steve Clemons says:

    WigWag — Thanks for your line of questions which I won’t commit to pose, but I’ll leave them up here. I would counter that it’s always easy to generate questions designed to create discomfort or to embarrass or reveal — and this is important. I feel a similarly discomfitnig set of provocative questions could be (and perhaps should be) generated by you for the incumbent Israeli government.
    Thanks — but I’ve got to get back to organizing this conference now.
    All best, steve

    Reply

  10. WigWag says:

    Steve Clemons says,
    “But the truth is that in Washington, DC there are not enough forums that allow open, candid discussion about the geostrategic challenges facing the United States and other global stakeholders — whether or not their system of government approximates our own.”
    In the interests of candid discussion here are 10 questions Steve could pose to HRH Prince Turki Al-Faisal (but probably won’t)
    1. Did Prince Turki Al-Faisal or any member of his immediate family or any member of the Saudi Royal Family accept bribes (such as free jetliners) from the defense contractor British Aereospace in return for Saudi defense business?
    2. Did the government of Saudi Arabia insist that then Prime Minister Tony Blair abort an investigation into bribes paid by British Aerospace to members of the Saudi Royal Family or risk losing Saudi defense contracts?
    3. Was Israel acting as a Saudi proxy when it conducted its military campaign against Gaza earlier this year or did the Saudis merely encourage the Israelis to attack Gaza?
    4. Were the Saudis satisfied with the Israeli military campaign against Hamas or would they have preferred if the Israelis had lengthened the military action to inflict additional damage on Hamas?
    5. Are the Saudis more afraid of nuclear weapons in the hands of the Israelis or nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran?
    6. Over the past quarter century, what role did Saudi Arabia play in exporting religious extremism to Afghanistan, Pakistan, the rest of South Asia and Africa?
    7. Have Brent Scowcroft or members of the Bush Family been enriched by their longstanding relationship with the government of Saudi Arabia?
    8. President Ahmadinejad of Iran famously said at Columbia University that there are no gay people in Iran; are there gay people in Saudi Arabia?
    9. Why is it a capital offense for consenting adults to engage in anal intercourse in Saudi Arabia?
    10. How many more years will it be before women in Saudi Arabia are permitted to drive automobiles?
    Because Steve assures us that the forum is designed to be “candid” I am sure that if he asked one or more of these questions, the response from Prince Turki Al-Faisal and his Saudi colleagues would be completely frank and honest.
    After all, they’re honorable men. Which reminds me of another question Steve could ask. Why aren’t there any Saudi women attending the forum?

    Reply

  11. Dan Kervick says:

    Lucien,
    I’m sorry, but your message sounds like some kind of DC lobbyist boilerplate. Do you work for the Saudis?
    I have a question: What role is Saudi Arabia playing in US-Iranian relations? Are they helping or hindering the development of an expanded relationship.

    Reply

  12. kathleen G says:

    mportant
    Demand Accountability for Torture
    On Thursday, April 16th, the Justice Department could release key memos that formed the basis of the Bush administration’s illegal torture program.
    To restore America’s commitment to human rights, we must demand a thorough criminal investigation.
    Tell Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate the detainee abuse.
    LISTEN SIGN AND SEND AROUND TONIGHT
    https://secure.aclu.org/site/SPageServer?pagename=Nat_Petition_SpecialProsecutor_Video&s_src=UNW090001ACT&s_subsrc=BradVid_nonsigners&JServSessionIdr009=nz299jpg01.app24a

