In Interview, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Discusses Economic Reforms, Regional Challenges

Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman gave a wide-ranging interview with Saudi TV station MBC yesterday, discussing regional politics, the war in Yemen, the economy, Vision 2030, and Saudi Aramco’s planned IPO.

The interview – given in Arabic – was widely broadcasted in the Kingdom and discussed on social media sites. It was his second interview given since he became Deputy Crown Prince, head of Saudi Arabia’s Council of Economic and Development Affairs and minister of defense.

The Deputy Crown Prince touted Saudi Arabia’s doubling in non-oil revenue and major gains in budget deficit reduction, and said Vision 2030 will be implemented with specific programs in three stages: 2020, 2025, 2030. Saudi Arabia would focus on housing, unemployment, recreation, the development of the private sector and fighting corruption.

Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

“No person – whatever may be his position – will be spared in our fight against corruption,” the Prince reportedly said.

The prince also committed to investing 50% of the Saudi Public Investment Fund back into Saudi Arabia.

On the subject of regional rival Iran, the Prince said that Iran’s ambitions to “control the Islamic world” provide no space for dialogue, according to “How can we get along with a regime which has an extremist ideology … and a profound wish to dominate the Muslim world and spread the Shiite faith?”

The Prince also said Saudi Arabia is the “primary target” for Iran.

According to the New York Times, the Deputy Crown Prince said that Iran’s “stance is that the awaited Mahdi will come, and they need to create a fertile environment for the arrival of the awaited Mahdi, and they need to take over the Islamic world,” he said. “Where are the common points that we might be able to reach an understanding on with this regime?”

On Yemen, Prince Mohammed said that time was on Saudi Arabia’s side and that a “long war is in our interest” given Saudi Arabia’s proximity to Yemen, permitting the Kingdom to have a steady flow of supplies and financing.

“The Houthis and their allies could be rooted out in several days, but the cost would be thousands of dead among our soldiers and losses too high among the Yemeni civilians,” Salman said.

The war in Yemen was “one of necessity, not choice” according to Saudi political expert Fahad Nazer, who tweeted in English much of the interview as it was happening.

On the conflict in Syria, Prince Mohammed called it “complicated,” and took aim at President Obama for “missing several opportunities,” Nazer tweeted.