The tide is turning against Iran and relations between Saudi Arabia and the US are much better under President Donald Trump, says the new Saudi ambassador to Washington.
In his first wide-ranging interview since taking up his post last month, Prince Khaled bin Salman said there was "huge improvement” in Saudi-US relations under this administration."
“I think that President Trump is determined to work with his allies in the region to counter Iranian expansionism and terrorism” Prince Khaled said, adding, “We are happy with the current policies in the region.”
Mr Trump chose Saudi Arabia for his first foreign trip as President to Saudi Arabia in May and several political and economic delegations have visited Riyadh and Washington since January.
And his administration's more aggressive push against Iran is winning praise from the Saudi top diplomat. Asked if the tide is turning against Iran, Prince Khaled said: “Yes, I do. I think the US and its allies realise how big the Iranian threat is to international security, and we are ready to work together to contain Iranian actions and expansionist policies.”
Referring to the strategically critical Strait of Hormuz, the new ambassador said, “The whole world, including our government, is worried about that.”
On the Qatar dispute, Prince Khaled reiterated Riyadh’s concern that “Qatar’s policies have been a threat to our national security, especially when they interfere in our domestic politics and support extremists.”
He accused Doha of supporting Al Qaeda affiliates in Syria and “some terrorist [Shiite] militias in Iraq”, and hoped that Qatar would "stop funding extremism.”
Asked about alleged Saudi support for extremism, Prince Khaled said “The Saudi government is on the front line of fighting terrorism. While there might be people from a lot of different countries who support terrorism, in Qatar the problem is that it is government-funded.”
it was revealed this week that Saudi Arabia will host a conference in October for the Syrian opposition. This was a concerted effort by his country to work with allies to "stabilise" Syria, Prince Khaled said. ” “There are a lot of people in Syria who want to free themselves from the dictatorship of Bashar Al Assad... he has killed more than 500,000 people ... we are working with the US to end the Syria problem.”
Prince Khaled praised Iraq’s progress in the battle against ISIL at a time of renewed diplomatic openness between Riyadh and Baghdad. “We support the independence of Iraq...the Sunnis and [Shiites] have to be treated equally as Iraqi citizens.” In contrast, he added, “Iran wants Iraq to obey Iran.”
On Yemen, the new ambassador again pointed the finger of blame at Iran for stoking the two-year civil war. “The ball is [now] in the Houthis’ court...they have to drop their weapons and become part of Yemen, not part of Iran,” he said.
Prince Khaled is Saudi Arabia's tenth ambassador to the US, taking over the post from Prince Abdullah bin Faisal.