Full transcript of Saudi crown prince CBS interview

 Full transcript of Saudi crown prince CBS interview
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaks with correspondent Norah O'Donnell during an interview on Tuesday with the CBS program "60 Minutes," in Saudi Arabia. (60MINUTES/Handout via Reuters)
Updated 30 September 2019

Full transcript of Saudi crown prince CBS interview

 Full transcript of Saudi crown prince CBS interview
  • The wide-ranging interview was conducted with Norah O’Donnell, the anchor of CBS Evening News
  • The crown prince discussed the Jamal Khashoggi case, the war in Yemen and the global threat from Iran

Norah O'Donnell: Did you order the murder of Jamal Khashoggi?

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman: Absolutely not. This was a heinous crime. But I take full responsibility as a leader in Saudi Arabia, especially since it was committed by individuals working for the Saudi government.

Norah O'Donnell: What does that mean that you take responsibility?

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman: When a crime is committed against a Saudi citizen by officials, working for the Saudi government, as a leader I must take responsibility. This was a mistake. And I must take all actions to avoid such a thing in the future.

Norah O'Donnell: The world wants the answer to this question. How did you not know about this operation?

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman: Some think that I should know what three million people working for the Saudi government do daily? It's impossible that the three million would send their daily reports to the leader or the second highest person in the Saudi government.

Norah O'Donnell: Two of your closest advisors who are accused of orchestrating this plot were fired by the king, removed from your inner circle. The question is, how could you not know if this was carried out by people who are close to you?

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman: Today the investigations are being carried out. And once charges are proven against someone, regardless of their rank, it will be taken to court, no exception made.

Norah O'Donnell: I've read what the Saudi prosecutor has said about those that are charged in this murder. And it's gruesome, the details. When you heard that people close to you and in your government carried out such a grisly murder, and that the American government thinks that you ordered it, what did you think?

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman: I believe what you mentioned is not correct. There isn't an official statement announced by the American government in this regard. There isn't clear information or evidence that someone close to me did something to that effect. There are charges and they're being investigated. But again you cannot imagine the pain that we suffered, especially as the Saudi government, from a crime such as this one.

Norah O'Donnell: The CIA has concluded with medium to high confidence that you personally targeted Khashoggi and you probably ordered his death.

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman: I hope this information to be brought forward. If there is any such information that charges me, I hope it is brought forward publicly.

Norah O'Donnell: What kind of threat is a newspaper columnist to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that he would deserve to be brutally murdered?

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman: There is no threat from any journalist. The threat to Saudi Arabia is from such actions against a Saudi journalist. This heinous crime, that took place in a Saudi consulate.

Norah O'Donnell: I spoke with a prominent U.S. senator before I came here. And he said because of what happened with Jamal Khashoggi and what's happened in Yemen that in his words there's not a lot of good will around here in Congress for Saudi Arabia. How much has it hurt the relationship?

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman: The relationship is much larger than that and this is a heinous incident and painful to all of us. Our role is to work day and night to overcome this and to make sure our future is much better than anything that happened in the past.



Norah O'Donnell: This attack hit the heart of Saudi Arabia's oil industry. Were you blindsided?

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman: I might disagree with you. This attack didn't hit the heart of the Saudi energy industry, but rather the heart of the global energy industry. It disrupted 5.5% of the world's energy needs, the needs of the U.S. and China and the whole world.

Norah O'Donnell: The kingdom is the world's number one importer of arms, of military equipment; billions of dollars spent on equipment. How could it not prevent an attack like this?

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman: Saudi Arabia is almost the size of a continent, it is bigger than all of Western Europe. We have 360 degrees of threats. It's challenging to cover all of this fully.

Norah O'Donnell: What do you think was the strategic reason that Iran struck Aramco?

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman: I believe it's stupidity. There is no strategic goal. Only a fool would attack 5% of global supplies. The only strategic goal is to prove that they are stupid and that is what they did.

Norah O'Donnell: Secretary Mike Pompeo has called what Iran did in his words, "an act of war." Was it an act of war?

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman: Of course. Yes.

Norah O'Donnell: What kind of effect would a war between Saudi Arabia and Iran have on the region?

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman: The region represents about 30% of the world's energy supplies, about 20% of global trade passages, about 4% of the world GDP. Imagine all of these three things stop. This means a total collapse of the global economy, and not just Saudi Arabia or the Middle East countries.

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman: If the world does not take a strong and firm action to deter Iran, we will see further escalations that will threaten world interests. Oil supplies will be disrupted and oil prices will jump to unimaginably high numbers that we haven't seen in our lifetimes.

Norah O'Donnell: Does it have to be a military response?

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman: I hope not.

Norah O'Donnell: Why not?

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman: Because the political and peaceful solution is much better than the military one.

Norah O'Donnell: Do you think that President Trump should sit down with President Rouhani and craft a new deal?

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman: Absolutely. This is what President Trump is asking for, this is what we all ask for. However, it is the Iranians who don't want to sit at the table.

Norah O'Donnell: It is called the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. What's the solution?

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman: First, if Iran stops its support of the Houthi militia, the political solution will be much easier. Today we open all initiatives for a political solution in Yemen. We hope this happens today rather than tomorrow.

Norah O'Donnell: You're saying tonight that you want to negotiate an end to the war in Yemen?

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman: We are doing this every day. But we try to turn this discussion into an actual implementation on the ground, and the Houthis a few days ago announced a ceasefire, from their side, we consider it a positive step to push for more serious and active political dialogue.

Norah O'Donnell: Why, after five years, are you optimistic tonight that a ceasefire could hold, that could lead to an end to the war in Yemen?

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman: As a leader, I must always be optimistic every day. If I'm a pessimist, I should leave my post and work somewhere else.

Norah O'Donnell: There are about a dozen female activists that have been detained for more than a year. Why were they put in jail?

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman: Saudi Arabia is a country governed by laws. Some of these laws I might disagree with personally, but as long as they are now existing laws, they must be respected, until they are reformed.

Norah O'Donnell: Is it time to let her (female activist Loujain Al-Hathloul) go?



Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman: This decision is not up to me. It's up to the public prosecutor, and it's an independent public prosecutor.

Norah O'Donnell: Her family says that she has been tortured in prison. Is that right?

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman: If this is correct, it is very heinous. Islam forbids torture. The Saudi laws forbid torture. Human conscience forbids torture. And I will personally follow up on this matter.

Norah O'Donnell: You will personally follow up on it?

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman: Without a doubt.

Norah O'Donnell: Publicly you have pledged to change Saudi Arabia, to transform the economy, to talk about a moderate Islam, to allow women to have more rights. Yet there is a crackdown and a jailing of women who raise issues about things that need to change in Saudi Arabia. That is the perception, that you do not support women's rights and human rights and that these are concrete examples of women who have been jailed.

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman: This perception pains me. It pains me when some people look at the picture from a very narrow angle. I hope that everybody comes to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and sees the reality, and meets women and Saudi citizens, and judges for themselves.

Norah O'Donnell: What lessons have you learned? And have you made mistakes?

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman: Even prophets made mistakes. So how come we, as humans, expect not to make mistakes? The important thing is that we learn from these mistakes and not repeat them.

New podcast for Middle East talks diversity, inclusion

New podcast for Middle East talks diversity, inclusion
Updated 08 March 2021

New podcast for Middle East talks diversity, inclusion

New podcast for Middle East talks diversity, inclusion
  • Special production made to celebrate International Women’s Day

DUBAI: Engineering consultant WSP Middle East, The Red Sea Development Co. (TRSDC), and international law firm Pinsent Masons have joined forces to launch a new podcast episode to celebrate International Women’s Day.

Titled, “Diversity wins, but gaps persist: How can we close the inclusion divide?” the production explores diversity and how organizations in the Middle East and globally can tackle the inclusion divide.

