Saudi Arabia's crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, 32, said Israelis have a right to their 'own land' -- and compared Iran's Supreme Leader to Hitler -- in a wide-ranging interview this week. (Reuters)
Saudi Arabia's crown prince affirmed Israel's right to exist and criticized former President Obama's Iran policy in an interview published Monday, pointedly bucking other leaders in the Arab world and signaling support for President Trump's Middle East agenda.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 32, told The Atlantic that both Israelis and Palestinians "have the right to have their own land" -- a surprising assertion given that many Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, do not have formal diplomatic relations with Israel.
“I believe that each people, anywhere, has a right to live in their peaceful nation," he said. "I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land.”
Prince Mohammed then took aim at Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
“Hitler didn’t do what the supreme leader [of Iran] is trying to do," the crown prince told The Atlantic. "Hitler tried to conquer Europe. This is bad. But the supreme leader is trying to conquer the world.
"He is the Hitler of the Middle East."
- Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, on Iran's Supreme Leader
"He believes he owns the world. They are both evil guys. He is the Hitler of the Middle East. In the 1920s and 1930s, no one saw Hitler as a danger. Only a few people. Until it happened."
Asked about the Obama administration's nuclear deal with Iran -- which President Trump has long lambasted -- the crown prince sided with the current White House.
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“President Obama believed that if he gave Iran opportunities to open up, it would change,” he said. “But with a regime based on this ideology, it will not open up soon. Sixty percent of the Iranian economy is controlled by the Revolutionary Guard. The economic benefits of the Iran nuclear deal are not going to the people.
“They took $150 billion after the deal — can you please name one housing project they built with this money? One park? One industrial zone? Can you name for me the highway that they built? I advise them — please show us something that you’re building a highway with $150 billion. For Saudi Arabia, there is a 0.1 percent chance that this deal would work to change the country. For President Obama it was 50 percent. But even if there’s a 50 percent chance that it would work, we can’t risk it. The other 50 percent is war. We have to go to a scenario where there is no war.”
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Prince Mohammed pushed aside his cousin last year to become first in line to the Saudi throne, and he now controls a vast fortune, a well-heeled military and the future of a nation in the throes of sweeping economic and social change.
He is on a mission during his three-week U.S. visit to improve the perception of his nation in the eyes of Americans, who have viewed Saudi Arabia warily because of its conservative social mores, unequal treatment of women and, more recently, deadly military campaign in Yemen.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.