Saudi crown prince talks openly to the US media

Rarely has an Arab leader, very well a Saudi royal, been featured so prominently in the American media as the Saudi crown prince.
Sunday 08/04/2018
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz during his visit to Lockheed Martin company in San Francisco, on April 6. (Reuters)
A reformist vision. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz during his visit to Lockheed Martin company in San Francisco, on April 6. (Reuters)

WASHINGTON - Rarely has an Arab leader, very well a Saudi royal, been featured so prominently in the American media as was Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz during his multi-city tour of the United States.

And rarely has any foreign leader made himself so accessible to the media: Crown Prince Mohammed gave interviews to prominent newspapers; appeared on “60 Minutes,” CBS News’ iconic weekly news programme; and was the subject of an extensive profile interview in the Atlantic magazine.

That interview with veteran journalist Jeffrey Goldberg grabbed the most headlines. The crown prince told Goldberg that the Jewish people “have a right” to a homeland and much of the media reported that this was a radical new development.

In fact, Crown Prince Mohammed was stating what has been a consistent Saudi position since at least 2002, when the late Saudi King Abdullah Al Saud presented a peace plan that recognised Israel inside the 1967 borders, a plan that was approved by the Arab League.

Considerably less attention was given to the fact that the crown prince told Goldberg that the Palestinian people also deserve a homeland.

In another headline-grabbing comment, Crown Prince Mohammed told his “60 Minutes” interviewer Norah O’Donnell that Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is “like Hitler” because “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.”

Continuing, the crown prince warned: “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 “60 Minutes” interview was recorded in Riyadh just prior to the crown prince’s visit to the United States.

Any comparison of a living political leader with the German Nazi ruler is likely to raise eyebrows but nothing in Crown Prince Mohammed’s remarks suggested he was hinting that Khamenei had genocidal tendencies. It was clear to all who read his words that the reference was to Iranian expansionism and desire to dominate the region, just as Germany had desired to dominate Europe in the mid-20th century.

Crown Prince Mohammed also blamed the Iranian Revolution in 1979 for causing the spread of an ultraconservative interpretation of Islam, one that he is trying to moderate and modernise inside the kingdom.

One of the crown prince’s responses to a question from O’Donnell received much less attention than it should have. When she asked whether women were equal to men, Crown Prince Mohammed responded without hesitation: “Absolutely. We are all human beings and there is no difference.”

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