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CNN Special Reports

Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom of Secrets. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired March 21, 2019 - 20:00   ET


[23:00:31] FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST (voice-over): America's steadfast ally.

BARACK OBAMA, 44TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Extraordinary friendship and relationship.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: A large plane headed directly into the World Trade Center.

ZAKARIA: At times spawned America's deadliest enemies. Osama bin Laden, Saudi. Thousands of ISIS fighters, Saudi.

These are America's friends?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are not our allies.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The crown prince is a wrecking ball.

ZAKARIA: That are prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

GRAHAM: He is dangerous.

ZAKARIA: Accused of involvement in the murder --


ZAKARIA: -- of a "Washington Post" journalist.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Actually brought a bone saw into the consulate.

WARD: Chopped up into small pieces.

ZAKARIA: But that crown prince, MBS, is changing Saudi Arabia.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a new era. New age. It's that simple.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This man is extremely popular.

ZAKARIA: In one of the most repressive countries in the world --

THOMAS FRIEDMAN, AUTHOR, "THANK YOU FOR BEING LATE": An authoritarian, absolute monarchy.

ZAKARIA: All of a sudden, some simple everyday freedoms.


ZAKARIA: America and the Saudis have had a deal.

FRIEDMAN: Just keep your pumps open, your prices low, and you can do whatever you want out back.



ZAKARIA: But can America forgive a hideous crime?

(On camera): Why would you bring a bone saw to an interrogation?

(Voice-over): In Saudi Arabia, almost nothing is what it seems. To find the real story here, you have to go beneath the surface. About one mile beneath to be precise.

There is more oil in Saudi Arabia than almost anywhere else on earth. When oil was first discovered, legend has it the king said cap the well. Too much money brings trouble. Then he got over it. Oil brought with it fantastic wealth.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They make a billion dollars a day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the prince's palace. 317 rooms.

ZAKARIA: There are thousands of Saudi princes. They blow gigantic sums all over the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the harbor in Khan, we counted at least seven huge Saudi yachts.

ZAKARIA: Oil money buys million-dollar prizes for camel races. And expensive cars you can crash for fun. But most importantly, oil carved a country out of the desert. Modern cities sprang up out of the sand in just decades.

There is only one other force as powerful as oil in Saudi Arabia. Religion. Saudis practice the most extreme form of Islam in the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Article one of the basic law of Saudi Arabia says that the Quran and the sings of the prophet are the constitution of this country.

ZAKARIA: Sharia is the only law. Women are rendered virtually invisible. Black ghosts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Domination. Men have dominated women. There is this sense that any mixing between men and women is fraught with the potential for evil to happen.

[23:05:05] ZAKARIA: Women have the status of children. By law their husbands or fathers are their guardians. Some clerics give men a free hand to beat women. Mohamad al-Arefe counsels young men on the right way to hit their wives.

Lightly with the hand, he says, and not in the face.

If beating does not keep a wife in line, men can download a wife tracking app on their phones. Created by the Saudi government the app will send out a text alert if a wife heads for the airport or the border.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Testosterone is a dangerous drug. It's this view of women as both children and as chaotic sexual beings.

ZAKARIA: The app is called Absher, Arabic for "your wish is my command." Some men need more than one app because they have more than one wife. There are reportedly more than a million Saudis in polygamous marriages.

There are no churches in Saudi Arabia. Christians pray in secret.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have secret churches there. A house church.

ZAKARIA: Practicing Christianity is against the law. So is every other religion except Islam.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a tough place to be a Christian.

ZAKARIA: Even tougher to be Jewish. We must kill all the Jews, says the so-called religious scholar. Textbooks published just last year teach that Jews are cowardly, devious.

Another evil in Saudi Arabia, music. Takfir, shout the religious police. Heresy. Movies have been considered heresy, too. If you complain publicly about any of it, any government scripture, you may be arrested. Foes of the government can be tortured, even beheaded.

(On camera): Saudi Arabia lives a bizarre double life. Fabulously rich, drenched in oil. It is at the same time handcuffed by extremist Islam.

