News - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Prince Turki on Saudi Arabia's Role after Arab Awakening

  • Ramiro Gonzalez Lorca
| April 29, 2013

In a speech for the Belfer Center’s Middle East Initiative, Prince Turki al Faisal laid out Saudi Arabia’s two–pronged security strategy as the Gulf kingdom contends with the fallout from the 2011 Arab uprisings and fast-changing global energy trends. Prince Turki, who directed the Saudi intelligence service for more than two decades and served as ambassador to the United Kingdom and Ireland, and then to the United States, said Saudi foreign policy doctrine is based on two themes: external security and energy security.

As the prince described the Saudi view of key regional actors, Iran stood out as a recurring theme. Prince Turki stated that his government has two concerns regarding the Iranian leadership: the potential development of a nuclear weapon, and meddling in other nations’ internal affairs— particularly those with significant Shi’ite populations. “Economic sanctions will not deter Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons. Unilateral or bilateral military action will bring devastating consequences to the area," the prince said. Only a region free of nuclear weapons, incentivized by economic and technical support for cooperative nations, and a nuclear umbrella, guaranteed by permanent members of the Security Council, “would be the best means to get Iran and Israel to give up nuclear weapons.”

Prince Turki’s comments on Iraq, Lebanon, and Bahrain all cited evidence of Iranian intervention, such as the funding of Hezbollah in Lebanon, or the presence of an Iranian general in Baghdad during negotiations for the Iraqi government’s formation. “Saudi Arabia will oppose any and all of their actions in other countries,” Prince Turki said. "It is Saudi Arabia’s position that they have no right to meddle in other nations’ internal affairs.”

Nonetheless, he said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains the most important external security issue for the Kingdom. “Israel’s unwillingness to cease its unlawful colonization and continual refusal to grant Palestinians their own homeland is the core reason that this conflict continues,” Prince Turki said. The prince restated his government’s continued moral and financial support of the Palestinian Authority and cast the Arab League’s  proposed two-state solution— based on the 1967 borders—as the only viable one.

Energy security, the second pillar of Riyadh’s national security strategy, is based on the nation’s pivotal role in the global energy market as holder of the world’s largest proven oil reserves. According to the prince, Saudi Arabia’s production capacity—nearly 2.5 million barrels per day—could instantly replace all oil exports from Iraq, OPEC’s second largest power. He said the Kingdom remains committed to coordinated production and pricing policies as a means to assure a decade of energy market stability. “But what people want and desire is changing in this new century, and that is why Saudi Arabia is constantly re-conceptualizing its energy production policy,” said Prince Turki. He said Saudi Arabia is increasingly turning to alternative energy sources including solar and wind power to meet its domestic energy needs. “No country can or should power itself from one form of energy,” said Prince Turki. “It is strategically, economically, politically, socially and environmentally irresponsible.”

As his country moves into what he termed a “post-Arab troubles world,” Prince Turki called for openness all around, including within the Kingdom itself.

The full text as prepared for delivery is attached (pdf).

For more information on this publication: Please contact the Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Gonzalez Lorca, Ramiro. “Prince Turki on Saudi Arabia's Role after Arab Awakening.” News, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, April 29, 2013.

The Author