During his two-week visit to the United States, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) renewed calls for the U.S. to completely withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, saying the accord would not prevent Iran’s regime from acquiring nuclear weapons and said it was like “waiting for the bullet to reach your head.”
“Delaying it and watching them getting that bomb, that means you are waiting for the bullet to reach your head,” MBS, 32, said Monday during a meeting with the New York Times. “So you have to move from today.”
MBS will visit Washington, New York, Silicon Valley, and Houston during his time in the United States.
During an interview with CBS earlier this month, MBS said that Riyadh will pursue the development of nuclear weapons development if Iran acquires one. In that same interview, MBS said Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei is “very much like Hitler” and referred to him as “the new Hitler.”
MBS made it clear that his country did not see Iran as an equal saying “Iran is not a rival to Saudi Arabia. Its army is not among the top five armies in the Muslim world.” He also noted that the Saudi economy is significantly larger.
Though both nations are Muslim, they follow different sects—Saudia Arabia is predominantly Sunni and Iran is predominantly Shia. Each is involved in a proxy power struggle across other Muslim countries in the Middle Easy like Syria, Libya and Yemen.
On Sunday, an Egyptian resident was killed by falling debris when Saudi Arabia intercepted and destroyed seven missiles that were fired at it by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. This was first casualty of this nature on Saudi soil in three years. The Saudis also intercepted a missile launched by Houthi rebels In December.
“These hostile acts continue to pose a direct threat to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and threaten regional, as well as international, security,” a statement from Saudi coalition forces spokesman Col. Turki al-Maliki read.
Meanwhile in Iran, protests have begun again. The protests that happened in January of 2018 were brought to an end though a crackdown by the government but most of the underlying issues for that unrest remain, including growing concerns over a drought which residents of parched areas and analysts say has been exacerbated by mismanagement.
While the nationwide protests in December and January stemmed from anger over high prices and alleged corruption, in rural areas, lack of access to water was also a major cause, analysts say. Since the January protests, Rouhani has repeatedly said the government will do what it can to address grievances. But there is no quick fix for deeply rooted environmental issues like drought.
So what happens if the US pulls out of the Iran deal as MBS suggests? Iran has enormous economic incentives to stay in the deal—and if the US pulls out, they will likely snap back various sanctions rather quickly —which may only exacerbate the internal pressures on the Iranian people.
We may yet see protests by the Iranian people rise again.
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