The special-edition podcast is hosted by Gurminder Sagoo, client director for WSP Middle East, in conversation with Ashwaq Al-Babtain, TRSDC project manager, and Gurmeet Kaur, partner at Pinsent Masons Middle East.

Sagoo told Arab News: “In our quest to ensure that equality makes its way into our workplaces, it’s important for us to celebrate diversity and the benefits it can bring.

“If organizations choose to challenge the status quo they can benefit from diverse teams but most importantly individuals can thrive within cultures that champion inclusivity.”

The International Women’s Day special aims to provoke ideas to overcome stigmas and create a broader, more diverse, and aware working environment, the end goal being to find solutions that potentially narrow the gaps currently preventing living and working environments from being inclusive by nature.

“Organizations with more diverse workforces do better because it means there will be a variety of perspectives and it helps us make better decisions and offer innovation and more insightful solutions for our clients,” said Kaur.

“Encouraging discussions such as this will hopefully help to close the diversity gap and facilitate a move toward organizational cultures where managers and leaders advocate for diversity.”

The episode is part of WSP Middle East’s podcast series “Anticipate,” which features conversations with thought leaders from the engineering and construction industry on future trends, hot topics, challenges, and solutions.

Netflix pledges $5 million to support female storytellers

Netflix pledges $5 million to support female storytellers
Updated 08 March 2021

Netflix pledges $5 million to support female storytellers

Netflix pledges $5 million to support female storytellers

DUBAI: On International Women’s Day, Netflix is investing in the next generation of storytellers by pledging $5 million globally toward programs that help identify, train and provide work placements for female talent around the world.

The investment is part of Netflix’s Fund for Creative Equity, which was announced last week. The fund will see the company investing $20 million a year for the next five years in building more inclusive pipelines behind the camera.

It is aimed at increasing the equality of women on and off-screen. Through partnerships with local third parties and custom programs, Netflix will support a range of initiatives, from workshops to train aspiring female writers and producers on how best to pitch their creative vision, to shadowing opportunities on productions that enable women to gain first-hand experience.

“As an Indian woman growing up in the US, I didn’t see anyone on screen that looked like me until Parminder Nagra joined 'ER' in 2003. But when I started reading scripts as a young TV executive, I didn’t let that precedent get in my way,” Bela Bajaria, head of global TV, Netflix, wrote in a blog post.

“Years later I would finally make that dream a reality with Mindy Kaling in “The Mindy Project,” and in doing so I suspect millions of Indian girls got to see someone like themselves on screen for the first time.”

The streaming giant is pioneering women through productions such as Korean comedian Park Na-rae’s stand-up special “Glamour Warning,” which is the first Korean female stand-up special, and Marvel’s “Silver & Black,” directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood; making her the first black woman to direct a superhero movie.

Netflix’s initiative will expand to the Arab world, too. This year, it will launch the first Arabic Original “Al Rawabi School For Girls,” led by Tima Shomali with a full female cast and crew. Later in the year, Netflix will launch “Finding Ola,” which will see Egyptian Tunisian actress Hend Sabry take the role of executive producer for the first time in her career.

Currently, the platform features several Arab female talents from the entertainment industry through shows and movies including “Nappily Ever After” and “Whispers,” directed by Haifa Al-Mansour and Hana Al-Omair from Saudi Arabia; “The Kite” and “Solitaire,” directed by Randa Chahal Sabag and Sophie Boutros from Lebanon; and “Wajib,” directed by Anne Marie Jacir from Palestine.

“Experience has taught me that great stories are universal: they can come from anywhere, be created by anyone, and be loved by everyone — what matters is that they are told authentically,” Bajaria said.

“Now we need to ensure that traditionally disadvantaged voices — in this case, women — get the same chances to be heard in our industry as men have been for generations.” 