    Reply

  13. TonyForesta says:

    Saudi Arabia does indeed “pursues its
    interests in a way that mostly converges with our own.” The problem Mr Clemons and Lucien is that the nebulous descriptive “our own” allows too expansive an interpretation. The “our own” interests you speak of describe the oil, energy, and finance oligarchs, and the military and intelligence, and private military and private intelligence industrial complexes exlusively. That longwinded list of “our own” interests is really a quite small and select group of individuals, cabals, cartels, and oligarchs, – and so – we agree that those American interests converge with the selfinterests of certain elements of the House of Saud and mainly and specifically with regard to oil. There is very little if any, convergance on any other issue between any element of the House of Saud, and most American elements outside of oil. Subtract oil from the calculus, and SA has no convergance with America.
    Worse, I hold the firm conviction based on the grotesque abuses of that last eight years and sadly carrying forward into the Obama administration, – that there is little if any covergance between America’s oil, energy, and finance oligarchs, and the military and intelligence, and private military and private intelligence industrial complexes, and their political supporters and apologists – and the best interests of the American people. What I call the predator class works and operates in ways that diverge with, and a contrary to, and countermine the best intersts of the American people.
    The point is certain predator class individuals and oligarchs may view elements of SA as “good friends”, – but – in practical reality for the other 99% of Americans, and Saudi Arabians for that matter – our nations and peoples are dialectically opposed to each other, and if not enemies – certainly far from “friends”.
    Finally, the “remarkable job with counter-
    terrorism efforts since the 2003 Riyadh Compound
    Bombing,” is illusory. First that attack was directed at American private military companies, particularly Dyncorp who trains Saudi Military and special ops). Secondly, America (including the good friends in the bushgov) recieved very little cooperation from SA on those attacks, and all the counterterrorsim efforts are purely internal with no sharing or coordination with Ameican or any other infidel, I mean Western power. The observers you mention are also internal, since there is no coordination we are told by Saudi’s and wahabi supporters that there has been a “remarkable job with counter terrorism efforts since 2003, but we really don’t know for certain. Of course, al Quaida declaring jihad against the House of Saud was unpopular, and I’m sure remarkable efforts were made counter any threat the royal family, – but those efforts were no shared, and we conducted for purely SA ends, and not as support or as a means for working in concert with the West or America combatting jihadis massmurdergangs, (the same jihadi massmurder gangs that are funded, and nurtured by SA)
    Like real data on Saudi oil capacity and reserves, – there is very little sharing of information, and no access to hard facts or measurements. We are left with inductive speculations and the promise from the House of Saud, to simply “trust us”.
    Until the Saudi society at large, and the House of Saud specifically recants and rejects the barbaric malignancy of wahabism and jihadist islam, (whose most basic tenet is the destruction of Israel and America) – I’ll view SA as a threat, and not a friend.

    Reply

  14. Kathleen G says:

    Steven thank you for all you do. I am going to try my best to attend this event.
    Will let folks know

    Reply

  15. JamesL says:

    Lucien: .”…but we also
    must recognize their strategic importance in the
    region (beyond energy….”
    The “long time ally” perspective on Saudi Arabia hangs on only because oil is there and the US has coveted it a long time. A parenthetical reference to ‘beyond oil’ is insufficient. SA has a strategic value for the US only because of oil. If the US was totally energy independent, if it wasn’t so self congratulatory about its roost at the top of the world’s nations, and if it was not so carefree about throwing its weight around militarily (you need a LOT of oil for military adventures), I can’t imagine SA would occupy the level of strategic imporance it currently holds.
    Beyond its public face Saudi Arabia too frequently comes up in reports of backchannel intrigues (based on oil, and including Israel) for me to feel comfortable thinking its public fase is its only face. Then there are those recurring hints that the Grand Plan sequence of the Neos included regime change in Saudi Arabia. If I was a Saudi my strategic position would include the possibility that those hints are true, and I would treat the US as though it were a momentarily friendly elephant with a nasty past.
    There are no CAFE standards for military equipment. Fuel “efficiency” is so pervasively hammered by battlefield “effectiveness” all along the specification and development trail that virtually all motorized equipment making it to any locale of fighting are guzzlers. One tank dashing about hiher and yon in the sand cancels out a boatload of Prius’s. Continued military adventurism hastens the day that cheap oil ain’t cheap no mo’, and displaces energy and resources necessary to meet that coming reality. The ultimate answer to that is certainly, definitely, clearly not more military equipment.

    Reply

  16. Don Bacon says:

    Some people are still here (snark alert). . .
    “Our commitment to democracy is tested in countries like Cuba and Burma and North Korea and Zimbabwe — outposts of oppression in our world. The people in these nations live in captivity, and fear and silence. Yet, these regimes cannot hold back freedom forever — and, one day, from prison camps and prison cells, and from exile, the leaders of new democracies will arrive.
    “More than half of all the Muslims in the world live in freedom under democratically constituted governments. They succeed in democratic societies, not in spite of their faith, but because of it. A religion that demands individual moral accountability, and encourages the encounter of the individual with God, is fully compatible with the rights and responsibilities of self-government.
    “The advance of freedom is the calling of our time; it is the calling of our country. From the Fourteen Points to the Four Freedoms, to the Speech at Westminster, America has put our power at the service of principle. We believe that liberty is the design of nature; we believe that liberty is the direction of history. We believe that human fulfillment and excellence come in the responsible exercise of liberty. And we believe that freedom — the freedom we prize — is not for us alone, it is the right and the capacity of all mankind.”–President Bush, November 6, 2003
    . . .when they should be here.
    Realpolitik (German: real “realistic”, “practical” or “actual”; and Politik “politics”) refers to politics or diplomacy based primarily on practical considerations, rather than ideological notions.–wiki
    That’s the real world of “strategic alliances” and “geostrategic challenges”. It’s a zero-sum game — governments win and people lose, every time. So you won’t see any TonyForesta invited to any “significant national policy forum”; only the big geostrategic thinkers who will figure out new ways to screw the proles.

