June 23, 1993
In the summer of 1993, King Hussein
was in Washington to meet with President Clinton. Jim Lehrer talked
with King Hussein about U.S.- Jordan relations.
JIM LEHRER: We go finally tonight to a Newsmaker interview with King Hussein of Jordan. He's in the United States for talks with President Clinton and other U.S. officials all aimed at improving Jordan's relations with the United States. They went sour with Jordan's perceived support of Iraq in the Gulf crisis three years ago. I spoke with King Hussein earlier this evening. Your Majesty, welcome.
KING HUSSEIN: Thank you -very much, indeed.
|U.S. - Jordan relations.|
JIM LEHRER: You said the other day that spring has come again to the relationship between the United States and Jordan. What has brought this about?
KING HUSSEIN: I believe that a relationship of friendship and mutual respect and Cooperation is one that we have cherished over many, many years, but I believe with the visit to Washington this time and my meeting with the president and the impression he left on me and with the leaders in the new administration, I have great confidence that it won't hesitate our relationship, and that we will be working together to partners In pursuing common, worthy, and noble goals.
JIM LEHRER: Do you now regret the pro-Iraq position you took during the Gulf War?
KING HUSSEIN: I, not for the first time, would like to say that I never took a pro-Iraq position during the Gulf War. I have tried my utmost to deal with the situation within our region and to reverse the unfortunate invasion of Kuwait peacefully. I was concerned for all the losses, human, material, and for the long range effects, including those in the environment at the time. I don't think I was popular with a lot of people as a result of that, but I believe I did the right thing.
JIM LEHRER: Well, let me put it to you another way then. Do you regret your decision not to join the coalition with the United States and the United Nations in trying to get Iraq out of Kuwait?
KING HUSSEIN: I did my utmost to try to get Iraq out of Kuwait peacefully and to avert all the disaster that followed.
JIM LEHRER: So you have no regrets about Jordan's position, even though It's caused you some problems?
KING HUSSEIN: I believe that between friends we have to be very, vary frank and very open, and friendship implies that we give and take, and this is what we have done over the years. I don't believe there was anything that would cause me now to say that I would have done it any differently. I faced a crisis in our region, a terrible one. I tried my best to resolve it to the best of my ability, and I believe that my feeiings were shared by many throughout the world, including here in the United States.
JIM LEHRER: As you know, there was a recent report from the General Accounting Office of the U.S. Congress which said that your country actually provided help to the Iraqis during the war against the United States and other U.N. forces, Is that true?
|A General Accounting Office report.|
KING HUSSEIN: This is totally untrue. And I would like to know if the subject Is to be pursued and if ever were and what evidence there is of that. We have our honor, and we have our word, and that meant a lot to us. And we are not involved in helping any against any, nor do you know that Iraq intended to do what it did in the first place.
JIM LEHRER: Well, there are, the words of the report were "These activities included Joint training exercises with Iraq, two cases of providing access to U.S. technology, one case of purchasing spare parts, and one case dealing with the sharing of coalition and Israeli Intelligence Information." That's out of the report. That did not happen?
KING HUSSEIN: I didn't realize that we were going to discuss this report. I have really not read it all that seriously, because there bas been a lot of mud slinging as regards Jordan, a very staunch friend of this country throughout its history, and its far as that was, yes, strengthening the training. But at a time way before the war and the events that took place in 1990 we were in what was called the Arab Cooperation Council and that included Egypt, Jordan, Iraq and Yemen then, and within the Arab context, yes, we did have joint training, and we had facilities open to all Arabs to come and join and benefit from our experience. But this didn't happen during the crisis or after the crisis.
JIM LEHRER: During the war, itself, you were not sharing U.S. intelligence information that you had gained as a result of your relationship with the Iraqis. You're saying that's just not true.
KING HUSSEIN: We never had any information to share with anybody.
JIM LEHRER: Well, as you know, Your Majesty, I've heard what you've said and I've heard what you've said elsewhere before you came here today, the perception of the United States, like it of not, was that you were supporting Iraq against the U.N. forces. You're saying that is just not so. Is that your position now?
KING HUSSEIN: I never supported Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, nor did I support it in any way in that regard. We were very close to Iraq during the terrible eight years of war which caught us by surprise with Iran, but so was the United States and probably the relations between the United States and Iraq at a certain time were much more intimate than ours.
JIM LEHRER: And Is It your feeling after talking to President Clinton and the now administration that whatever may have happened or whatever the perceptions may have been that they have now been put aside about your role in, during the Gulf crisis?
KING HUSSEIN: I'm not born of today. I've been In a position of responsibility for the last 40 years and they are the record of which I am proud, and so is Jordan. I hope that the chapter is closed, and I hope those who would like to say every now and then this issue or that issue to cast doubts about our integrity would realize that it is futile and it is in bad taste.
JIM LEHRER: Did you talk to President Clinton about this? Did he talk to you about it?
KING HUSSEIN: We talked about a variety of things. I think President Clinton knows where we stand, and we had a very, very good talk, and we see eye to eye on many matters.
