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Saudi Prince calls for increased pressure on Iran



The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia called on the international community to press Iran economically and politically to avoid a direct military confrontation in the region.

Sanctions "will put more pressure on the regime," said Crown Prince

Mohammed bin Salman

This week, the Wall Street Journal reported

Saudi Arabia was a sharp critic of the agreement reached by the Obama administration and other world powers in 2015 to lift some crippling economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for limiting its nuclear program.

Under Prince Mohammed, Saudi Arabia has broken diplomatic ties with Iran and has pressured countries in the Middle East and Africa to curtail their relations with Tehran by accusing them of interfering in Arab affairs.

"We must be successful to avoid a military conflict," said Prince Mohammed, the daily ruler of Saudi Arabia. "If we do not succeed in what we are trying to do, we will probably be at war with Iran in 1

0-15 years."

Iran has become in the Middle East after the nuclear deal and the dismantling of the Islamic State, building its influence in Syria and Iraq and allegedly providing the Yemeni rebels with weapons against Saudi Arabia in a three-year war.

Iran is denouncing Yemeni rebels with weapons and says Saudi Arabia is playing a destabilizing role in the region.

The 32-year-old prince's father, King Salman, appointed him heir to the throne in June last year and consolidated his position as the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia.

President Donald Trump, who met with Prince Mohammed last week in Washington, has threatened to abandon the nuclear agreement and has recently appointed critics of the pact to top positions, including Mike Pompeo as foreign minister and John Bolton as national security adviser. European allies urged to maintain the deal.

Saudi Arabia has previously exerted its economic pressure on political goals, with mixed results. It temporarily blocked the flow of basic goods to Yemen, which deepened a humanitarian crisis there.

Saudi Arabia, with its three closest Arab allies, broke diplomatic relations and imposed an economic boycott on Qatar. But Qatar has rejected demands from the Saudi Arabia-led bloc to change the course of its foreign policy and take steps such as ending the support of the Muslim Brotherhood, an influential Islamic political movement in the Middle East.

Members of the group whose leader was overthrown in power in Egypt in a military coup in 2013 say they oppose political violence and want to govern democratically. But countries like Saudi Arabia consider the group a terrorist organization.

"The Muslim Brotherhood is an incubator for terrorists," said Prince Mohammed. "We Must Get Rid of Extremism Without extremism, no one can become a terrorist."

Under Prince Mohammed, who is also Secretary of Defense of the Kingdom, Saudi Arabia leads a military coalition that has always led a war in Yemen, since Iranian-oriented Houthi Rebels expelled the internationally recognized government of Yemeni President Abed from the capital

Rabbi Mansour Hadi.

Saudi Arabia's war effort, supported by the US, has provoked widespread criticism over the devastating humanitarian consequences of the conflict. According to the United Nations, about 10,000 people have died to date, and the conflict has driven Yemen to the brink of famine.

Prince Mohammed said the failure of intervention in Yemen had caused a major crisis.

we would not have acted in 2015 to divide Yemen between the Houthis and al-Qaeda in half, "said Prince Mohammed.

The prince's remarks came in the midst of an escalation in the struggle with Yemeni rebels Rebels launched a salvo of missiles into Saudi Arabia, including three targeting Riyadh, leading to a death, marking the first time that missiles fired from Yemen claimed casualties in the Saudi capital.

The prince dismissed the attacks as a sign of weakness. "They want to do what they can before they collapse," he said of the Houthis.

Prince Mohammed is in the US for a charm offensive, which is partly aimed at projecting a softer picture of the ultra-conservative kingdom and promoting the country as an investment destination

Saudi Arabia, home to a strict Sunni Islam, applies some of the strictest such social restrictions in the world.

The Prince is now pressing to liberalize his society. Cinemas that were considered immoral for a long time are about to open, and women are allowed to drive in June. Prince Mohammed said that more changes will follow.

"We can not get people to live in Saudi Arabia in an environment that is not competitive," said the Prince, who leads a plan to reduce the kingdom's dependency on oil revenues. "The environment in Saudi Arabia is pushing even Saudi Arabia before Saudi Arabia, which is one reason why we want social reforms."


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