Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince called the Supreme Leader of Iran “the new Hitler of the Middle East” in an interview with the New York Times published on Thursday, sharply escalating the war of words between the arch-rivals.
Mohammed bin Salman, who is also Saudi defense minister in the U.S.-allied oil giant Kingdom, suggested the Islamic Republic’s alleged expansion under Ayatollah Ali Khamenei needed to be confronted. Referring to attempts to make a peace deal with Nazi leader Adolf Hitler before the outbreak of the Second World War the Crown Prince appeared to rule out peace.
“But 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,” the paper quoted him as saying.
The Sunni Muslim Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Shi‘ite Iran backs rival sides in wars and political crises throughout the region. Tensions soared this month when Lebanon’s Saudi-allied Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned in a television broadcast from Riyadh, citing the influence of Iran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon and risks to his life. Hezbollah called the move an act of war engineered by Saudi authorities, an accusation they denied. Hariri has since suspended his resignation.
The latest verbal attack comes as tensions in the region are reaching breaking points following a battle for supremacy by regional powers. Relations between the two nations have raged amid the ongoing civil war in Yemen in which they back different sides. Saudi Arabia and Iran are said to be on the brink of war as tensions in the Middle East reach a breaking point.
Saudi Arabia has launched thousands of airstrikes in a 2-1/2-year-old war in neighboring Yemen to defeat the Iranian-aligned Houthi movement that seized broad swaths of the country. Salman told the Times that the war was going in its favor and that its allies controlled 85 percent of Yemen’s territory.
The Houthis, however, still retain the main population centers despite the war effort by a Saudi-led military coalition which receives intelligence and refueling for its warplanes by the United States. Some 10,000 people have died in the conflict. The group launched a ballistic missile toward Riyadh’s main airport on November 4, which Saudi Arabis decried as an act of war by Tehran. Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said:
“The Kingdom will not stand by and will not hesitate to defend its security. We must stand together.”
The regional director of the Middle East and Africa at the Economist Intelligence Unit, Pat Thakar, said that it would not take much for tensions in the region to flare up. Bin Salman said in May that the Kingdom would make sure any future struggle between the two countries “is waged in Iran”. The Gulf Kingdom is said to be stockpiling billions in deadly weapons in anticipation of a conflict. They have agreed to pay $7billion for ammunition armaments from U.S. defense contractors, inside sources have claimed.
Raytheon, a U.S. contractor, and Boeing are said to be the companies involved in the deal and is part of the $110billion (£82billion) weapon agreement that occurred during Donald Trump’s visit to the Middle Eastern nation in May.
For his part, Khamenei has referred to the House of Saud as an “accursed tree”, and Iranian officials have accused the Kingdom of spreading terrorism.