Photo Credit: Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead
President Trump with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, March 2017.

Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, told Asharq Al-Awsat on Sunday that “the Iranian regime did not respect the [Japanese] prime minister as a guest during his visit [in Iran] and in effect responded to his efforts by attacking the two oil tankers in the Gulf, one of which was apparently Japanese.”

In a lengthy interview which left no doubt as to the prince’s view of who was behind the attack on two oil shipping vessels in the Sea of Oman last week (Mohammed bin Salman to Asharq Al-Awsat: We Don’t Want War but We Won’t Hesitate in Dealing with Any Threat), Mohammed bin Salman stressed that Saudi Arabia “will not hesitate in dealing with any threat against our people, sovereignty and vital interests.”

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The Crown Prince also told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Iranian attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf, as well as attacks by Iran’s proxy militias in Yemen against oil facilities inside the Kingdom and Abha International Airport are “clear evidence of the Iranian regime’s policy and intentions to target the security and stability of the region,” and “underscore the importance of our demands for the international community to take a decisive stance against an expansionist regime that has supported terrorism and spread death and destruction over the past decades not only in the region, but the whole world.”

In that context, the crown prince stressed that Saudi Arabia “places great importance on the strategic ties with the US,” which it considers its “main factor in achieving regional security and stability.”

Referring to his own trouble with the Western media over the October 2, 2018 murder of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist for The Washington Post and former general manager and editor-in-chief of Al-Arab News Channel, at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, which the crown prince described as a “very painful crime” (you bet), bin Salman was nevertheless confident that “our strategic relations with the US will not be affected by media campaigns or arbitrary stances.”

He also hailed Saudi Vision 2030, a plan to reduce Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil, diversify its economy, and develop public service sectors such as health, education, infrastructure, recreation and tourism, and suggested that it has “moved from planning and design to implementation on all levels, and started finding results.”

Saudi Arabia Vision 2030 lays out targets for diversification and improving competitiveness. It is built around three main themes which set out specific objectives that are to be achieved by the year of 2030: a vibrant society: urbanism, culture and entertainment, sports, Umrah, UNESCO heritage sites, life expectancy; a thriving economy: Employment, women in the workforce, international competitiveness, Public Investment Fund, Foreign direct investment, private sector, non-oil exports; and an ambitious nation: Non-oil revenues, government effectiveness, and e-government, household savings and income, non-profits and volunteering.

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