Saudi crown prince discusses anti-corruption crackdown, threats posed by Iran, and his vision for the Kingdom in first US TV interview

Saudi crown prince discusses anti-corruption crackdown, threats posed by Iran, and his vision for the Kingdom in first US TV interview
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Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Saudi crown prince discusses anti-corruption crackdown, threats posed by Iran, and his vision for the Kingdom in first US TV interview
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Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman being interviewed by CBS anchor Norah O’Donnell. (CBS News/60Minutes)
Updated 22 September 2018

Saudi crown prince discusses anti-corruption crackdown, threats posed by Iran, and his vision for the Kingdom in first US TV interview

Saudi crown prince discusses anti-corruption crackdown, threats posed by Iran, and his vision for the Kingdom in first US TV interview

JEDDAH:  Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has said the anti-corruption crackdown he initiated in the Kingdom was "extremely necessary" because roughly $20 billion of state funds was "disappearing" every year.
In a wide-ranging interview aired by CBS television on “60 Minutes” on Sunday, the crown prince also spoke about the threats posed by Iran and its proxies across the region and the reforms being undertaken in the Kingdom to fight extremism.
The crown prince said that if Iran acquired a nuclear weapon then Saudi Arabia will too.
CBS anchorwoman Norah O’Donnell interviewed the crown prince in Riyadh two weeks ago, shortly before he left for his visit to Egypt and Britain.
O’Donnell earlier said there were "no time restrictions and no preconditions" and that the crown prince spoke candidly.
The crown prince said Saudi Arabia has recovered more than $100 billion so far in its crackdown against corruption.
"The amount exceeds $100 billion, but the real objective was not this amount or any other amount. The idea is not to get money, but to punish the corrupt and send a clear signal that whoever engages in corrupt deals will face the law," he said.
During the crackdown last November, the Kingdom detained a big number of incumbent and former government ministers, prominent businessmen, and at least 11 princes who were accused of corruption. 
The accused were held at the Ritz Carlton Hotel for some time until they either returned what they have been accused of stealing from the government or proved their innocence.
On reports of human rights abuses in the Kingdom, Prince Mohammed assured that "Saudi Arabia believes in many of the principles of human rights." 
"In fact, we believe in the notion of human rights, but ultimately Saudi standards are not the same as American standards. I don't want to say that we don't have shortcomings. We certainly do. But naturally, we are working to mend these shortcomings," he said.

Religious tolerance, women rights
Prince Mohammed said that his country was not always like what it has been in the last 40 years. “We were living a very normal life like the rest of the Gulf countries. Women were driving cars. There were movie theaters in Saudi Arabia. Women worked everywhere. We were just normal people developing like any other country in the world until the events of 1979,” he said.
The widespread perception of the Kingdom as a place with harsh Islamic laws impacted the youth of the country, recalled the crown prince. “After 1979, that's true. We were victims, especially my generation that suffered from this a great deal.” 
"We have extremists who forbid mixing between the two sexes and are unable to differentiate between a man and a woman alone together and their being together in a workplace. Many of those ideas contradict the way of life during the time of the Prophet and the Caliphs. This is the real example and the true model," he said.
The prince was asked if women were equal to men. “Absolutely. We are all human beings and there is no difference,” he said.
On the issue of women’s dress code and the stipulations of the Sharia, the crown prince said: “Women wear decent, respectful clothing, like men. This, however, does not particularly specify a black abaya or a black head cover. The decision is entirely left for women to decide what type of decent and respectful attire she chooses to wear.”
With a ban lifted on women driving in the Kingdom and women getting ready to sit behind the wheel this June, the crown prince was again asked the issue of women and driving in Saudi Arabia. He said: “This is no longer an issue. Today, driving schools have been established and will open soon. In a few months, women will drive in Saudi Arabia. We are finally over that painful period that we cannot justify.” The crown prince also said work is underway to a new initiative to introduce regulations ensuring equal pay for men and women.
Prince Mohammed promised to eradicate any trace of extremist elements in the Kingdom's educational institutions. “Saudi schools have been invaded by many elements from the Muslim Brotherhood organization, surely to a great extent. Even now, there are some elements left. It will be a short while until they are all eradicated completely,” he said, adding “no country in the world would accept that its educational system be invaded by any radical group.”