The Saudis are deeply conflicted but then so are we because their story is intertwined with ours. The closest ally of this strange desert kingdom has been America. The world's most open democracy where freedom of religious is enshrined in the Constitution. Why?

(Voice-over): "New York Times" columnist Thomas Friedman put it succinctly.

FRIEDMAN: Guys, here's deal. Just keep your pumps open, your prices low, and don't bother the Houthis too much. And you can do whatever you want out back.

ZAKARIA: Outback. That's where you'd find the Medievalism, the extremist rhetoric, the crazy clerics, the hatred of other religions.

FRIEDMAN: It is my view, Fareed, that on 9/11 we got hit with the distilled essence of everything that was going on out back.

ZAKARIA: Osama bin Laden and 15 of the 9/11 hijackers, all Saudis. More ISIS soldiers come from Saudi than from anywhere else in the Middle East. For years, America has been desperate for a new day in Saudi Arabia.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Welcome to the stage, ladies and gentlemen, his royal highness.

ZAKARIA: Enter 33-year-old crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. He is unlike any Saudi ruler the world has seen before. MBS effectively took over from his father, King Salman, two years ago. Suddenly everything in Saudi Arabia seemed to change.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right away he looks like a breath of fresh air. And he's forceful.

ZAKARIA: Remember music was evil? But Mariah Carey performed here in January.

FRIEDMAN: He was beginning to do something. I haven't seen from any Saudi leader ever.

[23:10:02] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His reforms inside Saudi Arabia have been revolutionary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He says, I am not going to leave this life until I see the entire Middle East in the first rank of nations.

ZAKARIA: Movies were heresy? But then the crown prince opened a movie theater.

Watching "Black Panther" were men and women sitting together. That's dramatic change.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This man is extremely popular.

MOHAMMED BIN SALMAN, SAUDI CROWN PRINCE: Here it is, ladies and gentlemen. It's here, it's in front of you. AMC is here.

FRIEDMAN: He just begun to actually fight the war of ideas.

ZAKARIA: Women were finally allowed to drive.

MBS stripped the dreaded religious police of much of their power. He arrested some of the crazy clerics. Al-Arefe, the wife-beating advice-giver, was among them. Saudi Arabia is changing. But even as it does, there is something else going on.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: A massive purge of princes all arrested by a man who would be king.

ZAKARIA: MBS imprisoned hundreds of princes and wealthy businessmen at the Riyadh Ritz Carlton of all places.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We drive in under police escort.

ZAKARIA: It was called a crackdown on corruption.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No one enters here now without official permission.

ZAKARIA: What appeared to be cell phone video emerged, showing a chaotic scene in one of the world's fanciest hotels.

FRIEDMAN: And it was a shakedown in power play of all his potential rivals.


ZAKARIA: There were reports of torture and one death which the government denied. Meanwhile, even as MBS finally gave women the right to drive, Saudi police arrested the leaders of the Right to Drive Movement. And again, there are credible reports that some of the women were tortured.

HALA ALDOSARI, SAUDI ACTIVIST: It's a new level of aggression. It's a new level of brutality that has been unprecedented.

FRIEDMAN: This is an authoritarian, absolute monarchy.

ZAKARIA: There was one world leader who loved the prince's style. Donald Trump, a president with no previous foreign policy experience, saw Saudi Arabia as the linchpin of his Middle East plan.

FRIEDMAN: Donald Trump had no ambassador in Saudi Arabia. He did not understand the religious dynamics. He did not understand, I don't think, the regional dynamics.

ZAKARIA: He put his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in charge of it all.

FRIEDMAN: This policy was being run on Jared Kushner's WhatsApp directly with Mohammed bin Salman and Jared Kushner had no clue about the internal dynamics of Saudi Arabia, let alone how to manage such a young man. It was flat-out crazy stupid.

TRUMP: I think it was one of the most incredible two-day meetings that I've ever seen, that anybody has ever seen.

ZAKARIA: When MBS came to America, he was greeted like a celebrity.

TRUMP: We really have a great friendship.