    Reply

  17. ... says:

    tony when you think of how the usa has become nothing more then a military outlet, you can see how the relationship with saudi arabia is an important one for maintaining this same status quo… exchange of military supplies for oil is an interesting rationalization that says a lot about both countries involved in the transaction… all the other fluff about being friends and such is mostly just that – fluff… as for jihad, where would the military industrial complex be without a bogeyman that convinces the idiot masses of the need for war around the globe where ever this same complex needs to vent??

    Reply

  18. Lucien says:

    How can one say that Saudi Arabia is a threat,
    enemy and not a friend of the U.S.?
    In a region fraught with instability and violent,
    non-government actors, Saudi Arabia stands out as
    an important counterweight to these factors. We
    may inherently disagree with their system of
    government and hope to see progress towards a more
    acceptable human rights situation, but we also
    must recognize their strategic importance in the
    region (beyond energy – for which we, the
    consumers, are as much to “blame” as the
    producers). According to almost every observer,
    they’ve done a remarkable job with counter-
    terrorism efforts since the 2003 Riyadh Compound
    Bombing, and have been more than patient with the
    behavior of another American ally, Israel, who
    regularly threatens to destabilize the whole
    region. Besides, we’ve seen what bellicose
    diplomatic posturing can achieve – little or
    nothing, especially in the Middle East.
    It will be through open discussion and dialogue,
    and recognizing and pursuing policies based on our
    many areas of mutual interest, that will foster a
    greater understanding between the U.S. and Saudi
    Arabia and allow an already good alliance to grow
    stronger. This is of paramount importance to U.S.
    interests in this region especially now, when we
    need friends infinitely more than enemies.

    Reply

  19. Steve Clemons says:

    Tony — I disagree on a number of fronts. I believe that Saudi
    Arabia has been a long time ally of the US — and pursues its
    interests in a way that mostly converges with our own. Best
    regards, Steve Clemons

    Reply

  20. TonyForesta says:

    Sorry, but for clarity I meant to say; ()(It (jihadist islam) is a society ruled by sharia, that beheads young woman who dare to travel in public with(OUT) an elder tribal male escort, or stones young girls for exposing their ankles.)

    Reply

  21. TonyForesta says:

    Deep inthethickofit, – you have the opportunity Mr Clemons to give voice to a wide range of perspectives, positions, principles and perogatives. Hopefully, many voices are being heard and recognized and there are intelligent compassionate human beings piloting our nation and concerned about the people in the land Oz, – but with all due respect – it appears that the barbarians have breeched the gates, that predators commandeer and control our government and the people are helpless and voicless victims to the predator class merciless avarice, greed, and blood lust.
    Why would any American stand with Saudi Arabia? (15 of the 19 9/11 massmurderers were Saudi Arabian,)(Saudi Arabia remains the primary funding source for many jihadi massmurdergangs, including al Quaida)(85% of the Saudi population loathes – hates America and Americans)(It is a society ruled by sharia, that beheads young woman who dare to travel in public with an elder tribal male escort, or stones young girls for exposing their ankles)
    Have you, or Scowcroft,Chuck Hagel, (then Senator and now Vice President) Joe Biden, John Kerry, Richard Lugar and/or any blueeyedwhiteman ever visited Mecca or Medina?
    Why not?
    Why not, and then – under what religious decree is it allahs will to kill all infidels, Jews, and Americans?
    Subtract oil and access to oil, and the Saudi/US relationship is suspect and short, – hence our dread concern.
    No matter what disinformation, propaganda, or partisan babel the oil and energy oligarchs brute – Saudi Arabia is a threat, an enemy, – and certainly NOT a friend of America.

    Reply

  22. Susan says:

    Steven, Your energy is extremely impressive and your sense of what is worth spending time on is exquisite. I get such an education reading the Note and am very much looking forward to watching your conference stream live on the website. Thanks for all you are doing to improve America’s international relations.

    Reply

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *