Riyadh: Saudi Arabia will develop nuclear weapons if its arch-rival Iran does so, the kingdom’s crown prince said in remarks released on Thursday, raising the prospect of a nuclear arms race in a region already riven with conflict.
“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,” Prince Mohammed bin Salman told CBS in a 60 Minutes interview that will air in the United States on Sunday.
He also reiterated previous comments he has made likening Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to Hitler.
“He wants to create his own project in the Middle East very much like Hitler, who wanted to expand at the time,” the prince says in the interview.
“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 the Middle East.”
The Sunni Muslim kingdom has been at loggerheads with revolutionary Shi’ite Iran for decades. The countries have fought a long-running proxy war in the Middle East and beyond, backing rival sides in armed conflicts and political crises including in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.
Prince Mohammed, who also serves as Saudi defence minister, said last year that the kingdom would make sure any future struggle between the two countries “is waged in Iran”, prompting Iranian threats to hit back at most of Saudi Arabia except the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.
Riyadh has criticised the 2015 deal between world powers and Tehran under which economic sanctions on Iran were lifted in return for the Islamic Republic curbing its nuclear energy program. US sanctions will resume unless President Donald Trump issues fresh “waivers” to suspend them on May 12.