Following are excerpts from a conference with the participation of Prince Turki Al-Faisal, former head of Saudi intelligence and former ambassador to the US, which aired on Al-Arabiya TV on December 15, 2011:
Prince Turki Al-Faisal: There has always been foreign intervention in our affairs. Our region attracts others, whether because of its natural resources, or because it was the cradle of monotheistic religions, or for other reasons, such as the [international] shipping lines, caravan routes, and so on. All these pass through our region. This should be taken into consideration. We cannot change the geography, and therefore, even if we have problems or differences with our neighbors, they are here to stay.
Take Iran, for example, as a country that interferes in our affairs. In my view, we need to draw a distinction between Iran the country, the people, the entity, with its history and culture, and between the leadership in Iran, which wants to exploit all these things in the service of its political, geographical, or economic aspirations, or even in order to deal with domestic Iranian events. One of the things I always say with regard to our neighbors in Iran is that they are a paper tiger with steel claws.
Their domestic situation is unstable, and we saw what happened after the last election there, as well as the difference today between the president and the spiritual leader [Khamenei], and the monopoly that some have on decision-making…
TV host: Is this an attempt, on the part of Iran, to export a revolution or to export a crisis?
Prince Turki Al-Faisal: I think that it is both. There is no doubt that the regime is an ideological one, which operates in the service of its ideology, but it also wants to deflect attention from domestic affairs to foreign affairs. The steel claws possessed by Iran are evident in its interference in the affairs of various countries, including Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Bahrain, and Yemen, and even in more distant places.
Turkey has been described as having Ottoman aspirations. I think that Turkey too has interests that lead it to exert its influence, and to try to command authority, or at the very least, respect in the region. It is a large country in terms of its geography and demography, and it wants to achieve these interests. So we should not be surprised at the intervention of these [countries], but we do not need to be afraid or to be afraid or to consider this a critical danger to us. We in the Arab world have the resources and the capabilities to fend off these external dangers, if we know how to use them correctly.