Dismissing PLO chief Yasser Arafat as a "clown," King Hussein of Jordan as a "goner" and President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen as "an illiterate man," Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States vows that Arab supporters of Iraq will be made to pay dearly for choosing the wrong side.
"Everybody who stood up for Saddam Hussein is going to go under with Saddam Hussein," said Prince Bandar ibn Sultan, signaling a sharp break with Saudi Arabia's prewar policy of trying to forge a consensus that all Arabs could accept.
In a luncheon interview with The Times' Washington Bureau, Bandar said some supporters of the Iraqi president would literally share in his defeat while the rest would be stripped of all influence in the region after an allied victory.
The ebullient ambassador said Saudi Arabia will soon publish for the first time details of its foreign aid program, revealing that some pro-Iraqi Arab leaders received--and apparently embezzled--millions of dollars before the outbreak of the Persian Gulf War.
He said the oil-rich kingdom is prepared to forgive rank-and-file Palestinians for their sympathy toward Hussein. But Arab leaders, including Arafat and other officials of the Palestine Liberation Organization, will be held accountable for their stand during the conflict, he said.
Bandar--son of the Saudi defense minister, Prince Sultan ibn Abdulaziz; brother of the kingdom's military commander, Lt. Gen. Prince Khalid ibn Sultan, and brother-in-law of the foreign minister, Prince Saud al Faisal--has been a key participant in allied strategy sessions since Iraq's Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait.
Eschewing the cautious demeanor of most professional diplomats, Bandar clearly relished what he characterized as the "humiliation" of Hussein. A former Saudi fighter pilot, he praised the effectiveness of the allied air war and predicted that a ground offensive would be equally impressive.
He heaped equal amounts of scorn on Arab leaders who have not joined the anti-Iraq coalition and on U.S. specialists in Arab policy who have predicted that Hussein will emerge from the war as a hero whether he wins or loses.
"Arabists in this country sell the Arabs short," Bandar said. "They think either we don't have brains or they think of us in a romantic sense--white robes, white horses."
Bandar scoffed at suggestions that Hussein may be able to emulate former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who became a hero among the Arab masses despite military defeats.
"Contrary to what all the pundits tell you, he (Hussein) has nothing to show for (the invasion of Kuwait)," he said. "Nasser in '56 and '67, although he had the military defeat, his infrastructure was standing, his institutions were functioning, and all he had to do was repair his military. . . . This man has nothing. He doesn't even have a home to go back to."
Bandar said Jordan's King Hussein is finished as a serious Arab leader.
"He earned our disrespect and he earned Saddam Hussein's contempt," Bandar said. "He was our friend for 40 years, and he sold us out, just like this. He cheered Saddam Hussein for five months. In fact (King) Hussein was more eloquent than Saddam in expressing his cause. And when the chips were down, and we were hammering Saddam like hell, Hussein of Jordan said, 'But I'm neutral.' "
Bandar drew a distinction between Palestinians living under Israeli occupation and PLO Chairman Arafat, although Palestinian opinion is on the side of Iraq. He said Saudi Arabia will continue to support the Palestinian cause.
"The Palestinian people, particularly in the West Bank and Gaza, are the only people out of all the Arab world who stood against us that I don't hold any grudges against, simply because I understand why they were mad," he said. "They're not supporting Saddam Hussein. They are not against me. They are just frustrated, and they want anything to happen that could move something, that they hope to get something out of.
"I am convinced that they're sobering up," he said. "We distinguish between Arafat and leadership of Palestinians, and between the Palestinians and the cause. We are 100% committed to the Palestinian cause, but Arafat chose his way, we are taking our way. Each just has to be responsible for what they do."
Although the Bush Administration also is angry at King Hussein and Arafat, U.S. officials believe that both men have a good chance to survive the war. In the case of Jordan's monarch, Secretary of State James A. Baker III said recently that despite his stand on the war, King Hussein seems preferable to Jordanians who might replace him.
Before the war, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait contributed heavily to the economic support of Jordan, the PLO and other economically strapped Arab governments. But Bandar said such payments are unlikely to continue after the war.
Obviously irked by Saddam Hussein's claim to be representing the Arab world's have-nots against smug and affluent states like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, Bandar said that Iraq's supporters are mostly impoverished nations with rich and corrupt leaders. He said Saudi Arabia will soon publish its foreign aid figures to show citizens of recipient countries that they are made poor in part by their leaders.