Interview with His Majesty King Abdullah II

Saad Silawi
Al Arabiyya
03 August 2004
(Translated from Arabic)

Al Arabiyya: Your Majesty, fifteen months have elapsed since the launch of the American war in Iraq. There is now a new reality, in the aftermath of the fall of the Iraqi regime and its rejection before the fall, of the last chance of survival, represented by Sheikh Zayed initiative in Sharm El Sheikh. perhaps the Arab Summit's failure to avoid the war on Iraq has contributed as well, but this is now history. Today, there is a new interim Iraqi government. What is required of the Arab states towards Iraq, and how will Jordan's relations be with Iraq?

King Abdullah: We congratulate the Iraqi people on this achievement and wish the Iraqi Government conciliation and success in restoring security, stability and rebuilding of the state's institutions, as well as resituating Iraq back to its natural status and main role in the region.

What is required now from Arab and neighbouring countries, is to provide all support and assistance to the Iraqi government, to enable it enforce security and stability, and enhance the subsequent withdrawal of coalition forces of Iraqi territory. Without security control, the justification will remain for the continued presence of such forces.

In Jordan, we have from the early days sent a field hospital to help the Iraqi people. We have also initiated training of batches of Iraqi police and army personnel. Jordan also provided the Iraqi army with some weaponry and military equipment, including more than 150 armoured vehicles. We remain posed to provide assistance in all fields that our Iraqi brethren may need.

Al Arabiyya: Therefore, Your Majesty has spoken about the assistance you rendered to Iraq.. there were talks previously about sending Jordanian forces, then Jordan withdrew from that.. If the USA asked you to send Jordanian forces to Iraq.. will you agree to this, especially since there is an initial agreement to send Arab and Islamic forces (Al Jazeera Shield) during the tour Iyad Allawi, Iraqi Prime Minister made?

King Abdullah: I have said from the beginning, that we are not the right party, nor the one that should undertake this role. As we stated before, we do not want to replace an Israeli tank in Palestine with a Jordanian one, here too.

We do not want to replace an American tank in Iraq with a Jordanian one. Therefore, we wish our friends and brethren would understand our position. But if the Iraqi brethren were to ask for the participation of an Arab force on their land, we would there and then look into this matter, and do what is appropriate.

Al Arabiyya: The matter then, is conditional upon a request from the Iraqis, But Your Majesty, the opposition in Jordan and Iraq, are taking it against Jordan, its support for the new government due to its being considered a tool, or an appointed government by the US occupying forces, I mean Iyad Allawi's government. Some people are talking about a gap between the official and popular positions especially in regards to the new Iraq?

King Abdullah: We support this government because it represents an important phase on the path of Iraq's return to its normal status, and the subsequent termination of the need for government, and assisting it to achieve security and stability, the coalition forces will remain in Iraq. Therefore, the best way to accelerate their departure is to provide support for this government.

As for big and unrealistic slogans, they in fact do not serve the Iraqi people, and do not provide help to terminate the occupation. Such a trend, if not a mere exploitation process, is simply an attempt to attract false popularity.

Al Arabiyya: The Palestinian pivot. One cannot but sigh when the Palestinian cause is discussed. Where have we been and where have we become in the past years. Anyway, I will slip down in the question, in line with the present slipping down in the Palestinian cause. In light of Sharon's plan, how do you see the reality of the Palestinian cause, and what is Your Majesty's views regarding Sharon's plan to withdraw from Gaza?

King Abdullah: Jordan's position is clear and declared. It is based upon the Road map, and the commitment of the Israeli and Palestinian sides towards the execution of its provisions on the ground. This path is the right path to reach a final and lasting settlement. We have always affirmed that withdrawal from Gaza, must and should be within the frame of the Road map and not instead of it.

Al Arabiyya: Your Majesty, Israel and the USA say that the Palestinian President, Yasser Arafat, is not the relevant partner, and that he is an obstacle in the path of peace. In one of the interviews with Your Majesty in one of the media channels, Your Majesty was quoted to have said, that you invited Abu Ammar to consider stepping down, or resigning?

King Abdullah: The Palestinian people is the only party that can choose its own leadership or change it. We have always been and will remain respectful and supportive of any choice or decision taken by the Palestinian people.

It is said, the people of Mecca best know its alleys. I have said however that the Palestinian leadership is invited now, more than at any time before, to seize the opportunity to achieve peace, through the roadmap, and the World's support of this Map. Subsequently this demands that the Palestinian leadership should conduct a comprehensive and bold revision to many of the facts on the Palestinian arena, and correct some of the mistakes which the world take as justifications for blaming the Palestinian side.

The World today, talks of several Palestinian sides, several apparatuses, lack of institutionalisation, and uses these facts, as justifications and reasons to blame the Palestinian side. What is needed from the Palestinian Leadership in this phase, is to take the decisions that will persuade the world, that it can work with this leadership, as one that beholds a clear vision, with one institutionalised referral, that the whole world can deal with as a real partner, for achieving the final settlement, on the bases of land for peace.

Al Arabiyya: Yes, land for peace, but what about the human beings, the people, the refugees? Your Majesty, President Arafat is quoted to say in the last press statement, that he has given up on the right of return. What is the Jordanian position in this regard?

King Abdullah: Jordan, as everybody knows, has hosted the largest number of refugees. It is Jordan's right to have a role and a say, when this subject is discussed. We don not forego this right, and UN resolution 194 has stated the right of refugees to return and to be compensated.

Also the roadmap states that discussing the refugees issue, will be in the final stage. I cannot see the wisdom of broaching this subject now, and in this way.