Crown Prince, thank you very much. Thank you for being here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mohammed bin Salman had energy, he had ambition, he was on a charm offensive in the West.

ZAKARIA: And he had some help charming America from Donald Trump's favorite publication, the "National Enquirer." A glossy issue extolling the glories of MBS appeared on supermarket checkout lines across America.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This "we love Saudi Arabia, it's a magic kingdom" booklet.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: That glossy magazine was really bizarre.

ZAKARIA: But the truth about MBS was beginning to emerge and it was more complicated.

FRIEDMAN: You have a young 29 years old when he became crown prince. Very impulsive. Not very experienced. Young man who had some very dangerous dark impulses. Saddam-like impulses we now understand.

ZAKARIA: U.S. officials usually weigh in when allies like Saudi Arabia go off course.

FRIEDMAN: They need us to draw red lines. And what they've all needed always over the years was to be able to say to their cabinet or their advisers, I'd love to do that crazy thing you want me to do that. I'd love to do that. My heart is with you. But the American secretary of state broke my arm.

If we don't play that role, these guys will drive right over the cliff. And that's exactly what happened, Fareed.

ZAKARIA: That cliff was of course the murder of "Washington Post" columnist, Jamal Khashoggi.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: An international murder mystery pitting the U.S. against its key ally, Saudi Arabia.

ZAKARIA: It began in the dead of night, October 2nd of last year, a private Saudi plane landed in Istanbul.

[23:15:04] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The Turks say assassins waiting for him inside the consulate.

ZAKARIA: Jamal Khashoggi had an appointment there that day.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: He is a Saudi journalist, vocal critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

JAMAL KHASHOGGI, MURDERED JOURNALIST: He is creating an environment of intimidation and fear.

ZAKARIA: Jamal Khashoggi was well-connected with ties to some senior royals. He had been treated well at the consulate before. So at the appointed time, he went inside. What follows is from an audio tape described to CNN.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Within moments of his fateful steps into the consulate, Khashoggi recognizes someone. ZAKARIA: Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, a former official close to the Crown

Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Mutreb tells him, you are coming back. Khashoggi says you can't do that. And then he's attacked. There are screams. His last words, I can't breathe. Then the sound of a saw.

CUOMO: There are reports from the Turks that a bone saw was involved.

WARD: Jamal Khashoggi's body was dismembered, chopped up into small pieces.

ZAKARIA: A Saudi autopsy expert tells the men put on headphones and listen to music. Presumably to drown out the sound of the saw. A Khashoggi look-alike can be seen leaving the consulate.

WARD: Same clothes, same glasses and beard, everything except the shoes.

ROBERTSON: Saudi Arabia vehemently denies knowing anything about his Khashoggi's disappearance.

ZAKARIA: As details began to emerge, the Saudis said a fight had broken out.

BERMAN: The official Saudi explanation that Khashoggi's death was the result of a fist fight gone bad has been deemed laughable.

ZAKARIA: Finally the Saudi government settled on one word. Rogue. It was a rogue operation.

WARD: The Saudi Foreign minister told FOX News that this was a rogue operation.

COOPER: Rogue elements may have been involved.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're going to say he was killed by rogue operatives.

EUGENE ROBINSON, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: This rogue killers explanation, this is absurd.

TRUMP: It sounded to me like maybe this could have been rogue killers. Who knows?

ZAKARIA: The CIA said it believed MBS was involved with the murder.

GRAHAM: MBS, the crown prince, is a wrecking ball. I think he is complicit in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi to the highest level possible. I think he is crazy. I think he is dangerous.

ZAKARIA: Trump appeared unconvinced.

TRUMP: Whether he did or whether he didn't, he denies it vehemently.

GRAHAM: I would really question somebody's judgment if they could figure this out.

ALI SHIHABI, FOUNDER, THE ARABIA FOUNDATION: It was an example of sometimes elements of the bureaucracy going rogue.

ZAKARIA: The man who most often speaks for Saudi Arabia in this country is Ali Shihabi. He runs the Arabia Foundation, a pro-Saudi think tank.

