Almost two months into the Saudi-led military invasion in Yemen, the German weekly Der Spiegel published a revealing interview with Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud, a member of Saudi Arabia’s royal family.
Prince Turki is the youngest son of the late King Faisal, who ruled Saudi Arabia from 1964 to 1975, and the brother of the former Saudi Foreign Minister, Saud al Faisal. Now aged 70, Prince Turki served as director general of Al Mukhabarat Al A’amah, Saudi Arabia’s intelligence agency, from 1977 to 2001, and was later appointed ambassador to Britain and the United States.
In this interview, Prince Turki discusses Saudi Arabia’s role in Yemen, its aggressive stance toward Iran, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and the human rights situation in the Saudi Kingdom. The following is an excerpt from the interview.
SPIEGEL: At 30, Prince Mohammed bin Salman who, as defense minister, led the campaign in Yemen, is a very young man indeed.
Prince Turki: We are led by King Salman. He is the one who is directing — not only the military operation in Yemen but all important issues of internal and external affairs. King Salman became governor of Riyadh at the age of 18. King Abdulaziz began his campaign to unify the Kingdom at the age of 18. People here are evaluated by performance, not by age.
SPIEGEL: In the 1960s you saw the Egyptians fail in Yemen, in the 1980s the Soviets failed in Afghanistan and the Americans later in Iraq. Why are you optimistic about the ultimate success of the enterprise in Yemen?
Prince Turki: Others went to Yemen with the intent to conquer it. In fact, this started with the Romans. Our aim today is to restore what was stripped from Yemen by the actions of the Houthis and former President Ali Abdallah Saleh. The operation had the support of the United Nations Security Council, of the Arab League, of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the people of Yemen.
SPIEGEL: Days ago, Yemen’s exile government asked the UN to deploy ground forces. In your opinion, which results have to be achieved and when in order for you to call the Yemen operation a success?
Prince Turki: I don’t think that there is a time limit here. Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, the legitimate president of Yemen, asked for international support. The coalition of the GCC states plus Egypt, plus Jordan and other states, has the aim of making all political groups in Yemen — including the Houthis — join a political settlement. This campaign never had a military aim, it is a political enterprise.
SPIEGEL: The Kingdom has officially ended the military phase of its campaign. However, air attacks are continuing. The Houthis still control wide parts of Yemen and the humanitarian situation is deteriorating. What have these air strikes achieved?
Prince Turki: I don’t know where you get your information. If you follow the statements of the coalition spokesman, you will know that the Houthis have been pushed back in Aden, Taiz, Hodeida and other locations.
SPIEGEL: And what is to follow now?
Prince Turki: The UN Security Council has condemned the Houthis. Saudi Arabia and its allies continue to support President Hadi’s call for the national dialogue, which includes all Yemeni parties, among them the Houthis, to resume. The Houthis will have to return all the weapons that they stole from the Yemeni army, evacuate all the cities that they captured by force, and release all the prisoners that they took, before they are allowed to join the dialogue.
Click here for the full interview.