In Interview with CNBC/Capital Report, Queen Rania Talks about the Situation in Iraq

October 17, 2003

And welcome back to CAPITAL REPORT. Her country is surrounded by violence and political upheaval, but Queen Rania of Jordan has gained a reputation as a broker for peace in the Middle East. Earlier today in an exclusive interview, we asked the queen about the UN Security Council's unanimous approval of the resolution on Iraq.

QUEEN RANIA: Well, I really think that that's a very positive development, because I think it gives international legitimacy to the whole process in Iraq and brings the whole process into the international fold. And, you know, today I think all sides tried to put their differences aside and focus on the well-being and the best interests of the Iraqi people, and I think that that's a very positive development. I really think it will be received positively in our part of the world.

ALAN MURRAY, co-host: I want to get back to Iraq in a minute, but first, let me ask you also about the other news this week. Three Americans killed in the Gaza Strip, apparently the targets of a bombing. I mean, this is something new, to have Americans targeted by Palestinians. Is it a sign of the anti-American sentiment in your part of the world? How do you interpret it?

QUEEN RANIA: It could be. I mean, really my hope is that this is an isolated event, and it's not going to be a trend where we're seeing American soldiers targeted unfairly like this. I was very saddened to hear this news. There is a feeling in our part of world, and I think in other places, of resentment towards the United States, and I think it's the result of misunderstanding of the policies. However, having said that, I think the people in our part of the world are very sophisticated, multifaceted, complex people, and I think they separate between the policies and politics and the people. So although you have people in our part of the world who are against US policy, they actually are favorable towards the American people, and this is an opportunity to engage with the American people ...(unintelligible).

MURRAY: What will it take to turn that anti-American sentiment around?

QUEEN RANIA: I think communication is very, very important; dialogue, two-way dialogue, engagement with our part of the world. And as well as that, I think you need to have a very positive process taking place on the ground. We need progress. What's happened over the past few years is that there hasn't been any progress in the political field. The situation has been going from bad to worse, and that is always fertile ground for extremists. And as you can see, the extremists have been given an opportunity to really dominate the scene. And in order to try to come to, you know, neutralize them or to weaken them, we really need to have positive things happening on the ground, an improvement in people's lives.

GLORIA BORGER: Turning back to Iraq for a moment, the Congress is right now talking about approving, and will approve probably, $87 billion for the rebuilding of Iraq after the war. There is a lot of controversy in the United States about it. Some members of the president's own party want some of that money to be a loan rather than a gift to Iraq. How important is this $87 billion, and will it possibly change the way people view America?

QUEEN RANIA: I believe it's very important, because I think it's required in order to finish the job. At the end of the day, what we want is a sovereign, independent, democratic Iraq. And in order to achieve that, we need to have security on the ground, we need to have the systems and institutions into place, and that's going to require a lot of money. You know, you're building from the bottom up. And leaving the job half finished, I think, will end up leaving a lot of resentment in our part of world, and I think that could be a danger.

MURRAY: Looking at the whole picture, do you think it was a good thing or a bad thing for United States to invade Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein?

QUEEN RANIA: Well, I think the most important thing is what the Iraqi people feel, and the majority of them are very happy to see that regime go. It was a very brutal regime. I think a lot of people were suffering for many, many years. At the same time, I don't think the Iraqi people are happy having an occupying force in their country. Now, I understand that the American troops do not want to be there longer than they have to be, but that has to be communicated to the Iraqi people. And I think what the Iraqi people are lacking at the moment is visibility into the future. They don't really know where they're heading, and I think that's always a very difficult thing for people. They need to know where their future lies. Also, there's a leadership vacuum, and I think as human beings, we all tend to congregate behind leaders. We need to be shown the way. And those two things are missing, and I think they need to be restored as soon as possible.

BORGER: Do you think it would be important or helpful for the United States to say, 'This is the date when we will leave?'

QUEEN RANIA: It's, I think, unrealistic, but obviously it would be a very positive thing, because, as I said, people like to know what the end game is. In other words, if I knew that I am having to endure something and then this is when it's going to end, then it makes it easier for me to handle it. So, you know, having a road map, with goal posts and signs always is very comforting for people.

