Part II: Interview With King Abdullah

Dan Rather Meets With Jordan's Ruler

CBS News Anchor Dan Rather spoke with King Abdullah in Jordan's capital, Amman. The following is part two of the transcript of the interview.

Dan Rather: You have military training, and a military background, your Majesty. What are the chances, if any, that there will arise an Iraqi protracted classic guerrilla campaign against the American and other allied forces there?

King Abdullah: Well, it all comes back to your previous question. If you get it right, if you give the Iraqis a sense that they have an ability to decide their future and their fate then that's not going to happen.

But if we come in heavy-handedly, as part of the international community, and sort of run Iraq for the Iraqis, then I think if that happened to any country, you're going to have a reaction. And so what is so critical, unfortunately, I think with well, the United States in particular, you have only one chance to get the PR game right. And if you don't get it right, and don't send the right message to the Iraqis, and to the Middle East, then you have a lot of problems. And, you know, you only have one chance, unfortunately.

Dan Rather: Well, an important piece of that, perhaps the most important piece of that is the size of humanitarian aide, and the speed with which it can be applied. What is Iraq's greatest need now? You mentioned security and a government, as a need. On the humanitarian side, what's the single biggest need?

King Abdullah: There's a tremendous crisis at the moment. And we're all waiting in the wings to be able to provide, in priority, medical support, and secondly, nutrition and water. NGO's are based in Jordan, in Kuwait and other countries. We've had a reconnaissance team to go across with a field hospital to assist the tremendous medical problems that Iraq is facing. Unfortunately, on the ground there are still pockets that are what they call danger areas for civilians to cross. And so, the coalition forces are trying to facilitate some sort of rules with NGO's to be able to operate in Iraq.

Dan Rather: NGO's being non-government organization ...

King Abdullah: Non-government organizations, to be able to provide the medical support that needs to be done. And that might take some time. And the sadness is, is the Iraqis need the help today. A week from now, it's going to be too late. And so, you know, they have problems with insulin. And those that have diabetes, what's going to happen to those? People that have kidney problems -- can they afford to wait a week until the medical supplies arrive?

Drinking water is going to be a potential economic epidemic of cholera. And so, every day we waste, it could affect the loss of hundreds, if not thousands of lives.

Dan Rather: Your Majesty, you know, I've just come from Baghdad. And for most people, there is no running water.

King Abdullah: Yeah.

Dan Rather: There is no electricity. There's nothing approaching 911 emergency services. In fact, health care services are practically non-existent. And we, the garbage has not been picked up. How much longer can the Iraqi people be expected to "Understand this?" I put that in quotation marks.

King Abdullah: Well, I, you know, part of it is being solved by getting Iraqis -- there are Iraqi community leaders that are -- are now asking for Iraqis to come back and work, to take back the responsibilities, whether it's in hospitals, or the, or the police or engineers to fix power plants, or water works. So Iraqis are trying to take some responsibility. But at the same time, as we eluded to earlier, the amount of humanitarian aid needs to be accelerated, so that we can reach the Iraqis as quickly as possible.

And as you talked for civil dissent in the future, if we can't help the Iraqis, and they feel that the world was actually on their side to begin with -- and if this continues over the next couple of weeks to the next month or so -- then the problems of civil disobedience, and complete breakup of society is a major issue that we have to be concerned about.

Dan Rather: With the result being, if that should happen?

King Abdullah: Well, then anarchy. Everybody looking for themselves. You know, the Kurds will look after their own interests. Because they don't see the help of the international community, or the umbrella of a new Iraq. The same thing would happen in the south, and in the center. You know. Time is against us.

Dan Rather: Your Majesty, any number of people, including some if not many Americans, worried and still worry that by moving militarily into Iraq, as the United States with some allies did, that a whole new generation of Osama bin Ladins will have been created. Can you address that possibility?

King Abdullah: Well, again, it depends how you get it right at the beginning. If you can show the Iraqis that you're there for them, and that you're there to assist them to get their country back together again, so that they have a role to play in their future, and at the same time, you show the same transparency and balance on the Israel-Palestinian issue, which will convince the Arabs that there is a fair, and honest attitude towards the Middle East, that's not gonna be a problem.

But if Iraq continues to disintegrate, let's say, God forsake, and there's no pressure on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, the skeptics in the Arab world will say, "See, the Americans were there for the oil. They don't care about the Middle East. They're gonna support the Israelis. They don't care about the Palestinians."

And so, in this critical month and the next, those two issues need to be addressed to convince the Iraqis, and really to reassure the rest of the Middle East. And the world in general.

Dan Rather: How widespread is the belief that the United States did this primarily for the oil?

King Abdullah: I think the average citizen feels that. And that is going to be ... I know that people came into this with the right intentions. I know that people came into this with the right intentions. But the average man on the street is very skeptical. And this is why it's so important to move Iraq in the right direction. But also to address an issue, which is closer to the Arab heart, which is that of Israel and Palestinian.