Al Arabiyya: Frankly, Your Majesty, it is being said at times, that you in Jordan interfere in the Palestinian affairs, and that you have hopes to return to the West Bank. What is your comment in this regard?

King Abdullah: Jordan and its leadership has been subjected, since the reign of the grandfather and founder King Abdullah I, and in the reign of His Late Majesty King Hussein, God rest his soul, to an unfair campaign of accusations, and scepticism of the Jordanian role towards the Palestinian cause. If Jordan tried to speak about this cause, or attempted to offer assistance, Jordan is said to interfere in Palestinian affairs, or that it has avid interest in the West bank. Now if Jordan were not to do that, it is said that it is giving up providing assistance to its Palestinian brethren. I would like to remind here of the Rabat Summit decision, that stated that the Palestinian Liberation Organisation is the only legitimate representative for the Palestinian people, has come about on such a background of doubts and unfair accusations. We have accepted this resolution, then came the disengagement resolution, and we turned a new page.

Therefore, I am not prepared to undertake any work or role that would put Jordan back in the cycle of accusations of doubts, or treason, as was the case in the past. Jordan's role in this subject now is like that of any other Arab country. Personally, my foremost concern and duty as a leader of my people, is to achieve the aspirations of this people, to promote Jordan, Achieve comprehensive development and decent for every Jordanian.

I don't have the desire, time, nor inclination to quarrel or to be accused. In all circumstances, we are ready to provide all the support and assistance to our Palestinian brethren, if they were to ask us for it. Otherwise, Jordan is First, and the focus on our national issues is more important to me than any other issue.

Al Arabiyya: Your Majesty there is a Palestinian reproach on the Arab world. Palestinians complain that they are left alone face Israel and the world?

King Abdullah: First the Palestinian people must tell us how they want us to help them and with what. At the beginning, the talk was about the return of 98 per cent of the occupied Palestinian territory, then it changed to a talk of less than 50 per cent of these territories. We do not know in a year or two years, what percentage the talk will be about. As for the refugees issue, talk was on their return and compensation, however we find now that the talk is concerning the return of a small percentage of them.

We wish the Palestinian leadership would determine for us clearly, what it wants, and not to surprise us every now and then with decisions and acceptance of issues it had rejected in the past. It is regretful to see that what was rejected previously, and what the acceptance of which was considered treason in the past, has regrettably become for some, a requirement and great achievement.

Al Arabiyya: Iraq has been transformed into a war zone, with events in Saudi Arabia, beheading with swords. Your Majesty, there is a ferocious assault on Islam in the world, and linking Islam with terrorism...

King Abdullah: The problem is that there some who judge Islam through the practices of terrorism groups that speak in the name of Islam, but Islam is blameless.

The truth is that no rational human being can accept the logic of these terrorists, when they slaughter a defenceless, unarmed, and innocent human being with a knife, shouting "Allah Akbar.” Why do we throw the faults of such heinous crimes on Almighty God? I know that Islam defined to the Muslim soldier how to deal with his enemies. Even an enemy soldier, when captured or if unarmed and cannot defend himself, it is not permissible to kill him or to treat him badly. These explosions that kill tens of innocent Muslim children and women, under the pretext of resistance, and that if the dead were Muslims, will go to paradise. What logic and what religion is this? God Almighty has created a brain for human being, that is responsible for all his deeds, whether good or evil, and according to such deeds will be admitted to heaven or hell. But for a human being to commit horrendous crimes, and to blame its results on Almighty God, this is another crime against religion, and all humanistic values.

Our duty as Muslims is to present to the world the true image of Islam, in terms of its being a religion of tolerance and openness, one that rejects all forms of terrorism, violence, and aggression. It is also our duty to cooperate amongst ourselves and with others, to put an end to these terrorists, to foil their criminal plans, plotted to distort the image of Islam.

Al Arabiyya: Yes, Your Majesty…Guantenamo and Abu Ghraib, and what is happing in the West Bank. Some say that the occupation forces are killing Arabs and Muslims, and torturing them in jails, etc. Your Majesty, they say it is their right to bring double retaliation …

King Abdullah: First, we must assert that killing an innocent person, or an unarmed person, is a criminal act, and totally rejected, regardless of the identity, or religion of the killer and or that of the victim. When a small group of Muslims slaughters a hostage, or makes an explosion that harms many innocent victims, the West must know that this group doesn't represent Islam or Muslims. When some coalition soldiers kill some innocent people, or torture some prisoners, that group does not as well represent the nation, religion or civilisation that these soldiers belong to.

Al Arabiyya: Yes, there were investigation committees in the USA concerning human rights violations in Abu Gharib. But Your Majesty, some media outlets discuss this subject, as if it is a conflict between the East and the West, a "conflict of civilisations."

King Abdullah: What is required of the media, is to stop discussing this subject in this format. The media's moral and professional duty is to reveal facts, with objectivity, and to refrain from exaggeration, to build bridges of interaction and understanding amongst people, rather than deepening such a gap, and inciting hatred amongst them.

Al Arabiyya: The question of reform has been on the Arab summit in Tunis's agenda, which Your Majesty participated in, and which took decisions. You also participated in this summit. What does Your Majesty say in this regard?

King Abdullah: When the others (the strong) meet to discuss issues concerned with our region, and take decisions that concern our people, it is our duty to be present, and to participate in these decisions that affect us. Because if we were not there, others may decide on our behalf. Therefore, we have to be present in all gatherings that discuss any subject that has any connection with our region, and the future of our peoples. Our presence is for us to present our points of view, and defend our interests.