This partial transcript from The Big Story With John Gibson, November 6, 2001. Click here to order the complete transcript.
JOHN GIBSON, HOST: The world is changing, as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said earlier today. How does Saudi Arabia fit into the mix as the U.S. tries to fight this war on terror? Are the Saudis with us or against us, or do they fall somewhere in between.
Joining to us talk about the Saudi factor, Dennis Ross, former Middle East negotiator, now a Fox News foreign affairs analyst.
So this is getting to be kind of painful. I mean, the Saudis were always our good friends. They sell us all that oil. We protected them from Saddam. What is going on? Are they with us or not?
DENNIS ROSS, FORMER MIDEAST NEGOTIATOR: Well, as often is the case with the Saudis, the Saudis would like to do things with us but not have us talk about them. In a sense, they're always concerned about their image as the protectors of the holy places, and in a war where we're also taking on those who identify as being Islamists, there's a certain sensitivity on their part. Fundamentally, I don't think they have a choice, and I think have to recognize that. They know that Usama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda network is focused on them more than anybody else. They go after us with the hope that they will demoralize us so we will withdraw from the Middle East and we will no longer prop up that regime. They need us to succeed against Usama bin Laden and the Taliban, otherwise, they're in very big trouble.
GIBSON: All right, Ambassador Ross, take a look at this. This is the president today making a statement. And we'll try figure out who he's talking about. This is President Bush.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The coalition partner must do more than just express sympathy. A coalition partner must perform. And our coalition partner here has performed. We work together. And that means different things for different nations. Some nations don't want to contribute troops, and we understand that. Other nations can contribute intelligence sharing, and for that we're grateful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIBSON: French envoy standing next to the president as he made those remarks, so the direct reference was to the French. The French are helping. They committed troops today. But was he talking about the Saudis?
ROSS: Quite possibly. I think that basically, what we want from the Saudis is intelligence sharing to be sure, because 15 of the nationals were involved in this plot to attack America were Saudi nationals. We certainly need their help when it comes to the moving of money. We certainly need their help when it comes to choking off the monies that go from the Islamic charities to Usama bin Laden, the Al Qaeda network. That's critical. We obviously need their logistic support in terms of either over flight or in terms of commanding how we operate some of our forces. That's all important. They want to keep the level of their cooperation low in terms of its visibility. We obviously want the fact of their cooperation first and foremost. So I think at one level what the president said certainly fits the Saudis and fits also the idea that different countries can contribute in different ways.
But John, I would add one point. The Saudis cannot have it both ways. If, in fact, they are going to create a climate where suicide bombing is OK in Israel, where supporting the schools that produce a lot of the extremists is provided by Saudi money, we have to realize that there is a climate that is created that supports the use of terror. The Saudis can support us in practical ways right now, but it's in their interest and our interest for them to begin to stake out a different public posture. They have got to take on Usama bin Laden, the Al Qaeda network, the extreme Islamists by saying they don't have a give up a single thing in terms of their interests, their grievances, their cause, but they have to make it clear there's a legitimate way to pursue those and an illegitimate way to pursue those.
GIBSON: Ambassador Ross, take a look at these words on the screen. This came today from British foreign -- this is from Abdel al-Jubeir, the Saudi foreign policy adviser in The Washington Post. He said, "Given the choice, we'd rather look good in downtown Riyadh than downtown Washington. The senior levels of your government appreciate this. They understand this, and they cut us some slack on it."
Having said that, how long can we go cutting the Saudis slack when it's clear their own people don't like this government, don't like the house of Saud, that they have to give their own people the kind of escape valve of hating America in order to stay in power? How long can we go on with our wagon tied to this group?
ROSS: Well, again, I think the key point is this. We're not going to succeed in a war against terror if there is a place where there's a climate created that justifies the use of terror. The fact that we defeat the Taliban and Usama bin Laden is an important first step, but that's all it is. It's an important first step. We're not going to win unless there's a psychological climate that is created that makes it clear that the use of terror any time is wrong, that any cause that uses it is itself discredited. And in the case of the Saudi government, I think the Saudi government does have to draw the lesson from this. They too have to look at what went wrong. How is it that there are 15 Saudi nationals who were involved in this? How many more might be involved that they don't know about? How do their own practices in terms of providing monies through the Islamic charities feed the very phenomenon that we both have to contend with now? I think there's some need for soul searching on their part.
We have a stake in Saudi Arabia, no question about that. We have no interest in doing things that makes it more difficult for them. But they too have to look at this in a larger picture. There's got to be a strategic approach taken to fighting terror. We have a military challenge right now. There is also a political challenge that's going to have to be faced as well. The Saudis have to look at this and engage in some soul searching. We're not the only ones who need to do a postmortem. They do as well.
GIBSON: Ambassador Dennis Ross. Ambassador, thanks a lot. It's good to see you again.
ROSS: You too.
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