Khamenei is Hitler: MBS

'Riyadh will acquire N-bomb if Tehran does the same'

By BEN HUBBARD in Beirut
  • Published 16.03.18
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Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
 

Beirut: Saudi Arabia's powerful crown prince has compared the supreme leader of Iran to Adolf Hitler, and said that his country would acquire a nuclear bomb "as soon as possible" if Iran developed nuclear weapons.

The provocative comments by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ratcheted up the rhetoric in the increasingly volatile rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which has fuelled sectarianism and war across West Asia.

His statements were in an excerpt, released on Thursday, of a prerecorded interview with 60 Minutes, the CBS News programme.

Saudi Arabia, a Sunni monarchy, blames Iran for funding militias to undermine Arab states, while Shia Iran accuses Saudi Arabia of backing Sunni extremist groups. Their struggle for regional dominance has put the two nations on opposite sides of conflicts in Yemen, Syria and Iraq that have killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions.

Prince Mohammed, who jailed hundreds of the kingdom's most potent figures while swiftly consolidating his own power, is scheduled to arrive in the US on Monday for an extended trip. His plans include meeting with President Trump in the White House and with business, entertainment and technology leaders in a number of American cities.

One of his primary goals is to persuade Americans to invest in his reform plans, which aim to diversify the Saudi economy away from oil, increase the kingdom's military self-sufficiency and raise its citizens' quality of life.

His comments on Iran also suggested that he would seek further cooperation with the US in combating Iranian influence in West Asia, a goal he shares with the Trump administration.

In the interview, Prince Mohammed, 32, played down Iran's power, saying its army was not well ranked in the Muslim world and that Saudi Arabia had a larger economy.

"Iran is far from being equal to Saudi Arabia," he said, speaking through a translator. When asked about his previous comments comparing Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, to Hitler, he replied, "Absolutely."

"He wants to create his own project in West Asia very much like Hitler, who wanted to expand at the time," Prince Mohammed said. "Many countries around the world and in Europe did not realise how dangerous Hitler was until what happened, happened. I don't want to see the same events happening in West Asia."

He was then asked whether Saudi Arabia sought nuclear weapons to counter Iran. "Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb, but without a doubt if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible," he said.

Saudi officials grew furious with the Obama administration for its push with other world powers to reach an agreement placing limits on Iran's nuclear capabilities.

Sister arrest warrant

A French judge has issued an arrest warrant for the daughter of Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz, a source close to the investigation said on Thursday.

New York Times News Service