KT McFarland, Former Trump Deputy National Security Advisor, She has worked under Four presidents(Nixon, Ford, Reagan & Trump) & Author of Revolution: Trump, Washington and “We The People”, joined the Guy Benson Show to discuss the groundbreaking interview of Bret Baier interviewing Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. McFarland and Guy discuss the greater foreign policy implications of the interview and the future of the United States’ relationship with Saudi Arabia. Listen to the full interview below.
KT McFarland had this to say about the importance of Bret Baier’s interview:
“This is one of the best interviews I’ve ever seen. Bar none. I mean, in 50 years in the business and Bret’s interview with a man who is going to really be the major power player in the Middle East for the next 40 or 50 years, probably one of the major world power players for the next 40, 50 years. It’s worth paying attention because this guy is he’s 38 years old, he’s young, he’s articulate in English. So it’s easy for us to understand in the West. And he’s got a vision and a very practical, common sense vision for his place in the world, his country’s place in the world and the world.”
Guy Benson: With us now is K.T. McFarland, former Trump deputy national security adviser. She has worked under four Republican presidential administrations. She is author of the book Revolution Trump, Washington, and We the People. @RealKatie McFarland on Social. And Katie, always great to have you back.
KT McFarland: Always an honor and a pleasure for me to. Thank you.
Guy Benson: I found it fascinating to see the lengthy sit down interview between our colleague Bret Beyer here at Fox News and the leader of Saudi Arabia, the Crown Prince MBC, Mohamed bin Salman. He doesn’t give a lot of interviews of this sort to Western media. Bret asks about a wide array of topics, a lot of them very important, some of them uncomfortable. That’s the job of a journalist. What were some of your biggest takeaways from that interview and why should Americans we can maybe start with this Why should Americans care what the leader of Saudi Arabia has to say about anything? Why is it relevant?
KT McFarland: Well, first of all, I. I agree with you. This is one of the best interviews I’ve ever seen. Bar none. I mean, in 50 years in the business and Bret’s interview with a man who is going to really be the major power player in the Middle East for the next 40 or 50 years, probably one of the major world power players for the next 40, 50 years. It’s worth paying attention because this guy is he’s 38 years old, he’s young, he’s articulate in English. So it’s easy for us to understand in the West. And he’s got a vision and a very practical, common sense vision for his place in the world, his country’s place in the world and the world. And I just if I can follow up by saying, in the beginning of the Trump administration, we sat in the White House Situation Room where Jared Kushner was there. A number of us senior advisers were there trying to figure out, okay, what’s our policy towards Saudi Arabia going to be? And Israel and Jared Kushner came up with the idea. They said, well, you know, there’s there’s the older generation we’ve been used to dealing with. And that was the guys I was used to dealing with. But they’re all in their seventies. We should be dealing with the young guy with Mohammed bin Salman. He’s in his middle thirties and he’s got a real vision for the future. And I, silly me, piped up and said, Oh, he’s much too young. And Jared came back with, well, 75% of its population is younger than he is. 75% of the population of Saudi Arabia at the time was under 35. And so for the people of Saudi Arabia, this man, this crown prince, is in fact a contemporary of theirs. So that was a really important point. What we understood at the beginning of the Trump administration was that as long as we could have American oil production, we could determine the price of oil globally and it would never be very high again. And as a result of that, the Saudis and other Gulf Arab countries, they would realize that their future was not just going to be to export oil and live like rich Saudi sheiks, that they would have to somehow modernize their economy, they would have to liberalize and open their societies. And we were counting on them understanding that. And that was the crux of the Abraham Accords agreement, a first historic and, you know, 3000 years between both Sunni Arabs and Israel. The Arabs understand price of oil is never going to be high again. They got to diversify their economies to do that. They have peace with Israel. And that’s what this man was talking about.
Guy Benson: Yeah. And he also wants to really beef up Saudi Arabia’s tourism. Industry make it a destination, which I don’t think many people in the West see it as. He’s trying to change that. They’re really building high end resorts on the Red Sea. I mean, there is a vision here. There’s a lot of warts, of course, as well. And Brett did not shy away from asking about those. But just because you mentioned peace with Israel, that was a major subject. Is that imminent? Is it pending? Could we see what would be in some ways a truly shocking and historic peace agreement beyond just the Abraham Accords, which was a big. Massive earthquake of a deal. If Saudi Arabia basically became a party to those and officially made peace with the state of Israel, is that realistic? What would that look like? Listen to cut 28 for that exchange.
