Time to Go?

This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," June 18, 2004, that was edited for clarity.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Well, after the beheading of Paul Johnson (search) Friday, what are Americans working in Saudi Arabia actually thinking today? Let’s ask Neil Livingstone. Neil is the CEO of Global Options, who has a number of folks in Saudi Arabia (search).

Sir, good to have you.


CAVUTO: What do you think of just doing business there? Obviously, this murder does raise concerns, as do raids on American compounds over the last few weeks. Doing business there, what do you think?

LIVINGSTONE: Well, it is certainly going to make it tougher to do business in Saudi Arabia. It’s going to increase the cost to American contractors who are there and to other foreign contractors.

Mr. Johnson was living on the economy, which means he was living in a relatively ordinary neighborhood that had a lot of foreigners in it. And he was not living in a walled compound someplace.

He was not living behind barbed wire. He was not traveling in an armored vehicle, like we see in Iraq. I’m afraid what we’re going to see now is some smaller contractors leave Saudi Arabia because they can’t afford the security enhancements, and...

CAVUTO: But, by the way, security enhancements, security, period, doesn’t guarantee you are safe. I mean, we have seen a lot of guarded compounds hit in the past. By the way, not only in Saudi Arabia, but Sudan and Somalia. So I guess what I’m wondering, for American contractors or volunteers who might be hearing this news, are you afraid they’ll say no, not me?

LIVINGSTONE: Well, there are clearly going to be some employees who are going to opt out right now and say, the risk is too great, we thought Saudi Arabia was safe.

CAVUTO: Have you heard that? Have any of your people told you that?

LIVINGSTONE: Well, I have had some conversations. As a matter of fact, I had conversations with a major defense contractor the day before yesterday, when we were pretty sure what was going to happen to Mr. Johnson. And they have great nervousness amongst their employees over in that country right now.

CAVUTO: Have any of them left, Neil?

LIVINGSTONE: I can’t address that. I would expect that some of them probably will leave, others will want more money to stay. Others will want more security. There will be a tradeoff in a variety of different things in order to keep that infrastructure up and running in Saudi Arabia.

CAVUTO: Now, have you committed that, then, either more money or more security or both?

LIVINGSTONE: Well, I’ve got a detail going over there with a CEO coming up right now. He normally probably would not have taken security with him because he’d stay at a major hotel, fly into the airport. He wouldn’t be out alone on the town. But he’s going to take security now.

And I think a lot of companies probably are not even going to send their people in. They’re going to teleconference. They’re going to meet in Europe. They’re going to do things like that.

CAVUTO: Do you worry, though, Neil? And obviously you are trying to do your best to protect your people and continue to do business. But that others will feel this is a waste of time, that it’s risky, and that American financial interests in that neck of the woods will be compromised?

LIVINGSTONE: Well, look, the series of attacks we have had in Saudi Arabia recently, the killings of Americans, the seizure of a building in Khobar and so on, the death of Mr. Johnson, these are probably most effective attacks that Al Qaeda has carried out since 9/11. And this is a war on our economy and a war on the Saudi economy.

And if they can drive all the foreign expatriate technicians and others out of the country, they can’t pump the oil the way they are doing it today. They can’t keep the economy up and running. And so I think the Saudis are going to have to provide a greater level of security. They’re going to have to show that they are much more diligent in going after the folks, because they have been in denial for a long time.

CAVUTO: Yes. Well, a lot of people, agree with you. Neil, thank you very much. Neil Livingstone out in Washington. Appreciate it, sir.


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