(On camera): U.S. intelligence believes that Jamal Khashoggi was murdered on the instructions of the crown prince. That an elite team of people very close to the crown prince went to Istanbul with the purpose of doing him harm. What do you say to that?

SHIHABI: Look, had he wanted to kill Jamal, there were so many cheaper and easier ways to do it.

ZAKARIA: He was very much a friend to the royal family. He was an insider.

SHIHABI: He was a prominent person. He was a prominent player. Everybody has their friends and enemies. The crown prince has denied it and everybody in Riyadh has denied it. And there simply isn't a piece of evidence.

ZAKARIA: Senator Lindsey Graham says there is a smoking gun. It's just a smoking bone saw, not a gun. The "Washington Post" editorial page puts it very simply, if this was meant to be an interrogation that went rogue, why would you bring a bone saw to an interrogation?

SHIHABI: Well, first of all, nobody has shown us that bone saw. Perhaps he's --

ZAKARIA: How was he dismembered?

SHIHABI: I think -- I mean, again, not to get gruesome, but I saw an interview on television with a doctor who said that any saw can dismember a human being.

ZAKARIA: Well, why would they bring any saw?

SHIHABI: Look, he was killed. And it seems like he was dismembered and the body was disposed of, so I mean, it's a tragic, horrible event, but you cannot put the stability of a country or the strategic relationship between the United States of America and Saudi Arabia hostage to the unfortunate death of one individual.

ZAKARIA (voice-over): It's a question that has haunted the United States for years. Does aligned with Saudi Arabia come at too high a price?

Still ahead, the biggest U.S.-Saudi crisis. 9/11. Why did bin Laden hate America so much? The little known story when we come back.


[23:23:11] ZAKARIA: In 1996, Osama bin Laden declared war on the United States. These youths love death as you love life, he warned. These youths are steadfast at war. They will sing out that there is only killing. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 were from one country. Saudi

Arabia. The man who led them, Osama bin Laden, was from Saudi Arabia. ISIS and other terrorist groups killing Americans have been filled with recruits from Saudi Arabia.

How did one of America's closest allies become the home of its most bitter enemies?

To understand, we have to go back almost 300 years to the 1700s. Two men formed an alliance in the Arabian desert, a cleric known as Muhammad bin Abd al-Wahhab and a warrior named Muhammad bin Saud, the patriarch of the Saudi royal family. Al-Wahhab and his followers were the ISIS of their time. Preaching strict adherence to the Quran on pain of death.

[23:25:02] Their puritanical faith became known as Wahhabism. And it is that creed that governs Saudi Arabia.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Authorities in Saudi Arabia have executed them.

RASHID KHALIDI, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Wahhabism starts from a principle that I as a Muslim can determine if another Muslim is a good Muslim. And if he or she is not, then I can proclaim him or her a heretic, and that person the most drastic penalties, including death.

ZAKARIA: Wahhabism was only a minor sect of Islam for much of its history. The Muslim world was shaped far more by large, diverse societies like Egypt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oil in commercial quantity --

ZAKARIA: Then Saudi Arabia struck oil.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two hundred thousand barrels a day.

ZAKARIA: With mountains of cash, the kingdom eclipsed other Muslim nations and spread its version of the faith everywhere.

KHALIDI: What oil money did was finance the building of Islamic centers, mosques and madrasas. Putting conditions that ensured that their exclusivist ideas alone would be taught in those madrasas, those Islamic centers, and those mosques.

ZAKARIA: But in 1979, Wahhabism turned on the kingdom itself.

KHALIDI: The armed religious fanatics today seized the great mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia and took hostages.

ZAKARIA: The attackers were extreme religious conservatives. They were appalled by the unholy Westernization that the riches of oil had brought.

FRIEDMAN: They broadcast their message that the Saudi ruling family are drunkards, gamblers, people who have taken Saudi Arabia away from the true Islamic faith. ZAKARIA: Saudi forces were so ill-equipped that French commandos had

to be called in to help. After two weeks, the rebels were finally captured and beheaded.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a triumphant and tumultuous wealth for the Ayatollah Khomeini.

