WASHINGTON: Saudi Crown Prin­­ce Mohammed bin Salman has said if Iran develops a nuclear weapon, Riy­adh will follow suit — just days before he arrives in Washington for talks with US President Donald Trump.

In an interview with CBS television, parts of which were released on Thursday, the upstart Saudi royal likened Iran’s supreme leader to Adolf Hitler, warning he could sweep throu­­gh the Middle East like Germany’s Nazis did at the start of World War II.

“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,” Prince Mohammed said in the interview, which will air in full on CBS on Sunday.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, he said, “wants to create his own project in the Middle East, very much like Hitler who wanted to expand at the time,” said the 32-year-old heir to the throne.

“Many countries around the world and in Europe did not realise how dangerous Hitler was until what happened, happened. I don’t want to see the same events happening in the Middle East.” His comments come as the Trump administration threatens to end the Iran nuclear deal, which could leave Tehran free to advance its development of atomic weapons.

Prince Moh­a­m­­­med, the son and heir of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, is scheduled to arrive in Washington on Monday ahead of talks with Trump on Tuesday. The brazen prince, dubbed “MBS”, has rocked Saudi Arabia since his father became king in 2015 and named him defence minister.

Last year, he was elevated to crown prince, and is seen as the effective ruler under his 82-year-old father.

His moves have shaken up the kingdom — declaring a liberalisation of social mores from the stifling ideology of Wahhabi Islam, and moving to modernise a heavily top-down economy.

Published in Dawn, March 16th, 2018