‘Saudi Arabia is where I belong and where I need to contribute’

‘Saudi Arabia is where I belong and where I need to contribute’
Updated 08 March 2021

‘Saudi Arabia is where I belong and where I need to contribute’

‘Saudi Arabia is where I belong and where I need to contribute’
  • MBC’s director of Talent and Academy on empowering Saudi women in media

DUBAI: From allowing women to drive to working in the armed forces, Saudi Arabia has come a long way in supporting and empowering women. The country has struck many firsts along the way. Her Royal Highness Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud was appointed Ambassador to the US in 2019, making her the first woman in the country’s history to serve as an ambassador. She was also elected as a member of the International Olympic Committee in 2020. Saudi Research and Marketing Group appointed Joumana Rashed Al-Rashed as CEO in 2020, making her the first Saudi Arabian woman to hold the position.

In light of the moves that Saudi women are making, Arab News spoke to Jana Yamani, executive director of MBC Academy, dedicated to training and career opportunities; MBC Talent, the group’s talent agency, and MBC AL AMAL, the group’s corporate social responsibility arm.

Prior to joining MBC in 2020, Yamani was the executive manager of fellowships and traineeships at the Crown Prince’s Misk Foundation. She also worked at consulting firm McKinsey & Company in addition to establishing her own consultancy JY Consulting.

Yamani spent nine years outside the Kingdom attaining a double bachelor’s degree in computer science and mathematics from Northeastern University and a master’s degree in computation for design and optimization from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in addition to a stint at a tech startup in Silicon Valley.

Having studied in North America, what was your experience returning to the Kingdom?

I spent just over nine years in total outside of the country. The first time I left the Kingdom was for my undergraduate degree at Northeastern University, after which I returned.

Shortly afterward, I traveled again to attend MIT for my master’s degree and also returned. Finally, I worked in Silicon Valley for a period of time.

Every time I returned, I felt an incredible excitement and drive to give back to the country. After all, I was in the US because my home country allowed me the opportunity to explore and get an education from some of the best institutions in the world. In turn, I feel it’s only right to come back and contribute to the development of the Kingdom.

I returned in 2016 after working for one of Silicon Valley’s leading startups. It was around that time that the country was undergoing a transformation under the leadership of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. I remember sitting with my husband a few weeks prior to deciding to go back (to the US) and talking about all the amazing developments, and we both agreed that we wanted to be part of that transformation (in Saudi Arabia). 

When I landed in Saudi in 2016, I somehow sensed that my last working stint abroad would be the final one. Saudi Arabia is where I belong and where I need to contribute.

How has the Middle East region and Saudi Arabia changed when it comes to being more inclusive of women in the workplace especially in leadership positions? 

Personally, I did not feel anything different from what I felt when I was in the US. But, there is no doubt that Saudi was going through a faster transformation.

Interestingly, when I started my own business in Saudi, I had to do most things on my own. I felt everything was enabled for women to take control and finish these processes on their own.

Additionally, I remember when I joined the Misk Foundation, I was surprised to see a large percentage of females in the workspace (we were more than 60 percent female).

Now, with being able to drive, there is no barrier for any woman with big ambitions; she can achieve whatever she dreams of. With women being given even more opportunities than their male counterparts — because we are trying to achieve the right balance — we are technically in the best time.

What are some of the efforts MBC has taken to empower women within the organization?

Within MBC Academy, I am pleased to say that more than 50 percent of our applicants and trainees are females. Meanwhile, at MBC Talent, female casting is an integral part of the division. We want to ensure that women are represented on a larger scale in all areas of production. Female talent development is a big part of what we do.

As for the group overall, we are part of an organization that hires based on capabilities and qualifications, not on gender, so our entire MBC family comprises some fantastically talented, ambitious, and hardworking women.

What are your thoughts on the portrayal and representation of women in advertising and content? How has that changed over time?

There are hugely talented women out there, and the portrayal and representation of Saudi women is definitely growing and becoming more commonplace.

Within MBC Group, we’re taking more steps towards this as well. This month, we are launching a female-focused mentorship program, which will begin internally with a view to expand and open it to women in media in the Kingdom later on.

We want to be able to support women to thrive in the media ecosystem by providing the right mentorship and workshops that tackle crucial topics specific to them.

What has your experience been with Saudi female talent? Are there more Saudi women now than before and what are some of the challenges they face?

