LOS ANGELES (Feb. 24)
Arab leaders who sided with Iraq will go under with Saddam Hussein, according to Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States.
Taking off his diplomatic gloves, Prince Bandar ibn Sultan described Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat as a “clown,” King Hussein of Jordan as a “goner” and Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh as “an illiterate man.”
Signaling a radical change in Saudi Arabia’s longtime policy of building an Arab consensus, the diplomat said that all of Saddam Hussein’s supporters would share in his defeat or be stripped of all influence in the Middle East.
The one exception, Bandar said in a luncheon interview with the Washington bureau of the Los Angeles Times, was the Palestinian people. They, though not their leaders, would be forgiven, because “they are not against me,” the prince said.
He excused their support of Iraq by saying, “they are just frustrated, and they want anything to happen that could move something.” He added that he was convinced the Palestinians are “sobering up.”
Bandar also announced that his government will shortly publish details of its aid program to other Arab nations, revealing that pro-Iraqi leaders received, and apparently embezzled, millions of dollars before the outbreak of the Persian Gulf war.
The Saudi ambassador has played a key role in strategy meetings of the U.S.-led coalition since Iraq invaded Kuwait. He is well connected within the Saudi power structure as son of the defense minister, brother of the overall Saudi military commander and brother-in-law of the foreign minister.
KING HUSSEIN ‘SOLD US OUT’
He ridiculed in equal measure Arab leaders who failed to join the fight against Hussein and those American analysts who have predicted that Saddam Hussein will emerge as a hero whether he wins or loses the war.
“Arabists in the United States sell the Arabs short,” the prince said. “They think either we don’t have any brains or they think of us in a romantic sense — white robes, white horses.”
Reserving some of his bitterest scorn for King Hussein, Bandar predicted the end of the Jordanian monarch as a serious Arab leader.
“He earned our disrespect, and he earned Saddam Hussein’s contempt,” Bandar said. “He was our friend for 40 years, and he sold us out, just like this.
“He cheered Saddam Hussein for five months,” the prince said. “In fact, (King) Hussein was more eloquent that Saddam in expressing his cause. And when the chips were down and we were hammering Saddam like hell, Hussein of Jordan said, ‘But I’m neutral.'”
Bandar described most of Iraq’s supporters in the Arab world as impoverished nations with rich and corrupt leaders. In publishing an account of its foreign aid program, the Saudi government will show the citizens of the recipient countries that they were made poor in part by their leaders, the Saudi envoy said.