DUBAI (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s powerful deputy crown prince has ruled out any dialogue with Iran, a country he said was busy plotting to control the Muslim world.
Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi defense minister, said in a TV interview to be broadcast later on Tuesday his country could crush Iran-aligned fighters in Yemen where Saudi forces head a coalition of Gulf Arab states intervening in a civil war.
Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite Iran compete for influence in the Middle East, supporting rival groups in Syria’s civil war. In Yemen, Iran denies providing financial or military support to the Houthis who are fighting government forces allied with Saudi Arabia.
Asked if Saudi Arabia was ready to open a direct dialogue with Tehran, Mohammed said it was impossible to talk with a power that was planning for the return of the Imam Mahdi – whom Shi’ites believe was a descendent of the Prophet who went into hiding 1,000 years ago and will return to establish global Islamic rule before the end of the world.
“How do you have a dialogue with this (Iran)?” Mohammed said in clips of the interview posted on social media.
“Its (Iran’s) logic is that the Imam Mahdi will come and they must prepare the fertile environment for the arrival of the awaited Mahdi and they must control the Muslim world.”
Under Iran’s constitution since the 1979 revolution, the country’s supreme leader is the earthly representative of the Imam until his return.
Asked to respond to reports that after two years of war and Saudi’s military intervention the Houthis, aligned to ex-Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, still control large swathes of Yemen and large quantities of weapons, Prince Mohammed said:
“We can uproot the Houthis and Saleh in a matter of days.”
In the clips available in advance of the broadcast he did not elaborate on the Saudi strategy for Yemen.
(Reporting by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)