Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in his first interview with a major American news network since 2019, addressed the controversies that have plagued the country and his government in recent years.
“Saudi Arabia is so big, so I’m sure all the people in the world, directly or indirectly, have something to do with Saudi Arabia,” Bin Salman said in an interview with Brett Baier, Fox News’ chief political anchor and host and executive editor of “Special Report with Bret Baier.”
Bayer spent a week in Saudi Arabia interviewing various members of the government and local business owners before his historic conversation with the crown prince on the man-made island of Sindalah, built in the Red Sea. Once he came face-to-face with the leader of the fastest-growing G-20 economy, Bayer made sure to address the controversial laws and incidents involving Saudi Arabia.
Chief among these ranks is the 2018 assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which the CIA concluded Bin Salman had personally ordered. Khashoggi had written several articles critical of the crown prince, and US intelligence claims the operation to kill Khashoggi – which involved 15 people ambushing and assassinating him – could not have happened without his direct consent Bin Salman.
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Bin Salman told Baier that “anyone involved” in Khashoggi’s murder should serve a prison sentence and should “face the law”.
“We take all the legal measurements that any country took… We did it in Saudi Arabia and the case was closed,” he said. “Also, we are trying to reform the security system to make sure that these kinds of mistakes don’t happen again, and we can see in the last five years none of that happened. It’s not part of what Saudi Arabia is doing.”
He called the incident “a mistake” that was “painful” and that he worked to reform the country’s system “by the book” to ensure that “everyone is safe.”
Bayer also referred to Saudi Arabia’s ties to the 9/11 attacks, in which 15 of the 19 hijackers who carried out the plot were Saudi citizens.
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Bin Salman rejected accusations that his government facilitated or supported the attacks, highlighting the various attacks Osama bin Laden planned and carried out against Saudi Arabia in the 1990s, admitting he was able to recruit Saudis to help the cause of, but that “he does not. it makes sense’ for the country itself to help a man who is actively hurting it.
“After that, killing Saudis and foreign people at that time in Saudi Arabia, they are our enemy and the American enemy,” Bin Salman stressed.
One of the most pressing US foreign policy concerns is Iran’s nuclear program, which the Biden administration has sought to curb through the revival of the Obama-era Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Last month, the Biden administration agreed to give Iran access to about $6 billion in frozen assets for humanitarian purposes in exchange for five American prisoners.
Bin Salman argued that the deal represented a positive “step” in the negotiations and that he hoped Iran would use the money for good causes to encourage the world to “do more”.
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But when asked about Iran’s potential to acquire a nuclear weapon and what that means for Saudi Arabia, the crown prince didn’t mince words, clearly stating that if Iran ever acquires such a weapon, Saudi Arabia “will have to acquire a . for security reasons, to balance power”.
“We’re worried if a country gets a nuclear weapon: That’s a bad, that’s a bad move,” he said. “They don’t need to get a nuclear weapon because you can’t use it.”
“Any country using a nuclear weapon means it is at war with the rest of the world,” he added. “The world cannot see another Hiroshima. If the world sees 100,000 dead, that means you are at war with the rest of the world.”
“So to use that effort to get to a nuclear weapon, because you can’t use it if you use it, you have to have a big fight with the rest of the world.”
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When asked about efforts to “normalize” relations with Israel, Bin Salman also dismissed reports that Saudi Arabia had broken off negotiations, which he stressed was “not true.”
“Every day we get closer, it seems like it’s the first time it’s really serious. We’ll have to see how it goes,” he said. He insisted his country can work with Israel regardless of who is in charge, calling the deal “the biggest historic deal since the end of the Cold War,” which he said would be based on agreements related to the treatment of the Palestinians.
“If we make significant progress in reaching an agreement that will give the Palestinians what they need and make the region calm, we will work with whoever is there,” he said, reiterating that he could not go into more detail but that he wanted us to see ” a good life for Palestinians.”
The crown prince dodged a question about a $2 billion investment in Jared Kushner’s fund from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), responsible for investing the royal family’s money around the world.
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When asked if this created a conflict of interest and whether the royal family would pull the money if Donald Trump won re-election, bin Salman insisted that “if it’s legal, what’s the problem?”
“If it’s not legal, then, sure, we have to solve it, but if it’s legal, what’s the problem?” he said.
Bin Salman had a blunt response to accusations of “sports laundering”, through which many accuse Saudi Arabia of investing money in sports and foreign teams only to change or improve the country’s image abroad.
Instead, the crown prince praised the increase in sports interest in the country and pointed to the increase in GDP resulting from increased global interest.
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“If sports washing increases my GDP by one percent, then I will continue to do sports washing,” he declared. “I don’t care. One percent increase in GDP from sport and I’m aiming for another one and a half percent – call it what you want, we’ll get that one and a half percent.”
Bret Baier’s full interview with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman can be seen on Wednesday’s episode of “Special Report.”