JIM LEHRER: What is your assessment of where the Middle East peace talks are right now?
|Middle East peace talks.|
KING HUSSEIN: They are at a very interesting moment, at a very critical moment, and I believe that we did whatever we could out of conviction. In Jordan when we had the meeting, and all schools of political thought in the country decided that we should go to Madrid, and we started the process and the umbrella for Palestinians to be involved in the process, because without the Palestinians, I can't see any solution to the Palestinian problem. It is, after all, one that concerns a people who have suffered so much and who really want to share in bringing about the pence that future generations can accept and live with and protect. I feel that we need more help. There is a conviction in the area amongst a vast majority of people on either side of the divide that this ss a chance, the last chance. It should be taken to have peace come to existence between the people of the region and between the river, but the kind of peace that can last, the kind of peace that future generations can accept and live with and protect. I believe that anything that can give Palestinians some idea as to what the end of their efforts is going to be like will encourage rapid progress on all matters in terms of the talks ongoing.
JIM LEHRER: Do you, is it your feeling that is, that steps are being taken toward doing that, in other words, towards giving the Palestinians those kinds of assurances that they feel that they need to move this thing another step along the way?
KING HUSSEIN: I believe that what at the moment appeared as an area of concern is that. I salute the courage of the who came out of the territories to represent the Palestinian dimension, physical and moral courage, and that commitment to the cause of peace. I hope that somehow we can engage in getting oyer the hump and moving ahead, and with the help of the United States and with the participation of the United States as a full partner.
JIM LEHRER: Is It your feeling that, that it's ripe for a dramatic breakthrough, or is it going to take just more of this kind of slow plotting course which seems to result in very small steps, if any steps at all, or how do you see this playing itself out from this point on?
KING HUSSEIN: I believe that a lot of have steps have been taken, and I think that in the future maybe the people in the region all to be apprised of what is happening so that the -- after all they are involved and it is their future that is in the balance, that they know what is happening. I think that we need just a renewed effort to move ahead and move rapidly.
JIM LEHRER: A renewed effort on whose part, whose job is it now to move it over the hump as you say?
KING HUSSEIN: Well, as you know, there are talks ongoing between different countries involved. On the Palestinian dimension there is talk of the transitional period, the transitional period to what I kept asking this question in the past without obtaining any, any answer. Israel probably views the matter in the way that it would like to consider it a transitional period at this stage and nothing else. Palestinians feel that they would like to know some shape of what the end result is going to be to encourage them to go on, so is that in addition to the need for the United States to hopefully be with us in this process now.
JIM LEHRER: Is it a matter of, where the United States felt finding a form of words that would satisfy the Palestinians as far as what this thing could eventually lead to which would then make it possible for say you all, the Jordanians, the Syrians, and others, to embrace the whole thing And move it the next step. Is that really w what it's going to take?
KING HUSSEIN: I believe it shouldn't be a next step. It should be a series of steps. We should really get involved and continue until we arrive fit a happy conclusion to this process and establish a just and doable peace in region, and I think that the Palestinians need a bit of reassurance at this stage. We have suffered enough its well.
JIM LEHRER: In the general way, your Majesty some Americans are asking the question now for the first time, particularly since the Cold War was over, is: Why should we care so deeply about whether or not there's a peace in the Middle East? There are no open warfare there. There are people actually killing each other in Bosnia and other parts of the world. What's so important about the Middle East right now?
KING HUSSEIN: Well, peace, if it comes to that part of the world, will mean a great difference to a lot of people and the areas important to the rest of the world. It will mean peace between the followers of the three great religions. It will mean an entirely new future for that entire region, and it will mean the removal of the root cause of a lot of instability within the region and beyond. So, isn't worth the effort?
JIM LEHRER: If this effort does not make it, if this particular set of talks - I don't mean this round, but I mean this, this peace effort does not make it, then what's the down side? What could be the down side, the consequences?
KING HUSSEIN: The down side is the success of extremists on either side of the divide in destroying this chance which is, in my view, not maybe, is the last chance for, for peace and the future could be a very, very grim one for everybody concerned.
JIM LEHRER: Are you talking about the possibility of a shooting war between Arabs and Israelis?
KING HUSSEIN: There have been enough. Wars haven't produced any results. People are committed, I hope, to finding a solution peacefully, but if that is lost, then there'll be a lot of turbulence and we will be sliding into, into a very dark abyss.
JIM LEHRER: Is your reading that the parties, that's all of the parties involved in this, whether they be Israelis, whether they be Palestinians, Syrians, Jordanians, or what ever, that everybody agrees that this is the moment and it it must be seized?
KING HUSSEIN: It Is how I feel, and that's what I've seen In the way of evidence of this period,particularly since meatings are heldd regularly between representatives of the countries involved and Palestinians, and we see no other option. And we're determined to do whatever we can, but we hope that we will be able to do so.
JIM LEHRER: Your Majesty, thank you very much.
KING HUSSEIN: Thank you so much.