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Saudi crown prince: Iran leader is 'Hitler of the Middle East'

Mohammad bin Salman said Iran's alleged expansion must be confronted [AFP]

Date of publication: 24 November, 2017

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Saudi Arabia's powerful Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has given his first interview since the arrest of dozens of high-profile businessmen and princes in an anti-corruption crackdown.
Saudi Arabia's powerful Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman called Iran's Supreme Leader "the new Hitler of the Middle East" in his first interview since the arrest of dozens of elite officials in a so-called anti-corruption graft and the resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

In an interview published by the New York Times on Friday, MbS, as the 32-year-old heir is known, escalated the war of words between the regional arch rivals and suggested the Islamic Republic's alleged expansion under Ayatollah Ali Khamenei needed to be confronted.

"But we learned from Europe that appeasement doesn't work," he added. "We don't want the new Hitler in Iran to repeat what happened in Europe in the Middle East."

The Sunni Muslim kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran back rival sides in wars and political crises throughout the region.

The powerful crown prince, who is also Saudi defence minister, also rejected criticism of a so-called crackdown on corruption.

In the interview, bin Salman said it was "ludicrous" to suggest the arrest of high-profile businessmen and princes earlier this month was a powergrab.

He told NYT many of those arrested and subsequently held at the gilded makeshift prison - the Riyadh Ritz Carlton - had already publicly pledged allegiance to him and his reforms, and that "a majority of the royal family" is already behind him.

He said that each suspected billionaire or prince was arrested and given two choices: "We show them all the files that we have and as soon as they see those about 95 percent agree to a settlement," - which means signing over cash or shares of their business to the Saudi state treasury in exchange for their freedom.

The treasury is to collect "around $100 billion in settlements," bin Salman said.

Tensions also soared this month when Lebanon's Saudi-allied Hariri resigned in a television broadcast from Riyadh, citing the influence of Iran-backed Hizballah in Lebanon and risks to his life.

Bin Salman would not discuss Hariri's seemingly forced resignation and detention, NYT said, and his subsequent return to Beirut where he rescinded that resignation.

He was also not pressed on the devastating humanitarian disaster in Yemen inflicted by the Saudi-led coalition's bombing campaign and aid blockade in the fight against Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

Bin Salman only claimed that the war was going in Saudi's favour and that its allies controlled 85 percent of Yemen's territory.

Some 10,000 people have died and the country, which is in the grip of a cholera epidemic and on the brink of famine.

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