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BorderWatch:Saudi Arabia
Analysis
When the Saudi FM Becomes "Unintelligible"
State Dept Can't Hear When Faisal Describes Iraq as Foreign Occupation
By CHRISTINA DAVIDSON 08/01/2007 5:25 PM ET
Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal listens to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice prior a joint press conference with US Defence Secretary Robert Gates (not seen) in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah, 01 August 2007.
Hassan Amar/AFP/Getty
Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal listens to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice prior a joint press conference with US Defence Secretary Robert Gates (not seen) in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah, 01 August 2007.

"This is a relationship that allows us to discuss the most difficult and most sensitive issues in a way that is respectful and friendly," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the media gathered at a joint press conference with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Saudi foreign minister Saud al-Faisal on Tuesday.

But the Secretary must not have found some of the foreign minister's comments to the press very respectful or friendly, since they were labeled "unintelligible" in a State Department transcript of the event.

According to the State Department, al-Faisal said in his opening statement:

The Kingdom is keen on achieving peace in Iraq and maintaining its unity and stability. However, the success of these efforts are tied to achieving social stability, equality, and representation for all of Iraq’s people and all of the ethnic and religious groups there. Iraq bears a responsibility to (unintelligible).

So what does Iraq bear a great responsibility to do?

Reuters reports al-Faisal as saying: "The Iraqi government has a great responsibility ... to stop foreign interference."

It's as if US diplomats have a self-enforced collective deafness to the common Arab opinion that the presence of American troops in Iraq equals unwanted foreign occupation.

VOI's account of the press conference includes more of the foreign minister's statement, which, if accurate, calls into question the reliability of more than just the State Department transcriber's hearing.

"The Kingdom is keen on the continued support for regional and international efforts to achieve security and stability in Iraq, within the framework of its sovereignty, independence and unity of its territories,” al-Faisal told today's news conference.

However the Saudi Minister set as conditions for success of these efforts, “establishing social justice and national unity among all Iraqis from all sects, races, religions and political affiliations, a matter which burdens Iraqi government with great historical responsibilities, in order for these aims be achieved away from outside interventions.”

Secretary Rice characterized the US-Saudi relationship as one of long history and deep friendship, where "If there are problems that the United States has with Saudi policy, we talk about it. If there are problems that Saudi Arabia has with American policy, we talk about it." But it's hard to imagine the conversations on Iraq go far if the US can't even acknowledge the opposing viewpoint on the ongoing presence of American troops.

The fudging of the transcript represents the US tendency to re-cast all foreign opinion with a broad brush of all-American good intention--to co-opt that which almost aligns with US policy, glaringly highlight commonalities with necessary allies while ignoring any evidence to the contrary, and branding anything that gets out of line as "unintelligible," or when it's really serious "evil."

Lest anyone argue the Saudi foreign minister didn't speak clearly when discussing Iraqi responsibilities, it would be most telling to point out the two other instances when, according to the State Department, he apparently mumbled during the press conference.

When discussing "international efforts" to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, Faisal said:

Israel must prove its seriousness in dealing with these efforts by taking concrete steps away from political maneuvering and has to work effectively away from (unintelligible)

And regarding US-Saudi talks on Lebanon:

We have also discussed the Lebanese issue and the situation of tension, especially (unintelligible).

The Saudi foreign minister may wish to seek help for his apparent speech impediment before negotiating with American diplomats again.

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