(JTA) – In an unusually harsh condemnation, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince said Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is the “new Hitler of the Middle East” and must be stopped.
Mohammed bin Salman said this in an interview with the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman that was published Friday.
“We learned from Europe that appeasement doesn’t work. We don’t want the new Hitler in Iran to repeat what happened in Europe in the Middle East,” said bin Salman.
“Do not write that we are ‘reinterpreting’ Islam – we are ‘restoring’ Islam to its origins – and our biggest tools are the Prophet’s practices and [daily life in] Saudi Arabia before 1979,” bin Salman added, naming the year that the Grand Mosque in Mecca was taken over by Saudi puritanical extremists who denounced the Saudi ruling family as corrupt, and the year that the Islamic Revolution broke out in Iran.
The Islamic Republic of Iran, which is Shi’ite, has long been a rival of the Sunni kingdom of Saudi Arabia. But the conflict between the two regional powers escalated following the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship in Iraq in 2003 and the upheavals that brought down several Arab regimes in 2011.
Separately, the commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on Thursday threatened that any future war in the region will result in the annihilation of Israel. “It is a proven claim that today we say any new war will lead to the eradication of the Zionist regime,” Ali Jafari told Iranian reporters in Tehran according to semi-official media outlets.
Bin Salman, who is 28, is responsible for a shakeup in Saudi Arabia’s ruling class which he says is designed to battle corruption and initiate reforms that would weaken the impact of religious extremists on Saudi society, where women are not equal to men before the law.
His government arrested scores of Saudi princes and businessmen on charges of corruption and threw them into a makeshift gilded jail – the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton – until they agreed to surrender their ill-gotten gains.