The kingdom has expressed alarm at what it views as creeping Iranian influence in the region and has stepped up its efforts to contain what it considers Iran’s expansion through proxy conflicts and direct military engagement in Yemen.
“Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb, but without a doubt, if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible,” Mohammad bin Salman, popularly known as MBS, told US broadcaster CBS in an interview set to air on Sunday.
Bin Salman, 34, reiterated statements made earlier comparing Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to Adolf Hitler.
“He wants to create his own project in the Middle East very much like Hitler, who wanted to expand at the time,” the prince told CBS.
“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.”
Saudi authorities have repeatedly commended US President Donald Trump‘s tough stance on the Iran nuclear deal.
‘Dialogue and tolerance’
Iran responded to the comments by saying the Saudi crown prince was a “delusional naive person”.
“He has no idea of politics apart from bitter talk that emanates from a lack of foresight… His remarks do not deserve a response, ” Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi was quoted as saying by state TV.
“Iran respects all its neighbours… Tehran invites all regional countries, especially some ill-wishers and obstinate enemies, to dialogue and tolerance.”
Mostafa Khoshcheshm, a Tehran-based political commentator, said Iran has been open about its nuclear programme, adding it is intended for peaceful purposes only.
“There has never been a shred of evidence all throughout history to accuse Iran of developing a military nuclear programme,” he told Al Jazeera on Thursday.
“The nuclear deal itself proved that Iran’s intentions are peaceful and the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] issued 10 reports to confirm the same fact.”