This week, I had the chance to personally meet with prince Turki Al Faisal of Saudi Arabia. In this article, I will cover my experience and share some insight from his visit. Prince Turki came to speak at the Orange County World Affairs Council in California.
The kingdom was founded in 1932, following the House of Saud’s family rise to power. Since 1938, it has become the largest oil producer in the world. It’s GDP is in the top 20 on earth. It is an OPEC member, and these members account for 40% of global oil production, and 81% of global crude oil reserves. It plays a key role in securing peace and stability in the conflict ridden middle east, and holds an 81.8 billion dollar defense budget. It has the third largest force of F-15 fighters in the world.
Prince Turki-Al Faisal is the chairman of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies. He was appointed ambassador to the court of Saint James in London and to Ireland from January of 2003 until 2005. In the same year, he took the position of Saudi Ambassador to the United States until 2007. Prince Turki acts as the co-chair of the C100 Group which has been affiliated with the World Economic Forum since 2003. He is the deputy chairman of Saudi General Authority for Civil Aviation (GACA) and was elected as the first Vice President of the regional bureau of Asia-Pacific within airports council international.
Prince Turki began his short lecture by providing his perspective on the political and economic climate in the middle east. He went on to speak on the P5+1 talks, and expressed worry for the potential nuclear threat of Iran within 15 years. He was pressed by a questioner when asked something along the lines of why worry about a nuclear Iran in 15 years if North Korea may already have it. Prince Turki agreed that North Korea poses a threat, but that does not lessen the challenge of its neighbor Iran. The prince alluded to the fact that allowing Iran enrichment capabilities means other nations should seek it as well. The prince openly condemned nuclear proliferation.
He touched on Saudi Arabia’s “Vision 2030” which is a project to improve economic diversity in the nation and promote itself on the world economic stage. Many university students who received the Saudi “kings scholarship” were present, and were recognized at the event. The closing remarks had to do with promoting future generations and the youth of Saudi Arabia. Speaking at the Pelican Resort in Newport Beach, the Prince finished by saying Orange County was the closest thing to “heaven” in a lighthearted fashion. This was a nice addition to the very heavy topics discussed at the event.
After listening to the speech, I realized that a vacuum in the middle east truly does exist. Nations like Saudi Arabia are asking for legitimate long term solutions to the rise of groups such as ISIS (or “Daesh”as the prince refers to them), Al-Qaeda and others.
After the speech, I met with some of the Saudi students who had received the “kings scholarship” and were studying at universities throughout the state. Most of the students I spoke with, were economics, or political science majors. I found that many of them had strong interests in foreign policy. I was told that the prince had great insight into foreign affairs and it was an awesome experience for them to meet him.
In conclusion, my time with Prince Turki Al Faisal was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I gained insight from the Saudi perspective on conflict situations in Syria. I realize that even for leaders like Prince Turki, the challenge of finding peace remains distant. One question that stood out to me, asked when the conflict could be solved and when peace/unity would come. The prince’s response was quite profound, as he stated that it is his dream that peace would come to the middle east. These words alone show the challenge of a region that is plagued by war, sectionalism and infighting.
I am very thankful to all of those who made this opportunity possible. I can confidently say that my understanding of Saudi Arabian foreign policy has expanded, and I have gained insight into the complex and challenging situations happening in the middle east.
Thank you again,