Hatim Khan – 16.03.2018 In a recent interview, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince sparked fears of Middle East arms race by announcing the country’s readiness to develop nuclear weapons if Iran heads in that direction. Saudi leaders have repeatedly praised Trump's strong stance on Iran deal and have showed their concern regarding Iran’s creeping influence in the region with its expansion through proxy conflicts and direct military engagement in Yemen.

Mohammad bin Salman, popularly known as MBS, compared Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khomeni, to Adolf Hitler, stating, "He wants to create his own project in the Middle East very much like Hitler, who wanted to expand at the time." The prince in his interview with CBS, also said, “Many countries around the world and in Europe did not realize how dangerous Hitler was until what happened, happened. I don't want to see the same events happening in the Middle East.”

MBS affirmed that Saudi Arabia had no plans to build up a nuclear bomb but if Iran developed one, the kingdom would undoubtedly follow suit as soon as possible. He also said, “Iran is far from being equal to Saudi Arabia.” Although Saudi Arabia has been a signatory to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons since 1988 and is not known to have attempted to develop nuclear arms on its own, it has reportedly invested in Pakistani nuclear weapons projects. Additionally, there are reports that US Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih are slated to meet in the British capital London, in March, to discuss a possible expansion of the current nuclear agreements that would allow Riyadh enrich uranium and extract plutonium while giving American companies the chance to build nuclear reactors in the kingdom.

In response to MBS’s statements, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi referred to him as a “delusional naive person” with “no idea of politics apart from bitter talk that emanates from a lack of foresight.” He emphasized on “dialogue and tolerance” even with its “ill-wishers and obstinate enemies.” Iran claims that its intentions in developing a nuclear program are peaceful and IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] has issued 10 reports to confirm the same fact.

The diplomatic relations between the two countries have been at low ebb since 2016 due to their difference in position on several regional issues, including the Syrian and Yemeni civil wars. MBS has been known to fuel largely Sunni Saudi Arabia’s fight with Shiite Iran, miring the US-backed Saudi military in a disastrous confrontation with Tehran’s proxies in a war that has destroyed much of Yemen, and launching a mostly failed effort by Gulf Arab states to isolate Qatar. With Iran’s persistence on developing the nuclear weapons for peaceful purposes and the United States’ continued deals with Saudi Arabia over providing the kingdom with advanced weapons, MBS’ warning of his nuclear ambitions has sparked serious apprehensions about Middle East arms race and deteriorating Saudi-Iran relations.

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