Bret Baier: Also mentioned in this deal is Israel. What would it take for you to agree to normalize relations with Israel?
Crowned Prince MBS: There is support from prison by the administration to get to that point. For us, the Palestinian issue is very important. We need to solve that part. And we have good negotiations. Continue to now we got to see where it would go. We hope that it will reach a place, that it will ease the life of the Palestinians and get Israel as a player, middle and Middle East.
Bret Baier: There were reports that you had suspended talks.
Crowned Prince MBS: That’s that’s not true.
Bret Baier: So you think if you were to characterize it, are you close?
Crowned Prince MBS: Every day we get closer. It seems it’s for the first time real one serious. We get to see how it goes.
Guy Benson: Every day we get closer. And for the first time, it’s serious. Is that rhetoric or is that reality?
KT McFarland: No, it’s reality. And it’s for a couple of reasons. One is the one I’ve just said that Saudi Arabia does want to diversify its economy and they need peace with Israel to do that. But the second reason is Iran. Now, Saudi Arabia and Iran, they’re both Muslim countries, but they’re different kind of Muslims. One is Shiite, one to Sunni. And they’re racially and ethnically different. One is Arab. That’s Saudi Arabia is an Arab country and Iran is a Persian country. They hate each other and they’ve hated each other for thousands of years. They currently hate each other a lot more. And so one of the big sort of motivations of Saudi Arabia to reach out to Israel and Israel to reach out to Saudi Arabia is to make a common cause, saying, look, Iran is after both of us. We need to join together so that we present kind of a united front against Iran. And then later in the interview, when Bret asked him about the Iranian nuclear program and nuclear weapons and is Iran on the cusp of getting nuclear weapons, there was no hesitation on the part of the Saudi crown prince for if Iran gets from Saudi Arabia is going to get nuclear weapons.
Guy Benson: In fact, let’s listen to that answer. Cut. 31 This is what you just referenced, Katie.
Crowned Prince MBS: Well, we are concerned of any country getting a nuclear weapon. That’s about the. That’s about the move. We don’t need to get a nuclear weapon because you cannot use it even if you don’t get a nuclear weapon. Any country use a nuclear weapon. That means they are having a war with the rest of the world. The world cannot see another Oshima. If the North see 100,000 people dead, that mean you are in a war with the rest of the world. So to use this effort to reach a nuclear weapon, because you cannot use it if you use it, you got to have a big fight with the rest of the world.
Bret Baier: If they get one, will you?
Crowned Prince MBS: If they get one, we have to get one. For security reasons, for basing power on Middle East. But we don’t want to see that.
Guy Benson: If they get one, meaning a nuclear weapon or more. We know the Iranians have pursued it aggressively, then we would have to. He says of his own country, Saudi Arabia. There had been reports about some rapprochement between those two countries with China may be involved. Was that exaggerated? Katie? And is what we just heard one of the reasons why those reports might be exaggerated? Because, as you say, mostly, especially in recent history, there has been no love lost.
KT McFarland: I think that whether it’s exaggerated or not, it would be a wonderful thing to happen. I think it’s highly unlikely. China, however, is becoming a major player in the Middle East, not just with Saudi Arabia and with other countries in the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia particularly. I mean, China is going to these countries and says, look, I don’t care what your domestic politics are or what your political system is. We want to have a relationship with you. We want your oil and we’ll pay for it. But in exchange, we will give you a high speed Internet. We will build up a lot of your infrastructure. We will help you get into the modern world. And in one case, one report I read said that Saudi Arabia was even hoping to get some kind of nuclear cooperation with Iran, with with China. Now, China has gone around the region and offered everybody that kind of access. So China is making inroads into a part of the world where, if you’ll note, there’s a part of the interview that Brant had with the Saudi crown prince was over human rights issue, women’s rights, etc.. So the United States, unlike China, the United States says, look, we we believe in certain values and we expect any friend of ours to have similar values. China, they don’t care. China says we don’t care what you do with that. We just want a relationship. So in some ways, it puts us at a disadvantage. I think it puts us at an advantage because we stand for something.
