In a wide-ranging TV interview, Mohammed Bin Salman laid out Saudi positions for the Biden administration.
By Paul Shindman, World Israel News
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman gave a rare interview on Saudi national television Wednesday, outlining the progress of his Vision 2030 plan for major reforms in his country, but also laying out some key foreign policy positions that appeared to be a message aimed at Washington.
Hosted by Saudi television personality Liwan Al Mudaifer, the prince spent most of the interview talking about internal Saudi issues before Al Mudaifer asked him about relations with Iran and the United States.
“At the end of the day, Iran is a neighboring country,” bin Salman said. “All what we ask for is to have a good and distinguished relationship with Iran. We do not want the situation with Iran to be difficult. On the contrary, we want it to prosper and grow as we have Saudi interests in Iran, and they have Iranian interests in Saudi Arabia, which is to drive prosperity and growth in the region and the entire world.”
However, bin Salman laid out the key issues with Tehran that have worried the Saudis and their Gulf neighbors for years.
“The problem that we have lies with certain negative behaviors they [the Iranians] have, whether in terms of their nuclear program, their support of illegal militias in some countries in the region, or their ballistic missile program,” he said. “We are working now with our partners in the region and the world to find solutions for these problems. We really hope we would overcome them and build a good and positive relationship with Iran that would benefit all parties.”
Saudi-U.S. Relations are not 100%
Asked if there was “any discord” between Riyadh and Washington, bin Salman admitted diplomatically that things were not perfect with the Biden administration, but that the Saudis and Americans were in agreement on most issues.
“There is no such thing as a completely 100 percent agreement between two countries, even with the Gulf countries, the closest ones,” he said. “There usually are some kind of differences, which is something you’d find in the same house, where brothers don’t agree 100 percent on everything.”
“With varying U.S. administrations, of course, the margin of difference may increase or decrease, but we are in agreement with the Biden administration on more than 90 percent of Saudi-U.S. interests, and we hope to enhance it one way or another,” the prince said, adding that Saudi Arabia had joined American clean energy moves, a key Biden policy area.
“And for the things we have some differences with them, which make up less than 10 percent, we try to find solutions and reach an understanding to overcome them, neutralizing their risks on both countries while upholding our interests,” bin Salman said. “The U.S. is certainly a strategic ally to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They have been our ally for more than 80 years, which had quite a big impact on both the Kingdom and the U.S.,” adding that decades of cheap Saudi Arabian oil had helped America get to its dominant economic position today.
Bin Salman also hinted that while the Saudis valued their strategic partnership with the U.S., should the differences with Washington grow, the Saudis had other options.
“The U.S. used to comprise 50 percent of the world economy in the 1950s, whereas today, it only comprises 20 percent of the world economy,” he noted. “We’re working on maintaining our relations with our strategic partners in the region, starting with the Gulf countries, Arab countries, and Middle Eastern countries. We’re also working on strengthening our alliances with our partners throughout the world; the U.S., the UK, France, Europe, and other countries, as well as seeking to create new partnerships with everyone else, such as Russia, India, China, Latin America, African countries, and others.”
“This is all to serve the interests of Saudi Arabia without undermining any other country,” bin Salman said, adding that despite China, India and Russia all announcing they are Saudi partners – “we are still a strategic partner for the U.S. as well.”
“And so, we’re strengthening our relations with everyone to serve our interests, their interests, and the international interests. At the end of the day, every country has its choice. If we could work with them to serve everyone’s interests, that would be great. Otherwise, there are a lot of other options out there,” bin Salman said.
The Crown Prince was not asked about Israel and did not talk about the peace treaties signed by neighboring Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates with the Jewish State. His only hint at Israel was his reference relations with “Arab countries, Middle Eastern countries,” but he did not elaborate on which non-Arab countries he was referring to.