The Saudi female talent we have been working with are extremely enthusiastic, with ambitions to learn as much as they can. They definitely want to expand on their capabilities and potential. 

It has been less than three months into the year, and we have already found more Saudi media talent than ever before.

However, one challenge that remains is that we do encounter women who don’t believe that media is a sustainable career path. We need to work on changing that perception. But, that is only a matter of time as the whole development process is swiftly happening.

With the recent developments and initiatives to empower women in Saudi Arabia, how do you see the future playing out?

The future is definitely positive, thanks to the leadership’s vision for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that includes support for women and the issues affecting them.

Today, Saudi women are an integral part of the country’s growth, prosperity, development, and renaissance — our country is witnessing this at all levels. 

As for us, within MBC Group and MBC Academy, we are fully invested in contributing towards this vision.

Unilever releases new podcast series for International Women’s Day

Unilever releases new podcast series for International Women’s Day
Updated 08 March 2021

Unilever releases new podcast series for International Women’s Day

Unilever releases new podcast series for International Women’s Day
  • New miniseries tells the stories of six Saudi women

DUBAI: Unilever’s Miraa has partnered with regional podcast network Finyal Media to release a six-episode podcast series titled “A Breath, a Step, a Mirror” for International Women’s Day.

Miraa is an Arabic-only regional publication for, by and about Arab women, focusing on health, beauty and lifestyle.

The podcast series delves into the lives of six women from Saudi Arabia who write a letter to a younger version of themselves.

“With the launch of our new podcast, our hope is that the personal and intimate stories and growth journeys of our hosts inspire more women to look beyond their challenges and rise above judgments to pursue their growth and goals,” said Sonia Kapoor, senior content manager at Unilever and Miraa.

From encouraging their younger selves to break free of rigid molds to wishing they had had the confidence to be themselves instead of trying to please others, these women tell stories that are a reflection of their journeys and a chance to explore what they might have done differently.

“We look forward to women across the region having the chance to listen to the series, and we hope these stories will help other young Arab women to grow in confidence and reach their true potential as we mark another International Women’s Day,” added Leila Hamadeh, co-founder and CEO of Finyal Media.

The first season, produced in collaboration with Lux, was released in the first week of March, with more seasons expected throughout the year.

The series is available on all podcasting platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Anghami, Deezer and Spotify.

Lebanon’s Salameh to sue Bloomberg after US denies talk of sanctioning him

Lebanon’s Salameh to sue Bloomberg after US denies talk of sanctioning him
Updated 06 March 2021

Lebanon’s Salameh to sue Bloomberg after US denies talk of sanctioning him

Lebanon’s Salameh to sue Bloomberg after US denies talk of sanctioning him
  • Bloomberg published news that the Biden administration was considering sanctions against the central bank governor
  • Both Salemeh and the US State department deny the claim

LONDON: Lebanese Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh announced on Friday that he will be taking legal action against Bloomberg after it published an article claiming that the US is considering sanctioning him, a move the US State Department denies.

“We have seen reports about possible sanctions of Riad Salameh. They are untrue,” a State Department spokesperson told Arab News.

Last week, Bloomberg published news that the Biden administration was considering sanctions against the central bank governor, a claim both Salemeh and the US State department deny.

An investigation into possible money laundering and embezzlement has been opened by Swiss authorities.

Salemeh, his brother and assistant were also being probed over multimillion-dollar transfers out of the country at a time when Lebanese citizens were allowed minimum withdrawal amounts from their bank accounts.

The country’s currency hit 10,000 Lebanese pounds to one US dollar on Wednesday, an unprecedented mark that sparked a resurgence of protests that have been hampered by the coronavirus pandemic.

Lebanon witnessed nationwide protests in October 2018 calling for the end of widespread corruption and worsening economic conditions that have since seen more than half the population living below the poverty line.

The country’s current economic and financial crisis has been largely blamed on Salemeh due to his long tenure, having headed the central bank for 28 years after assuming control in 1993.