Saudi Ambassador talks about Iraq and Iran in Chicago

I am John Laesch, the Democratic Candidate running against Dennis Hastert in Illinois' 14th District.  Yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend a speech by the Saudi Ambassador to America, Prince Turki al-Faisal, in Chicago.  The Chicago Council on Foreign Relations and the Economic Club hosted the luncheon on April 20, 2006; the visit follows an April 19th visit by Condi Rice.

The presentation seems to be part of a PR move by the Saudi's to improve their image and send a subtle message to President Bush.  

I was surprised at how candid Turki was with the mixed audience.  His message on Iraq and Iran was a positive one.  When answering a question about Iraq, Turki responded:

"Since America came uninvited, they should leave uninvited."
I want to begin this diary by thanking good friends and great Democrats, John and Cathy Hamilton, for inviting me to attend a rare event; a presentation by the Saudi Ambassador to America, Prince Turki al-Faisal.

The speech itself was laced with the words, peace, prosperity and tolerance.

The Chicago Tribune and other Chicago media groups reported on the event, but none captured the question and answer session.  While I was very impressed with Turki's candid answers, I am still wondering what the overall purpose for his visit was.  Perhaps people in the DailyKos community have some ideas.  For the most part, I was able to decipher three messages.

Message #1: The U.S. needs to leave Iraq
The first question from the audience was about Iran and Iraq. Turki did not shy away from reality; acknowledging that Iraq is in a very fragile place, but stopped short of calling it a civil war. He was quoted in the Chicago Tribune:

As for Iraq, the debate whether civil war has erupted misses the point, Turki said.  "What is happening is the breakdown of law and order," he said.  "It undermines the establishment of a central power that can deal with the needs of the Iraqi people."

In the Q & A session, he said that we need to address "the other weapons of mass destruction in the region." He had this to say about Iraq:

"Since America came un-invited, they should leave un-invited."

He went on to advocate for a plan very similar to my own.  Acknowledging that both the United States and the Iraqi government are sovereign nations, Turki feels that it is time for both countries to sit down and discuss a solution.  He did not advocate for an immediate withdrawal of troops and he did not justify "staying the course."

Message #2: The answer to Iran's growing nuclear capability is a regional disarmament.
Turki expressed deep concern by saying that even a nuclear accident would contaminate Saudi Arabia.  He expanded on the problem and I will lift text from the Chicago Tribune's article:

"The consequences of war in our region are going to be catastrophic," Prince Turki al-Faisal told the Tribune's editorial board. "Iran is not going to just sit back and accept being bombed.  They're going to strike back."

The best solution to a nuclear threat in the Middle East, he said, is for all nations-including Iran and Israel-to agree to nuclear disarmament.  "Our part of the world should be free from weapons of mass destruction, including nukes, and we feel there should be a ban on all weapons of mass destruction, including Israel and Iran," Turki said.

Message #3: Saudi Arabia is your friend - build more oil refineries.
This message could not have been delivered by a better diplomat.  Al Faisal's artful language allowed him to deliver a necessary message in a subtle manner.  He also implied that the U.S. needed to build more oil refineries to keep up with production.

"Your country has to find some other way of doing things to increase your refining capacity," he said.  "I think you should think of investing abroad."

This caught my attention because this is exactly what the Speaker of the House has been advocating for.  Read this Washington Post article. 

While I understand that there is little money in the refining side of the oil and gas business, I also think that we need to start investing in alternative energy.  It is our dependence on foreign oil that is making America less safe and by changing where and how America gets our energy, we can reduce our vulnerabilities.

What does the DailyKos community think?  Are there added insights to this P.R. tour by the Saudi Prince?

P.S. This follows a April 19th visit and speech by Condi Rice, hosted by the same organization in Chicago.  
This has also been cross-posted on IllinoisDemNet and DailyKos. Respectfully, John Laesch

Tags: Iran, Iraq, John Laesch, Oil, Saudi (all tags)

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