Saudi Arabia would race to develop its own nuclear bomb if Iran was allowed to get one, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has warned ahead of his first official trip to Washington as heir to the throne.
“Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb but without a doubt, if Iran developed a nuclear bomb we would follow suit as soon as possible,” the 32-year-old prince told CBS News.
He repeated his accusation that Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, was “the new Hitler” in the Middle East.
"He wants to expand, he wants to create his own project in the Middle East very much like Hitler who wanted to expand at the time.
"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."
“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.” Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman @CBSThisMorning @60Minutes https://t.co/WZwnapOUxA pic.twitter.com/yMsS0k1Q4W
— Norah O'Donnell🇺🇸 (@NorahODonnell) March 15, 2018
But he dismissed Iran as a rival to Saudi Arabia. "Its army is not among the top five armies in the Muslim world, the Saudi economy is larger than the Iranian economy. Iran is far from being equal to Saudi Arabia.
Fears of a nuclear arms race between Iran and Saudi Arabia are growing once again as the Iran nuclear deal comes under increasing pressure and after Riyadh announced it was pursuing a civilian nuclear energy programme.
Donald Trump has threatened to pull the US out of the 2015 nuclear accord unless it is significantly tightened and expanded to cover areas which were not in the original agreement, including Iran’s behaviour in the region.
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Mike Pompeo, Mr Trump’s choice to be the new US secretary of state, also takes a hawkish stance on Iran and is far less conciliatory than his predecessor, Rex Tillerson, raising European fears that it may be impossible to salvage the deal.
Iran has warned that it would resume enriching uranium if the US pulled out of the deal and reimposed severe sanctions.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia announced this week that it is seeking to develop a nuclear energy programme of its own. It said that its nuclear “will be restricted to peaceful purposes” but analysts fear that the programme could be converted to making weapons if a nuclear arms race with Iran broke out.
Advocates of the Iran nuclear agreement argue that one of its key benefits was reducing the pressure on Saudi Arab and other Arab states to develop nuclear weapons in response to Iran.
The crown prince spoke ahead of his first visit to Washington since usurping his older cousin to become Saudi Arabia’s crown prince in June last year.