The US's Time magazine interviewed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman last month at New York City’s Plaza Hotel during his American tour.
The interview is set to feature on Time’s April 16 issue. The Crown Prince discussed various topics with Saudi Arabia’s reformation plans in the lead, as well as Saudi US relations and visions for the region.
Time magazine’s Editor-at-Large Karl Vick sat with Mohammed bin Salman for a lengthy 75-minute conversation.
Vick asked Prince Mohammed about the rationale behind his US tour, to which the crown prince replied: “The United States of America is one of our oldest allies in the whole world, and we are the oldest ally of the United States of America in the Middle East. And the economic relationship between both countries is very deep.”
On having a good relationship with President Trump, the Saudi Crown Prince affirmed “Of course we have a good relationship with President Trump, with his team, with his family, with all the key people in his administration, and also we have a very good relationship with many members of Congress from both parties and a lot of people in the United States of America. And everyone believes in the importance of both countries to face the dangers facing us and also to continue growing and getting a better future for both countries.”
In reference to dealing with the previous US administration, Prince Mohammed noted: “The only difference was in the tactics of how we should deal with that evil narrative of the Iranian regime. So it’s not a big difference. We are aligned 99 percent. The difference is only 1 percent. But, you know, people try to focus on the 1 percent and avoid the 99 percent that we agreed on.”
Commenting on assigning John Bolton as National Security Advisor, the crown prince said: “I’m sure when he’s appointed he will represent the views of the United States of America, and we will deal with him and we will see what happens. But of course we will support him.”
In reply to a key question about the plan for Saudi Arabia, the Saudi Crown Prince explained, “We are now in the third Saudi Arabia which was established by King Abdulaziz, also known as Ibn Saud, my grandfather.”
“King Faisal came with a really great young team, and among his team were King Khaled, King Fahd, King Abdullah, King Salman, Prince Sultan, Prince Nayef, and many other people. And they’ve transformed the country from mud houses to world standard modern cities,” he said.
“But for us as a young generation, we’ve not seen this, because we were born in that great modern city. We lived in an economy that is already among the top 20 economies of the world, and our eyes are focusing on what we are missing, what we can’t do. And we believe that Saudi Arabia until today used only 10 percent of its capacity, and we have 90 percent to go,” he added.
According to the magazine, the young prince seemd like a "man in a hurry" in terms of building his country's economy.
He explained that the old thought prior to the progressive vision that Saudi Arabia embraced after ’79 is challenged by several ideas. “I am young. I don’t want 70 percent of the Saudi population to waste their lives trying to get rid of this. We want to do it now. We want to spend 70 percent of our time building things, improving our economy, creating jobs, creating new things, making things happen.”
Regarding Saudi Vision 2030 and the industrial developments in the Kingdom, the crown prince highlighted that: “We spend $230 billion a year outside Saudi Arabia. If we do nothing, it will go up in 2030 to between $300-400 billion US spent outside of Saudi Arabia. The plan is to spend half of it in Saudi Arabia. We have many programs to do this.”
About education in Saudi Arabia, the Crown prince said: “We are ranked 41 among education systems around the world. France is ranked 40, so we are almost like France, as to the quality of the education system… We want to drive the best talent, to get the best talent to live and come abroad to work in Saudi Arabia … So this is a very important thing that we are trying to improve. And I believe in the last three years, Saudi Arabia did more than in the last 30 years.”
Osama bin Laden and fighting extremism
When asked about fighting extremism, the crown prince said that Saudi Arabia is the most prone country for terrorist groups to spread their ideologies.
“If I want to spread my ideology, I will have to go to Saudi Arabia. I have to go to the Qibla of Muslims. I have to go to the country that hosts the holy mosque. Because if I spread it there, it will reach everywhere,” he said.
He added that the first terrorist activity carried out by Osama bin Laden was in the 90’s targeting Saudi Arabia and Egypt. He said the kingdom continuously asked that he be arrested and that they were faced with the Independent in ’93 saying that he was a “freedom fighter practicing free speech”.
“You can go back to this article in The Independent in ‘93, Osama bin Laden! That was before 9/11, 10 years before 9/11. We were saying that he was a dangerous guy. He was a terrorist. That he had to be arrested immediately. We had terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia. We had terrorist attacks in Egypt in the ‘90s but we were accused of repressing freedom of speech until 9/11 happened,” he said.
The crown prince said the solution to eliminate these groups is to “get them, kill them or arrest them”. He added that the biggest terrorist threat at the moment is the Muslim Brotherhood.
Saudis not sects
Concerning Sunni and Shiite sects, the crown prince said: “We don’t differentiate among Saudis based on sects. We live in Saudi Arabia as Saudis in Saudi Arabia.”
The crown Prince stated that the focus should be on the end, not the means: “These ends are the rule of law, freedom of speech, freedom to work and security. These are the ends that everyone agrees on, that we agree on in Saudi Arabia in our own way,” he said.