What Are the Saudis Doing to Prevent a War With Iraq?

This is a partial transcript from On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, January 17, 2003. Click here to order the entire transcript of the show.

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GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST:  Tonight, the Saudis are frightened.  War could destabilize the entire region.  What, if anything, are the Saudis doing about the possibility of disastrous war?

Joining us in New York, Richard Murphy, former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, who returned yesterday after spending two weeks in the region.

Welcome, Ambassador.


VAN SUSTEREN:  Ambassador, you've just returned from a trip.  Tell me what is the Saudi perspective, not necessarily yours, but the Saudi perspective of what is about to happen?

MURPHY:  Well, they're -- they're uncertain about how well we've thought through what's about to happen, and I've -- and they're not saying that in -- you know, in any nasty way, they're just saying it's a very tough country to rule, to keep control of, and they wonder if we have thought through hard enough, thoroughly enough, what's going to happen, if there is a war.

And that's why we've begun to hear some talk about a plan that there won't have to be a war.  Their point is that what President Bush needs is to get those weapons of mass destruction, to get rid of the regime, and probably the best result would be for him and the United States and all of us if there is no war to accomplish that.

VAN SUSTEREN:  Well, it's sort of interesting.  You know, they're wondering whether we have fully thought through it.  Have they thought through what they're going to do?  After all, they are next door, and it's a far bigger problem really for them than it is for us.  What are they doing about it?

MURPHY:  Part of the problem is, Greta, that they have had -- ever since Desert Storm ended in '91, they've had protection, and they don't see today that Saddam is a threat to them, that he very definitely constituted back in January of '91 when that war started.  They see him heavily weakened by the sanctions, by the fact that we've been able to keep the Iraqi army from rebuilding.

VAN SUSTEREN:  Do they have any sort of -- I mean, are they aware of the fact that there's much American attention to the fact bin Laden had -- so many of the hijackers were Saudis?

MURPHY:  Yes, they very much -- very much aware of that, very uncomfortable about that, and they went through a period of denial saying, well, it couldn't have been Arab, and it certainly couldn't have been Saudi.  It was unthinkable.

And they -- they now pretty much all hold the theory Usama bin Laden was much more clever than any of us gave him credit for in planning that affair because, yes, 15 of those 19 hijackers were Saudi, and the fact is that he could have had 15 Egyptians, 15 Armanis (ph), 16 Qataris.

But he picked Saudis because his basic plan was to destabilize Saudi Arabia by getting the Americans out and by pitting the Americans against the Saudis.

VAN SUSTEREN:  Ambassador, you're not just an expert in Saudi Arabia.  I know you haven't just visited Saudi Arabia.  You've been to Syria.  Give me the Syrian perspective of what they think is about to unfold and why.

MURPHY:  Well, they feel there's very likely going to be a war.  They're uncomfortable about the fallout.  War is unpredictable.  And for the Syrians -- one of the Syrian Cabinet said to me -- and only half jokingly -- "What we don't want is this war to end with Iran moving into Iraq and becoming our neighbor," and here's the countries which are commonly thought of as so close to one another.

What they're saying is that this war could have very unpredictable effects, and, again, have we thought it through, are we really ready to cope with the fallout of war.

VAN SUSTEREN:  Do you think, Ambassador -- there have been some suggestions that maybe the Syrians are maybe helping Saddam.  Hiding weapons has been one suggestion.  Any thought to whether or not the Syrians may be a little dirtier in this than they're telling?

MURPHY:  You know, I can't say that they aren't playing a dirty game, but I don't think they're that dumb.  They're very much aware of the attention that American intelligence is paying to Iraq and the story of trucks moving across the border into Syria to hide the stockpiles of chemical, biological weapons.  They're going to be aware that -- of the extremely serious consequences that could have for Syria, if that were discovered, if that were the fact.

VAN SUSTEREN:  Ambassador Murphy, thank you very much.  I especially appreciate it because this is, I think, your first stop since you came back from overseas.  I appreciate it.

MURPHY:  It's a pleasure..

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