Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia has renewed his attack on the Iran nuclear deal during a visit to the United States, saying the agreement would delay but not prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

“Delaying it and watching them getting that bomb, that means you are waiting for the bullet to reach your head,” Prince Mohammed, 32, the heir to the Saudi throne, said Monday during his first meeting with editors and reporters from The New York Times. “So you have to move from today.”

Prince Mohammed, on a cross-country charm offensive in the United States, is visiting Washington, New York, Silicon Valley, Houston and other areas. His trip is aimed at reinforcing ties between Saudi Arabia and the United States and drumming up American investment in the kingdom. He discussed his plans for economic and social changes in Saudi Arabia, his views on the kingdom’s conflicts with Iran and Qatar and the war in Yemen.

The meeting was off the record, but Saudi officials allowed some of Prince Mohammed’s comments to be published.

He reserved his most forceful comments for Iran, Saudi Arabia’s political and religious nemesis. The two countries follow different sects of Islam and are locked in a regional struggle for power and influence that plays out across conflicts in Yemen and Syria, among others.

The United States and other world powers reached a 2015 agreement with Iran to curb its nuclear program in exchange for lifting sanctions on the country. However, some American officials, including President Trump, have criticized the agreement and threatened to repeal it.

Prince Mohammed accused Iran of seeking to acquire nuclear weapons so that it could act freely in the Middle East without fear of retribution.

“We know the target of Iran,” he said. “If they have a nuclear weapon, it’s a shield for them to let them do whatever they want in the Middle East, to make sure that no one attacks them or they will use their nuclear weapons.”

He said that the current nuclear agreement should be replaced with one that would ensure that Iran never obtained a nuclear weapon while also addressing Iran’s other activities in the Middle East.

Prince Mohammed sought to paint a positive picture of Saudi progress in the war in Yemen. He claimed that the Houthis, the Iranian-aligned militia that took over the capital, Sana, in 2014, were increasingly isolated politically.

He dismissed the seven missiles the Houthis fired at Saudi Arabia from Yemen on Sunday as “a last-ditch effort” that only showed they were weak.

Saudi Arabia, he said, is now seeking to end the war through a political process, trying to divide the Houthis and maintaining military pressure on them.

Prince Mohammed also spoke about his efforts to change Saudi Arabia’s religious rhetoric to ensure greater openness toward other faiths. Saudi Arabia has long been known as the homeland of Wahhabism, an ultraconservative interpretation of Islam that imposes strict social rules and often looks down on non-Muslims.

“I believe Islam is hijacked,” Prince Mohammed said, criticizing the way he said that groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and terrorist organizations like the Islamic State and Al Qaeda had distorted the religion.

Source » nytimes