London – Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Second Deputy Premier and Minister of Defense believes that Iran represents the three main ills of the Middle East, adding that there is no point in negotiating with a power that is committed to exporting its exclusivist ideology, engaging in terrorism, and violating the sovereignty of other nations.
During a special interview with Foreign Affairs magazine on Thursday, Prince Mohammed said he has confidence in the ability of rational American legislators to come up with a solution to JASTA.
The magazine mentioned that the Deputy Crown Prince’s early moves included cutting various subsidies, raising taxes, selling major state assets, and making room for the private sector to play a larger role in the economy.
Speaking of the Prince’s role in reaching out to the youth, Foreign Affaris said that never before in the history of Saudi Arabia has a member of the royal family spoken for and connected with youth, especially that more than half of the population is under the age of 25.
Because of his young age, Prince Mohammed has keen understanding of the needs and aspirations of his generation, better positioned than most to manage and take advantage of the country’s vast youth population, using its skills to expand the reform program.
Concerning the role of Iran in the region, the Deputy Crown Prince shares the Saudi government’s view that Iran represents and instigates the three main ills of the region: borderless ideologies, state instability, and terrorism.
When asked about the future of the Saudi-Iranian struggle and whether Riyadh would consider opening a direct channel of communication with Iran to de-escalate tensions and forge common ground, the Prince replied: “There is no point in negotiating with a power that is committed to exporting its exclusivist ideology, engaging in terrorism, and violating the sovereignty of other nations.”
“Until Tehran changes its deeply problematic outlook and behavior, Saudi Arabia has much to lose from prematurely proposing rapprochement and cooperation,” he stated.
Speaking of the spread of ISIS and al-Qaeda terrorist organizations, the Prince believes that ISIS can be contained in the region and ultimately defeated especially with the presence of stronger states, such as Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia.
When asked about terrorism and local extremism, Prince Mohammed related the time when Osama bin Laden instructed his followers to wage attacks in Saudi Arabia and recalled that “dark episode in kingdom’s history.”
The Prince is surprised that Wahhabism is being linked to and equaled with terrorism. He argued that the history of Islamic militancy has nothing to do with Saudi Arabia’s religious doctrine, which was found in the 18th century.
“If Wahhabism was created 300 years ago, where was terrorism then? Why did it appear only recently?” he asked.
The magazine also reported the Prince’s appreciation of the value of the U.S.-Saudi partnership, to which he believes “there is no credible alternative.”
He also expressed his strong belief in U.S. leadership in the world.
He voiced his concerns, like most allies and partners of the United States around the globe, about Washington’s decreasing desire to lead and the consequences of U.S. apathy.
“If you don’t lead, somebody else will fill in the void, not necessarily good actors,” he added.
Unlike most other Arab officials, who are sensitive to American lectures about democracy or interventions in their countries’ domestic affairs, the Prince urged Washington to constructively criticize the Kingdom.
Foreign Affairs said that the Prince seems to have the right ideas about how to create a more effective military and build a defense industrial capacity in Saudi Arabia.
The magazine pointed out that Deputy Crown Prince and Crown Prince, First Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Interior of Saudi Arabia Muhammad bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz work closely and meet almost daily.
Describing their relation, the magazine said: “Their portfolios complement each other; indeed, there isn’t much room for overlap or competition. Mohammed bin Salman is in charge of fixing the economy and bolstering national defense. Mohammed bin Nayef controls the enormous dossier of internal security that includes chasing down terrorists and preserving law and order in the Kingdom’s vast and numerous governorates and municipalities.”
However, the magazine said that Deputy Crown Prince faces several challenges including rebuilding the Saudi economy for the post-oil era, the costly war in Yemen, and frantically checking Iranian advances across the region and dealing with an increasingly violent Middle East.
Speaking of the Saudi-US relations, the Prince expressed his confidence in the ability of rational American legislators to come up with a solution to U.S. Congress’ recent Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA).
It is worth mentioning that there is already momentum on Capitol Hill, led by Senator Lindsey Graham and John McCain that could lead to modifying the law in ways that respect the wishes of the 9/11 families while preserving U.S. national security interests and the U.S.-Saudi relationship.
In the end, the Deputy Crown Prince said he will focus on leveraging the major economic opportunities within his Economic Vision 2030 initiative to get the United States on board with Saudi Arabia’s transformation.
The magazine also noted that he would like to restart the bilateral strategic dialogue that was “interrupted during the Obama years for reasons that remain unclear.”