ZAKARIA: That same year, an Islamic revolution swept through Iran.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A tearful shah of Iran left his country today.

ZAKARIA: Ousting a monarchy. Launching the rise of Iran's Shiite version of puritanical Islam. The rival faith of the Saudis. The Saudi royal family panic and gave more power to Wahhabis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From the age of 12, she must dress in black.

ZAKARIA: To run the kingdom their way.

FRIEDMAN: No more sin. Women could not appear on TV uncovered. Nor music in schools. They basically banned fun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One motorist ran out of gas while waiting in line.

ZAKARIA: Meanwhile oil prices went through the roof.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Gas-hungry drivers were demanding answers.

ZAKARIA: Giving the Saudis even more cash to spread their creed. Then at the end of 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. A godless super power had taken over a Muslim nation. This gave the Saudis a golden opportunity.

ALI SOUFAN, FORMER FBI AGENT: It was a gift from heaven to people in Saudi Arabia. They looked into the Islamists' eyes and they said, why don't you go find the infidels who just invaded Afghanistan?

ZAKARIA: One of the men who answered the call was Osama bin Laden.

SOUFAN: Bin laden was always a true believer. He really believed in all these ideals taught to him by Wahhabi schools early on in his childhood in Saudi Arabia.

ZAKARIA: Bin laden's father had been a construction magnet with close ties to the king. But Osama bin Laden gave up his life of comfort and moved to Afghanistan. Forming a rag tag army of foreign mercenaries from across the Arab and Islamic world. In the late '80s, the organization was given a name. Al Qaeda. In 1990, a new enemy caught bin Laden's eye.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: More than 400,000 U.S. troops in Operation Desert Shield.

ZAKARIA: Half a million American troops came to Saudi Arabia to defend against Saddam Hussein.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Reports tell Iraqi forces overrunning the capital of Kuwait.

ZAKARIA: Saddam had taken over neighboring Kuwait and was poised to strike the kingdom. The presence of U.S. soldiers saved Saudi Arabia, but it infuriated the Wahhabis.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This American service woman with her problems dealing with Saudi men here.

ZAKARIA: -- who believed that no foreign army should ever be allowed into land of the true holy Mosques. Bin Laden urged the Saudi royal family to let him fight Saddam himself, with his own army of Mujahideen. They brushed him off.

ALI SOUFAN, AUTHOR, ANATOMY OF TERROR: Osama bin Laden was furious. He thought that this is the unholiest thing anybody can do, bringing the infidels to the Arabian Peninsula.

ZAKARIA: In 1996, with American troops still in the kingdom, Osama Bin Laden issued a fatwa. Terrorizing you while you are carrying arms in our land is a moral obligation, he declared to the Americans.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Outrage, shock, and heavy loss of life.

ZAKARIA: Thus began the road to 9/11.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Terrorist bombs explode, minutes, apart outside --

ZAKARIA: Bombings at U.S. embassies in East Africa.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who did it and why?

ZAKARIA: -- killed hundreds and wounded over 5,000. The USS Cole attack in Yemen --

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It was a despicable and cowardly act.

ZAKARIA: -- nearly sank a destroyer, killing 17.


ZAKARIA: And in 2001 --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- appeared to have collapsed.

ZAKARIA: -- Bin Laden's greatest triumph. Nearly 3,000 Americans obliterated. Saudi Arabia had created a monster.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Powerful bombs --

ZAKARIA: After 9/11 --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ripped through apartment buildings -- ZAKARIA: -- the monster turned against its homeland.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The focus, once again, is squarely on Al-Qaeda.

ZAKARIA: -- mounting a deadly offensive inside the kingdom. The House of Saud mounted a vicious counter attack.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a big increase in their cooperation with us. They began systematically to find and go after Al-Qaeda cells in the kingdom.

ZAKARIA: But the ideology of Wahhabism is still alive across the world.

When ISIS established its school, the text books that it first used came from Saudi Arabia.

