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‘The problem we have with Iran is bad behaviour’, says Saudi Arabia’s MBS

By Jihâd Gillon
Posted on Monday, 3 May 2021 16:52

Saudi crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman interviewed by Al Arabiya on 26 April 2020. Al Arabiya

In the middle of the holy month of Ramadan, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) appeared on the evening of 27 April on the Saudi news channel 'Al Arabiya', to discuss some of his country’s main issues. The interview, conducted by Abdullah al-Mudaifer, lasted for almost an hour and a half.

The Saudi crown prince began the interview by defending his reform programme entitled ‘Vision 2030’, by providing many figures and technical explanations. “Saudi Arabia existed before oil was discovered,” he said, breaking with the traditional narrative that the Saudi state owes its existence and survival solely to the discovery of black gold in its subsoil.

“Our production has increased slightly over time, but the population has grown very significantly, from three million to 20 million Saudis (…) So oil is less and less able to finance the lifestyle we got used to in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.”

He continued by arguing in favour of diversifying the kingdom’s economy, by using Algeria as an example: “Algeria is an oil country, but is it a rich country?”

He used many English words – “passion”, “V-shape”, “growth”, “we generate money”, “demand”, “supply”, “pillar”, “authentic”, “skills”, etc. – to explain that the world’s oil supply will decline faster than demand, with US and Russian production expected to fall drastically over the next 10 years.

This situation is favourable to Saudi Arabia – which has the world’s largest recorded reserves – but, according to the Saudi crown prince, the kingdom should make an effort to move away from its dependence on oil.

“Ijtihad is always open”

On the issue of religious reforms and individual freedoms, MBS made some surprising statements.

Repeating that he was acting in accordance with “the Saudi Constitution which is the Koran”, he engaged, without appearing to do so, in a critique of the foundations of Saudi-style religiosity, expressing his opinion on the hadiths – the words and actions of the Prophet Mohammed, whose teachings are the basis of Islamic law.