Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Minister of Defense Prince Khalid bin Salman has tackled variant issues from the Iranian threat to the region to the war in Yemen. An interview with VICE Media conducted on July 27th, 2018 was obtained and published by Al Arabiya on January 24th.
Prince Khalid discussed the ways of dealing with Iran and why does the latter is undermining regional peace and stability with Saudi Arabia’s vision targeting reforms and prosperity.
International and Regional threat
Terrorism as a phenomena; threat to the globe and the region, represents the greatest threats to Saudi Arabia nowadays embodied in Tehran which the Prince dubbed as “the biggest threats to the region, and to international security.”
“The Iranian regime and its proxies on one side, and ISIS, al-Qaeda, and terrorist organizations on the other side. We believe that they’re both two sides of the same coin,” he said.
“They believe in the same concept, not necessarily exactly the same ideology, but they both do not believe in the sovereignty of nations, they both believe in a transnational ideological state, they both do not believe in international law, and sometimes they compete with each other, and they fight each other, but when it comes to us, we’re the common enemy, and they cooperate,” the Prince added.
War in Yemen
Saudi Arabia didn’t support the start of war in Yemen, but had no choice but providing support for the Yemeni government in the war in Yemen, said Prince Khalid. “The party that started the war is the Iranian militia, the Houthis, they started the war in 2014 when they moved from their own hometown to the capital, killing and slaughtering the Yemeni people and threatening the central government of Yemen,” he added.
At that time, Deputy Minister of Defense explains, Saudi Atrabia was facing the options of support the central government in Yemen – the legitimate central government of Yemen – against all terrorist non-state actors: the Houthis and AQAP [al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula]. Or, if the Yemeni central government falls, we’re only going to have two terrorist non-state actors: the Houthis and AQAP.
So the only choice Saudi Arabia had was to support the Yemeni government, to reinstate the Yemeni government’s control over the country, to fix the Yemeni economy, to create jobs, to have a prosperous Yemen, to improve the humanitarian situation that went downhill after the Houthis’ aggression into Yemen.
“That is our objective and we’ve been very successful throughout our pressure campaign on the Houthis to sit at the negotiating table, to solve this problem and reach a long-lasting political solution,” the Saudi Prince confirmed.
Different visions and targets
For Saudi Arabia, Prince Khalid says that his country seeks to be “a force of stability, a force of peace, a force of prosperity in the region”, as it targets “this great vision, vision 2030, where we want to reform our economy, to basically uncap the potential in Saudi Arabia, to open new sectors in Saudi Arabia, and to have a prosperous country, and to move our citizens forward.”
In order to implement this, “To be able to do that, we need a stable, secure region, a prosperous region. We need to increase our economic cooperation with neighboring countries,” he confirmed.
On the other side, “Iran wants to export the revolution. Iran has an expansionist ideology. Iran wants other states in the region not to be partners, but to be under the Iranian expansionist project. And this is a big difference; we have vision 2030 that is moving us forward, and they have vision 1979 that is trying to move the region and Saudi Arabia backward.”
Confrontation or appeasement?
A political essay written by Prince Khalid in Arab News, Saudi-first English language newspaper, last year has compared the situation of Iran to Germany which in the 1930s, as in expansionist, saying that the international community is sort of appeasing Iran for its expansionist policies.
Prince Khalid says that “The situation in the world, especially in Europe, in the late 1930s, was that back then we had these expansionist ideologies and expansionist countries. We see Nazi Germany moving and taking over Austria and parts of Czechoslovakia, and the solution back then was appease Nazi Germany instead of confronting it. And we remember during the Munich Agreement, when President Chamberlain went back to Britain and held a piece of paper and said this is peace for our time, and it did not work, it led to more expansionism. It led to the invasion of France; London was getting bombed after this.”
“So, what we want in the region, is that we see the same expansionist concept in the region through the Iranian regime. And we believe that we need to push back on this right now, not to lead to a bigger conflict. Because if you look at the trend in the region throughout these 40 years after the Iranian revolution, we see that Iran has started to build this sectarian terrorist militia in Lebanon, and they bombed embassies, they bombed the marine barracks, they assassinated the prime minister of Lebanon, and they’re trying to copy that model and use the same playbook in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, and they’ve been getting away with it,” he said.
“And now we see more than 160 ballistic missiles launched at a G20 country, toward Saudi Arabia. So, if we do not push back on this, we’ll see more terrorist militias popping up in the region. And let’s remember, Hezbollah in Lebanon is not a domestic threat, Hezbollah is a transnational threat. We see Hezbollah’s money laundering activities throughout the whole world, we see it in Africa and south America. We see their drug activities also throughout the world. And we don’t want another Hezbollah, another transnational threat to appear especially in Yemen, like the Houthis for example. It’s another ‘death to America’ group that we see in the region, and it’s another transnational threat that we’re trying to end. And it will also affect the Red Sea, which 50 percent of world trade passes through.” He added.