Guy Benson: I want to dig into that a little bit deeper, because if you’re looking at this from a somewhat cynical cost benefit analysis standpoint, it’s like, okay, American influence versus China if it’s zero sum. Aren’t we at something of a disadvantage because we do care about human rights and our values and Western values? So you have these sort of thorny topics when you’re dealing with the Saudis, the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, which Bret brought up, the fact that the vast majority of the 911 hijackers were Saudi nationals, all the human rights abuses, the way women have been treated in that country, we don’t completely turn a blind eye to those things. I don’t think we should. The Chinese, obviously, they’re totally amoral or immoral. They don’t care. They’re huge human rights abusers themselves. So they can come in and not offer any sort of finger wagging or lecture, which is how it might be received in a place like Saudi Arabia. But we’re America. We’re supposed to, as you said, stand for something. How do we balance those concerns? Because I see a lot of people, some on the right, many on the left saying we shouldn’t warm up to the Saudis. We shouldn’t treat them like an ally. Joe Biden said they should be considered and ought to be treated as a pariah state. I understand that they’ve got serious problems and major, major flaws, and they deserve a lot of that criticism. But in the world of realpolitik, sometimes it’s essential to deal with regimes with very ugly records. What does that balancing test look like? U.S. values versus U.S. interests?
KT McFarland: You know, I, I guess I comes down sort of in the middle of that and say an America first foreign policy, which I believe in what’s best for America. How is it is it best for us to have nothing to do with these countries because they don’t espouse our values? Or are these countries that we need to have relationships with because we need trade in relationships with them, or there’s a geography to it that makes it important for us to be working with those countries. And I think it’s a case by case basis. You know, I think the United States can kind of have both. To the extent that we can say we believe in our values, but we’re not going to share our values down your throat. And that was one of the biggest mistakes I think we made throughout the Forever Wars is that we kept trying to shove American values down the throats of countries that didn’t want to have anything to do with us American values. And we never found a middle way.
Guy Benson: Katie, last question on another subject. The president of Ukraine, President Zelensky, on Capitol Hill here in Washington today, meeting with members of both parties seeking to bolster support for the Ukrainian war effort against the Russian invasion. He was famously already escorted through the halls by the Republican and Democratic leaders in the Senate. He was given a pretty warm reception overall. But after some of these closed door briefings and meetings, dozens of Republicans have come out and stood behind a letter that they’ve signed saying it’s time for the U.S. to end our funding of the war effort in Ukraine or seriously curtail it at the very least. What’s your response to that? What should the U.S. policy be here, as you see it, in terms of U.S. vital interest? Because I think that’s how a lot of voters are at least processing this question.
KT McFarland: Yeah, I think that the important thing to understand with Ukraine, if you want to win the Ukraine war, the way you win it is by producing American energy. And once you produce American energy, the price of oil goes down globally. Russia is bankrupt. Russia can’t afford to fight that war. So it’s not a matter of do we get more involved, more involved with Ukraine or less involved with Ukraine, bankrupt Russia. That’s how we won the Cold War. And as far as the investment of the United States in Ukraine, you know, the European countries were very vocal early on to say, we’re going to do this, we’re going to do that. And it’s all kind of fallen by the wayside, except for one or two. But now that is the United States in a basically another forever war. Russia can continue to fight this war for ever as long as oil prices are high because it gives them the resources and the money and the windfall profits to fight it. But the other thing is that whatever we’re doing with Ukraine and we’ve done a lot, we have to make sure we know where that money goes. And Ukraine was, you know, importantly one of the most historically corrupt countries in the world before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. There’s no reason to think that they’ve gotten uncorrupt lately. So it also is where is the money going? But, you know, in the greater scheme of things, again, America first, are we supplying Ukraine at the expense of our own security, our own armed forces? I think in some cases, yes. So I got a lot of sympathy for those Republican senators to sign that letter.
Guy Benson: Katie McFarlane, former Trump deputy national security adviser, she has served under the Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Trump administrations. And Katie, we always value your insights. Thanks for dropping by.
KT McFarland: Thank you so much.