SOUFAN: The narrative that you have to behead and kill anyone who doesn't believe in what you believe, the narrative you have to blow up Mosques and tombs --


SOUFAN: -- the narrative --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- will continue to strike the next --

SOUFAN: -- that anyone who is not a Muslim --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- of your people.

SOUFAN: -- does not have any right, not even the right to live. This is taken from text books in Saudi Arabia.

ZAKARIA: Up next, why?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: U.S. presidents have, to varying degrees, been willing to pander to Saudi Arabia.

ZAKARIA: Why does this troubled relationship endure? The liquid gold that is the bond between America and Saudi Arabia, oil.



WOLF BLITZER, CNN NEWS HOST: Saudi Arabia confirms that the journalist, Jamal Khashoggi is dead.

ZAKARIA: Every time there is a crisis between the United States and Saudi Arabia, Americans ask, why are we friends with these people?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are not our allies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This paddock and brutal regime --

ZAKARIA: Some question whether there even should be a U.S.-Saudi alliance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: U.S. presidents have, to varying degrees, been willing to pander to Saudi Arabia. And in doing so, we conveniently turned a blind eye to a lot of things. It's always been a very complicated relationship.

ZAKARIA: Complicated, yes, but the reason for it, is simple, according to Donald Trump.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you want to see oil prices go to $150 a barrel, like, by the way, Russia would love to see that, all you have to do is break up our relationship with Saudi Arabia.

ZAKARIA: The truth is, Donald Trump is mostly right. Saudi Arabia, more than any single country, controls the price of oil. They have lots of it and it's cheap for them to turn the taps on and off.

RICHARD CLARKE, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNTER-TERRORISM CZAR: That fear, that Saudi Arabia, the leader of the OPEC alliance of oil-producing states could, at any time, turn off the oil. That fear always hung like a Sword of Damocles.

ZAKARIA: And that fear endures even as America approaches oil independence, because Riyadh still sets the global price. In fact, the Saudis have usually behaved responsibly in their role as the central bankers of oil.

CLARKE: Oil and Saudi Arabia were synonymous in the 1950s, and 60s, and 70s, and 80s.

ZAKARIA: To understand how and why the U.S.-Saudi bond has endured for almost a century, we need to go back to how it began.

In 1938, American oil men offered Saudi king, Ibn Saud, $170,000 in gold, to let them drill for oil.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Arabs were suspicious of the strange newcomers.

ZAKARIA: The king was reluctant, but the desperately poor desert country needed the money, so the search for liquid gold began.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The geological crews combed the blistering desert months after months, searching for places most likely to yield petroleum.

ZAKARIA: Finally, they found it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oil in commercial quantities have been brought in after three long, discouraging years.

ZAKARIA: By the early 1940s, it was clear. Saudi Arabia was an oil bonanza.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About 1,000 Americans and 5,000 Saudi Arabs were employed for --

ZAKARIA: The U.S. and the Saudis formed a company to share the profits. The Arab-American Oil Company, ARAMCO. At the same time, America was having big oil problems at home. World War II had severely depleted domestic supplies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A fresh warning that our known oil reserves will be exhausted in 10 years.

ZAKARIA: So it was probably no accident that in 1945, President Franklin Roosevelt invited King Ibn Saud to a meeting in the middle of the Suez Canal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An American destroyer brings Ibn Saud, king of the 5 million people of Saudi Arabia, to a conference with President Roosevelt.

[23:40:05] ZAKARIA: The two leaders hit it off. It was that friendship that cemented the Saudi-American oil venture. And as it grew, American oil executives built an efficient, well-run little America, inside Saudi Arabia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Slowly, painfully, they reared a modern community on the desert, beside the Persian Gulf, complete with air conditioned houses, two hospitals, and an outdoor movie theater.

ZAKARIA: All of it, though, was behind walls, because it represented a culture completely alien to the strict Islamic practices of the Saudis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Always popular with the employees, is a fresh water swimming pool, where they can cool off after a round of golf or a set of tennis.

ZAKARIA: The Saudi-American alliance grew stronger through the years. But there was always one stick point, America's support for Israel. That difference turned into a crisis in the 1970s.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Since first light this morning, Syrian artillery has been bombarding the town of Quneitra.

