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Saudi Minister: Daesh is a gang of criminals, psychopaths and perverts

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Saudi Minister: Daesh is a gang of criminals, psychopaths and perverts

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The atrocious war in Syria is dragging on, Turkey is teetering, there is war in Yemen and the Middle East is, again, in turmoil. To discuss the region, we’re now joined by Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, Adel al-Jubeir. Welcome to euronews

Adel al-Jubeir, Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia
“Thank you, thank you to be here.”

Olaf Bruns Euronews
Foreign Minister, the world was used to a very cautious Saudi foreign policy for decades. Now we see you taking a much bolder stance, with a direct intervention in Yemen, the clear positioning on Iran, Syria: the fight against the so-called Islamic State, also against Al-Quaida, president Bachar al-Assad. Is this the new Saudi Arabia, the world had better get used to?’

Adel al-Jubeir
“We saw a vacuum, and the vacuum had to be filled. We saw a lack of leadership, and there had to be leadership, and so we worked with our allies and we stepped into the vacuum in order to protect our interests.

“We had a militia, that’s radical, that’s allied with Iran and Hezbollah, taking over Yemen, and [was] in possession of ballistic missiles and an air force that became a direct threat to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries. Somebody had to do something about it, so we stepped in.

“In terms of Iran, we said enough is enough: Thirty-five years of agression by Iran towards the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its allies is enough, we will not tolerate this. With regards to Syria, our objective is to support the moderate opposition and bring about a change in the system there.”


Biography: Adel al-Jubeir

  • Adel al-Jubeir is the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia Since April 2015
  • He is the first Saudi Foreign Minister not belonging to the royal family
  • Educated in several countries, al-Jubeir is fluent in Arabic, English and German
  • In 2011, the he survived an assassination attempt, allegedly carried out by Iran’s Quds Force-backed agents

Euronews
When you say: a vacuum, do you intend that there is a weakness of US presence in the region?

Adel al-Jubeir
“Not necessarily: we have been watching the Houthis take over Yemen very, very slowly over the past seven, eight, nine years. Nobody was willing to confront it, so we had to. We had been watching the slaughter of the innocents in Syria for years and nobody was doing anything about it, so we had to do something.”

Euronews
An attempted coup in Turkey brought further instability to the region. How do you assess the role of Turkey, as a foreign policy player, in the aftermath of the coup?

Adel al-Jubeir
“The unfortunate incident, the attempted coup in Turkey – which failed – I don’t believe it will have a lasting impact on Turkey’s standing or Turkey’s well-being.”

Euronews
Still, in Western countries there’s growing concern that Turkey might go a very authoritarian way. US Secretary of State John Kerry even hinted, that NATO membership of Turkey might be in jeopardy. Do you fear this is weakening the fight against the so-called Islamic State?

Adel al-Jubeir
“I don’t believe so. Turkey is a democracy, the will of the Turkish people will be implemented. Turkey has to be allowed to take the steps necessary to insure its security. Nobody questioned the United States when it put thousands of people and put them in Guantanamo on Cuba. Nobody”

Euronews
You have said, several times, that you’re very confident that president Bachar al-Assad will end up leaving. How confident are you now, seeing the weakness of some regional players but also seeing the situation on the ground: Aleppo is on the verge of falling into the hands of the Syrian army.

Adel al-Jubeir
“At the end of the day, there will be a new Syria without Bachar al-Assad. It’s a question of timing: Will it be achieved through a political process that can bring it about faster and more smoothly? Or will it be done through a military process which will take longer and will cost more, in terms of death and destruction and in terms of blood and treasure?”

Euronews
Now, the political process seems stuck – so this might go the military way. Which way do you see more realistic?

Adel al-Jubeir
“We will support the moderate Syrian opposition militarily, as if there is no political process and we will support the political process as if there is no military process.”

Euronews
How far are you prepared to go in terms of military support?

Adel al-Jubeir
“We have a group of countries that are providing military support to the moderate opposition, we agree on which groups should receive support and when and how and we have always been urging to provide them with more robust equipment, so they can take on Bachar al-Assad.”

Euronews
Would Saudi Arabia send troops on the ground?

Adel al-Jubeir
“We are prepared to send special forces into Syria as part of the international coalition to fight Daesh.”

Euronews
When you speak about the so-called ‘Islamic State’, you rather use the Arabic acronym ‘Daesh’, I guess that’s no coincidence. What is Daesh to you? Is it Islamic? Is it a state?

Adel al-Jubeir
“It is neither Islamic, nor is it a state. It is a collection of criminals, psychopaths, perverts. This has nothing to do with Islam. Daesh, to Islam, is like the KKK (Klu Klux Klan) in America to Christianity: Nothing to do with it.

“Every religion has its outliers. Every religion has its fanatics. But they do not reflect the religion. And for Daesh to even think that it is part of a faith is outrageous.”

Euronews
If it’s a gang of psychopaths, how can they be able to run – not a country, but a … geographical area for such a long time, and be such a huge military problem?

Adel al-Jubeir
“There are many examples in history of psychopaths who have done unbelievable things: Adolf Hitler was a psychopath!”

Euronews
It is almost a year since the nuclear deal with Iran was signed, Saudi Arabia was very sceptical. Fast forward one year: How do you assess the situation now?

Adel al-Jubeir
“We said that any deal that prevents Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, that has robust and intrusive inspection mechanisms, and that has provisions for restoring sanctions, should Iran violate the terms, is one we would welcome.

“The concerns we had, and we still have, have to do with the funds, that Iran would have access to. What we see is continued Iranian engagement in hostile activities, in supporting Hezbollah in Lebanon, in Syria, in Iraq and in trying to supply weapons to the Houthis [in Yemen]. So I think the jury is still out on whether there is a change in Iran’s behaviour or not, but we don’t really see any.”

Euronews
If you had a grounded suspicion that Iran would not stick to the terms of the deal, would Saudi Arabia consider acquiring nuclear weapons?

Adel al-Jubeir
“Saudi Arabia will do whatever it takes to protect our people and our country. In terms of how we do it, or by which means we do it, this is not something we would be announcing. Certainly not on television.”

Euronews
“How are Saudi-Israeli relations developing in the aftermath of the nuclear deal?”

Adel al-Jubeir
“We have no relations with Israel.”

Euronews
No contacts, no back-channels?

Adel al-Jubeir
“No.”

Euronews
Saudi Arabia is often accused to be implicitly responsible for Islamic terrorism. The argumentation line goes: Saudi Arabia is financing mosques all over the world, training imams; these imams preach a conservative version of Islam, which then is – unwillingly – the breeding ground for terrorism. What’s your answer to this?

Adel al-Jubeir
“Why would we support an ideology who’s objective it is to kill us? We are the target of extremists. They want access to Mecca and Medina, and so we have sufferered in terms of terrorist attacks, we have suffered in terms of loss of security personnel trying to defend the innocent, we are on the forefront of fighting extremism and terrorism in the region, and in the world!

“And so for somebody to say the Saudis are funding extremism, or their ideology is funding extremism is preposterous! We are going after the men, the money and the mindset, that is behind this. We will not tolerate extremism. If you have a problem in a particular town in your country: shut down the [Islamic] centre! Don’t blame others! If it happens in your country it’s your fault!”

Euronews
Minister, thank you very much for this interview.

Adel al-Jubeir
“Thank you, very appreciated.”

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