Dan Rather: Your Majesty, is there realistically any way that we can prevent a clash of civilizations, a war of civilizations, Islam with the West?

King Abdullah: Well, you, we have all been working to that end since the start of 11th of September. But again, we're now into a major obstacle in the road. And as I said, getting Iraq moving in the right direction, most importantly, I think to Arabs and Muslims, showing transparency on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

If you can show that the West actually cares about the region, then you're gonna take the wind out a lot of people's sails. And again, I think Americans have got to understand that. How many Presidents has the Middle East crisis drawn? I think eight Presidents, whether they've liked it or not, have been dragged into the Middle East conflict.

And the American governments will continue to be dragged into this same conflict unless we solve the Israeli-Palestinian issue. And although Americans may get very tired, and fed up with the Middle East, and say, "Look, it's not my problem." I think 11th of September showed that a problem in one region affects us all.

So, we're all paying the price. I have as much to lose as you do in the United States, if you don't solve the Israeli-Palestinian problem. I'm going to pay the price, as so will my people. And so will you. You will continue to be dragged into -- you've been covering the region for how many years? And you will continue to be back here, asking these questions unless we solve it once and for all.

Dan Rather: There was a perception before the military operation in Iraq that in your country, Jordan, and in Egypt, to mention two, that there was an explosion rumbling from below. Now before the U.S. and allied military operation in Iraq, was that true?

King Abdullah: No, I think that people were extremely frustrated, and angry at the potential of a military conflict. And I must admit I was one of them. I mean, I think the majority of the international community tried everything they possibly could to find a diplomatic solution to this problem.

And it was very depressing and frustrating, and I can say, personally, as we came closer and closer to this collision as we could see it, that there was little that we could do to find a way out. And there was in the past six or seven months, a sense of tremendous despair, I think, in the Middle East. Because we could see this war coming. And more importantly, nobody knew. I mean, the Middle East was on hold for the past six months. It affected the economies. It affected the people's morale. Now that the war has happened, now that it's over, it's time for us to pick up the pieces, and move forward.

Dan Rather: Back to the question. Do you, or do you not think that there's still an explosion rumbling ...

King Abdullah: Yes.

Dan Rather: ... below.

King Abdullah: I have to say that, you know, I think the Middle East is in shock because they still haven't been able to absorb the outcome of the war. And the anger, frustration and despair is still there. And it's still there very strongly.

And this is why I said people are skeptical. And they're going to be watching what is going to happen next. Is Iraq going to be a successful model for Iraqis to govern their own lives? And are we going to tackle, once and for all, with seriousness, the Israeli-Palestinian issue? And if we don't, that rumbling is going to continue, and get worse.

Dan Rather: We're near the end, your Majesty. You've been very patient with your time. May we discuss Iran for a moment?

King Abdullah: Yeah.

Dan Rather: President Bush, in his speech of the Axis of Evil, mentioned Iran as on the Axis of Evil. Where does the U.S. and allied battlefield victory in Iraq leave Iran in the region's equation?

King Abdullah: Well again, I think that we have witnessed over the past year or two, I think a positive move in Iranian political outlook, where I think they've reached out to Europe, and from what I hear, they've also reached out to the states. And so, as we come out of Iraq, there may be a set of opportunities for Iran to resolve some of the issues it has with certain of the Western countries. And it'll be interesting to see over the next six months to a year, to see whether some of the Western countries and Iran take advantage of that situation.

Dan Rather: I'll end with the historical question, if I may. As a young king, you faced a similar decision that your father faced, on a similar issue. In 1990-91, your father didn't go with Bush I. In this year, that you as a young king, went with a young American President, the other way, can you tell me anything about how you made that decision? Why you made that decision? Why you went a different way?

King Abdullah: Well, you know, there's a, I've heard some people comment that I was out of touch with the feeling that -- of my people, and where their hearts were. And that implies that I didn't know how they felt. I knew how they felt. I knew how angry and frustrated, and disparity (SIC) they felt about the situation. And I felt like that, too. But as a head of state, I also had the luxury of seeing the bigger picture that maybe the average citizen doesn't.

And at the end of the day, and everybody knows what Jordan tried to do, to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis between the West and/or the coalition and Iraq, I have a moral obligation and responsibility to the safety, protection, prosperity of my people.

And so, do you look as a leader any time to what is the emotional position? Or what is the popular position? Or what is the right position? And I believe that at the end of the day, and I carry that burden of responsibility. I'm the one that makes the final call. And I have to live with that. Is the safety and protection, and the future for my country. And so, there are others that might have different points of views. But you know, this is what they pay me for, is to look after my people. And to make the right decisions.

Dan Rather: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, sir.

King Abdullah: And you're welcome.

Part I: Exclusive Interview With Jordan's King Abdullah

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