ZAKARIA: During Yom Kippur War, the Saudis protested American aid to Israel, and then led an oil embargo against America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They will reduce oil production by five percent a month, until the Israelis withdraw from occupied territories.

ZAKARIA: It plunged the United States into a recession. People had to wait for hours to fill their tanks and face sky-high prices for gas. It was the first major crisis between the two countries. Now, as we face another one, the crucial question, who is the young prince who has elbowed his way to the top of the kingdom? And what exactly does MBS want?



ZAKARIA: The king of Saudi Arabia is 83 years old. It might sometimes seem that the Saudi king is always quite old.

TAREK MASOUD, PROFESSOR OF PUBLIC POLICY, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Everybody who governed that country was aged and uncharismatic.

ZAKARIA: You see, succession in the kingdom has followed a vulnerable pattern. By some estimates, the modern founder of the kingdom had 45 sons. When one died, the next oldest brother took his place. But nearly two years ago, King Salman shook up this established ritual. After an interim choice, he installed as Crown Prince, his 31-year-old son.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Saudi Arabia has a new heir to the throne.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A royal shake-up in the House of Saud.

ZAKARIA: Mohammed bin Salman, MBS, was an obscure young royal known, almost, no one outside Saudi Arabia. Now, he is poised to succeed his ailing father and rule the kingdom for half century if his health and the monarchy hold out.

MASOUD: This is somebody with a great deal of ambition and who has the complete support and faith of his father.

ZAKARIA: When MBS rocketed to power, he began to shake things up almost right away. The old Saudi system seemed ancient, with senior royals running ministries like earls and dukes. MBS put an end to that, replacing princes with people loyal to him and amassing power, personally.

We've talked about his dramatic social reforms.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A royal decree has been issued, giving women the right to drive.

ZAKARIA: And we've talked about his harsh treatment of some of those who advocated for those reforms.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rights groups say women activists have been subjected to torture and assault in Saudi jails.

ZAKARIA: But the reasons behind the need for change in Saudi Arabia are crucial.

THOMAS FRIEDMAN, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: If Mohammed bin Salman, the reformer, didn't exist, the Saudi system would've had to invent him. Oil is running out, their population is going up. There is no time to waste. They have exactly enough time to reform starting now.

ZAKARIA: Most employed Saudis worked for the government and are given generous subsidies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They can say whatever they want but at the end of the day, they can't just bleed out money. ZAKARIA: When oil prices crashed in late 2014, the state was forced to drastically cut back on government salaries and spending.

MASOUD: That's not a recipe for, kind of, stable form of government. What the Saudis really want to do is liberate themselves from dependence on oil, and have a kind of productive, industrialized economy like the countries of the developed west.

ZAKARIA: It is urgent because its young population is rapidly growing.

FRIEDMAN: In order to get wealthy, they just had to drill the ground, instead of drilling and unlocking their people, and their energy entrepreneurship and creativity.

ZAKARIA: The Crown Prince wants to get more Saudis to work and in the private sector, especially women.

MASOUD: Women in Saudi Arabia are hungry. They want opportunity. There are more women getting educated than men because they are looking for any opportunity to actually do something.

ZAKARIA: His economic plan is called Vision 2030.

MASOUD: They are looking at other ways to diversify their economy. One of the natural ones, of course, is tourism.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just endless potential.

ZAKARIA: He has plans for huge luxury resort in the Red Sea and a $500 billion-dollar entertainment city, Neom, in the middle of the desert. It all seemed to be moving forward, but then came the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. MBS lost some of his key foreign investors.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Richard Branson said he would freeze ties with the Saudi kingdom.

CROWD: MBS should be doing time.

ZAKARIA: The world is angry at him, but at home, he continues to have real support. One more factor that may keep MBS in power is nationalism.

MASOUD: People would have a sense of belonging to the state because they are Saudis, not because they are Wahhabis or because they have a particular way of understanding Islam.

