- The Washington Times - Monday, October 6, 2003

Before the Iraq war, Mohamed Bin Issa Al Jaber was one of the few prominent Saudis who openly backed U.S. military action to topple Saddam Hussein.

“My support of change in Iraq began a long time ago,” Mr. Al Jaber said in an interview last week from Europe, where he owns a multibillion-dollar hotel, a resort and a commodities company, the London-based MBI International and Partners.

“The gangsters have to go, everywhere. I think Saddam hijacked a nation for a long time and was a threat to security and peace in the region.” He described Saddam as a dictator who opposed all efforts at achieving peace in the region and who encouraged terrorists.

Mr. Al Jaber’s support for war went as far as a letter to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell on Feb. 19.

“The regime of Saddam Hussein is vicious and has to be removed as a first step,” Mr. Al Jaber wrote. “After that, reformers in other countries will take heart and the balance of power will shift to trade liberalization, democracy and human rights. Above all, the youth of the Middle East will be liberated once and for all.”

Today, despite setbacks in securing Iraq and the continuing combat deaths of American soldiers, Mr. Al Jaber believes an Iraq without Saddam will lead to a new liberalization in the Middle East. He believes the ultimate answer is education. He wants Muslim children taught that they, Jews and Christians, can live together in tolerant societies.

As such, he is fighting a cultural war against Saudi-exile Osama bin Laden and the network of Islamic madrassas that teach hatred of the West, a rigid form of Islam and jihad, or holy war.

Last month, he reached agreement with UNESCO Director General Kochiro Matsuura to begin a new education program, including a mechanism to bring literature to Arab youth through serialization in popular newspapers. He wants the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to set up a group of scholars to develop strategies for building modern societies in the Arab world.

His MBI Foundation recently donated $5 million to the Dar al Hekma private womens’ college in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

“This is the only way to build the hearts and minds, yes,” Mr. Al Jaber said. “They have to have quality education to bring them an understanding of the rest of the world, and I think this has already been started in the region by private schools. … I think this is the only way the whole world can live in peace.”

As for critics of President Bush’s Iraq policy, he said: “I think they are out of touch. Good things are going on in Iraq. … The Iraqis must listen to those committed to change, especially people who sacrificed for change. I think this is a big change and history will show that this is right. I think people who come late to criticize are just muddying the water.”

Mr. Al Jaber is particularly critical of the Arab satellite TV station Al Jazeera, which, ironically broadcasts from Qatar. Qatar’s leader, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, like Al Jaber, is committed to educational reform and allowed the United States to direct the war from his soil.

Al Jazeera is seen by American commanders as promoting terrorism, particularly against soldiers in Iraq, and has ties to al Qaeda. Spain jailed an Al Jazeera correspondent on terrorism charges, and the coalition in Iraq recently detained two of its reporters.

“I would support the interim government and coalition to do what is necessary to stop the violence,” Mr. Al Jaber said, when asked if Al Jazeera should be shut down in Iraq. “Any media that would promote terrorists to give the order for killing people should be stopped.”


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