MURRAY: But there's a conflict there as well, isn't there? I mean, on the one hand, everyone says, 'End the occupation as soon as possible.' On the other hand, they say, as you did, 'Finish the job, you know. Make sure that you leave a stable Iraq with systems up and running.' That may take time.

QUEEN RANIA: Right. And I think managing expectations is the most important thing, and that happens by having clear vision and communicating that vision in a very clear way to the people. I think this is the best way to handle that situation.

BORGER: Well, Ambassador Bremer is obviously over there. He has a very difficult job, as everybody knows. There is now a cabinet over there in place. You talk about leadership. Where will the leadership come from?

QUEEN RANIA: It has to come from the people themselves, and it has to have--I know that the Iraqi people are divided along ethnic and political and cultural divides. But I think at the end of the day, the people--the leaders who are going to be selected have to have approval from the majority of the Iraqi people. They have to have credibility, and they have to have the popularity from the people.

MURRAY: I want to go back to this anti-American and even anti-Western sentiment in the region that you were talking about earlier, because you're obviously somebody who is trying to bridge that gap. You're here encouraging investment in your region. You were in New York opening an exhibit that's designed to encourage cultural interaction. Does that put you in a difficult position, you and your husband in a difficult position in the region, that you're seen as being too close to the United States perhaps?

QUEEN RANIA: Well, some people might view it that way, but the way we see it is that, you know, we've had very strong ties with the United States for a very long time. These are historic ties. And we believe in this relationship, and we value it very much, and we believe that it's very important for us to bridge these divides, because it's not safe for our world if we keep having these differences. As you saw, you know, people tend to use these kinds of sentiments to bring about extremism which can then translate into terrorism, and this represents a danger to all our world. So I think as much dialogue as we can have, as much as we can bridge these gaps, the better it will be for everyone.

BORGER: But there is some cost to the king's popularity, for example, and perhaps even to your own for being pro-Western, I would presume, right?

QUEEN RANIA: Well, I don't see us as being pro-Western. I think we are, you know, following the policy that we believe in. And, you know, it's always normal that you might have people who disagree with you, but I don't think it's a pro-Western policy. I think it's what is in the best interests of both our countries.

MURRAY: One of the causes you've taken up at home is combating these honor killings which, as I understand it, are situations where men kill women, maybe their relatives, their spouses for immoral behavior. Are you making progress on that?

QUEEN RANIA: Slowly, but surely. I think, you know, when it comes to changing these kinds of things, on the one hand you want to change some of the laws. On the other hand, it's even more important to change some of the perceptions and social attitudes, and those take a long time to happen. You need to start from the bottom up. You need to have educational awareness campaigns. You need to enlist leaders in society to talk to people about this issue. But we are very committed to eradicating this practice. Let me say that as much as something that happens in Jordan, it happens in many countries of the world, sometimes under a different label like crimes of passion, but I believe that the world has a long way to go for combating this issue of violence against women.

BORGER: Well, there is a story recently of an Iraqi exile, for example, who slit his own 16-year-old daughter's throat because he thought she had behaved in some kind of immoral way. You have tried to go to your legislature to get the "light" sentences for these kinds of crimes reduced, and you lost

QUEEN RANIA: This is part of the process, you know. This is when you have a democracy and an elected parliament; sometimes, you know, they disagree on these kinds of issues. And I think the result--this disagreement comes as a result of ignorance of the issue. People don't necessarily understand what crimes of honor actually mean. And they don't understand that it's against our religion, that there is no honor in taking the law in your own hands, and that's something we have to communicate to the people.

MURRAY: And do you feel like you're making progress on that?

QUEEN RANIA: Slowly, but, you know, as long as we're committed, I think in the end, we will take care of this issue. We're very committed to that.

BORGER: Well, Your Majesty, thanks so much for being with us.

QUEEN RANIA: It was a pleasure.

MURRAY: Thank you.

QUEEN RANIA: Thank you very much. Thank you.

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