[23:50:18] ZAKARIA: Before MBS, Saudi foreign policy had been quiet, even docile. The Crown Prince put it in overdrive, directed against an arch enemy, Iran.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You called the Ayatollah Khomeini, the new Hitler of the Middle East.

MOHAMMED BIN SALMAN, CROWN PRINCE, SAUDI ARABIA (through interpreter): Absolutely. ZAKARIA: Whether because they are Shiite heretics or personal adversaries, MBS has committed Saudi arms, efforts and prestige, in battling them on all fronts. So far, his foreign adventures have been a disaster, entrapping Saudi Arabia in a human rights catastrophe in Yemen, being out-maneuvered in Lebanon and drawn into a stalemate in Qatar.

Mohammed bin Salman is a young man in a hurry. He's thrown so many balls in the air, foreign policy, domestic reform, economic liberalization, all within a framework of increasing authoritarianism.

CLARKE: He is one in the same time, our best hope for the kinds of reforms of the government and of the economy and of the society that we want, and most Saudis want. But at the same time, he is the greatest impediment, right now, between Washington and Riyadh. His presence makes it difficult for us to cooperate.

ZAKARIA: Will this balance work, or will one or many of these balls crash to the ground? I'll give you my thoughts, when I return.



ZAKARIA: Let me begin this brief commentary on a personal note. I knew Jamal Khashoggi. Fifteen years ago, when I traveled to Saudi Arabia to write a cover story for Newsweek, he was one of the people who briefed me and he spent some time with me while I was in the country.


We have with us, Jamal Khashoggi.


I had a television show on PBS before I got to CNN, and I invited him on there to talk about the future of his country.


And then next, maybe women will be able to drive.

JAMAL KHASHOGGI, COLUMNIST, WASHINGTON POST: I'm sure it will happen also, eventually.


ZAKARIA: He was well-read and thoughtful, a Saudi reformer, but very much a Saudi patriot. I reacted to his death personally, visually, with a sense of horror and disgust, but also, a great sadness for the loss of a friend.

But I tried to keep in mind some larger factors when thinking about where the United States should go, in its relationship with Saudi Arabia. The first is that, Washington does not have the power to choose who will rule Saudi Arabia. The kingdom is a strange country with three distinct features, tribes, religion and oil, all interacting in complex ways.

The ruling family has been able to maintain power for so long because it has managed and manipulated the system, effectively. And if Mohammed bin Salman was somehow toppled, the most likely outcome is the return of more conservative traditional elements to Saudi government.

There are very few Jeffersonian Democrats out there, in the kingdom. The fact remains that MBS has done more reform in Saudi Arabia in the past few years, than took place in the previous decades. And yet, it is also true that he punishes descent, sometimes, savagely.

Saudi elites will often tell visitors that they need to understand that the Saudi regime for all its flaws is more progressive and pro- Western than Saudi society. The reality is, Saudi Arabia today, has not been its intellectual makeup of modern country. It can only move into modernity, slowly, fitfully.

The most effective path forward for Washington and the world would be to insist that Khashoggi's death become a turning point, to pressure Saudi Arabia to press forward on reform, religious, social, economic, and even political reform.

You see, Khashoggi's murder show that limited piecemeal openings done under the auspices of an absolute dictatorship, are not enough. Saudi Arabia needs to be governed by the rule of law, not the whims of one man, if it is to truly move forward.

It also needs to reign in its reckless foreign policy, for its own sake. And for the sake of a Middle East that has been driven by sectarian conflict that could last for generations. Most of all, it needs to work much harder to reverse the forces it has let loose in the Muslim world of reaction, backwardness, intolerance and hate.

TRUMP: The territory held by ISIS.

ZAKARIA: If Washington can press the Saudi government in these areas, if it can convince Mohammed bin Salman, that the only way to redeem his reputation is to demonstrate his ability to truly transform his country, then perhaps, something good can come out of the brutal murder of Jamal.

It will never justify it. Nothing can. But it might ensure that my friend, Jamal Khashoggi, did not die in vain.

Thank you for watching. I'm Fareed Zakaria.