Regional security
On regional security, the crown prince said Iran poses a clear and present danger. He likened Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, to Hitler, adding that the Iranian mullah’s expansionist plans poses a serious threat to the security of the Middle East.
“He wants to expand. He wants to create his own project in the Middle East very much like Hitler who wanted to expand at the time. Many countries around the world and in Europe did not realize how dangerous Hitler was until what happened, happened. I don't want to see the same events happening in the Middle East,” he said.
Prince Mohammed said Saudi Arabia has no interest in acquiring a nuclear bomb, but “if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.” 
Crown Prince Mohammed, who is also the defense minister, said Iranian ideology had infiltrated parts of neighbor Yemen. “During that time, this militia was conducting military maneuvers right next to our borders and positioning missiles at our borders,” he said, referring to the Houthi militia that is fighting the UN-recognized Yemen government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
Houthi militias have launched missiles toward Saudi Arabia’s Makkah region and at the capital, Riyadh. Scores of civilians have also been killed or hurt in these strikes. Most of these missiles have been traced to Iran.
“I can't imagine that the United States will accept one day to have a militia in Mexico launching missiles on Washington D.C., New York and LA while Americans are watching these missiles and doing nothing,” he added.
 

 



He said the catastrophe in Yemen was ’truly very painful’ and hoped the Houthi militia “ceases using the humanitarian situation to their advantage in order to draw sympathy from the international community. They block humanitarian aid in order to create famine and a humanitarian crisis.” 
On the suggestion that what was happening in Yemen was a proxy war, the crown prince said: “Unfortunately, Iran is playing a harmful role. The Iranian regime is based on pure ideology. Many of the Al-Qaeda operatives are protected in Iran and it refuses to surrender them to justice, and continues to refuse to extradite them to the United States. This includes the son of Osama bin Laden, the new leader of Al-Qaeda. He lives in Iran and works out of Iran. He is supported by Iran.”
“Iran is not a rival to Saudi Arabia. Its army is not among the top five armies in the Muslim world. The Saudi economy is larger than the Iranian economy.  Iran is far from being equal to Saudi Arabia,” He said.

Personal wealth
Asked to comment on news reports on his personal wealth, he said: “My personal life is something I'd like to keep to myself and I don't try to draw attention to it. If some newspapers want to point something out about it, that's up to them. As far as my private expenses, I'm a rich person and not a poor person. I'm not Gandhi or Mandela. I'm a member of the ruling family that existed for hundreds of years before the founding of Saudi Arabia. We own very large lots of land, and my personal life is the same as it was 10 or 20 years ago. But what I do as a person is to spend part of my personal income on charity. I spend at least 51% on people and 49 on myself.”
The crown prince talked warmly about his father, King Salman’s fondness for history and how he would foster a love of reading in his children' “He loves history very much. He is an avid reader of history. Each week, he would assign each one of us a book. And at the end of the week, he would ask us about the content of that book. The king always says, "If you read the history of a thousand years, you have the experience of a thousand years,” the crown prince recounted.
When the 32-year-old heir to the throne was posed the prospect of him shaping the Kingdom’s future for the next 50 years, he said “only God knows how long one will live.”
Can anything stop Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman? “Only death,” he said.
 


Organization of Islamic Cooperation chief, Moroccan envoy discuss cooperation

Organization of Islamic Cooperation chief, Moroccan envoy discuss cooperation
Updated 26 February 2021

Organization of Islamic Cooperation chief, Moroccan envoy discuss cooperation

Organization of Islamic Cooperation chief, Moroccan envoy discuss cooperation

JEDDAH: The secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen, on Thursday received the Moroccan ambassador to Saudi Arabia and OIC permanent representative, Dr. Mustafa Al-Mansouri.
The envoy signed the statute of the Islamic Organization for Food Security on behalf of his country and discussed with Al-Othaimeen ways to further strengthen cooperation between the OIC and Morocco. Al-Othaimeen praised Morocco’s leading role within the organization and in joint Islamic action.


Who’s Who: Dr. Mahmoud Al-Yamany, executive president of Second Health Cluster

Who’s Who: Dr. Mahmoud Al-Yamany, executive president of Second Health Cluster
Updated 26 February 2021

Who’s Who: Dr. Mahmoud Al-Yamany, executive president of Second Health Cluster

Who’s Who: Dr. Mahmoud Al-Yamany, executive president of Second Health Cluster

Dr. Mahmoud Al-Yamany is the executive president of a group of Saudi healthcare facilities known as the Second Health Cluster. It includes King Fahd Medical City, Prince Mohammed bin Abdul Aziz Hospital, King Saud Hospital for Chest Diseases, Al-Yamamah Hospital, and a group of primary healthcare centers in northeastern Riyadh.
Al-Yamany has also served as director of the National Neuroscience Institute, chairman of the board of directors of the Scientific Committee for Neurosurgery, medical director of neurology and head of the department of neurosurgery, both at King Fahd Medical City, and as a consultant of neurosurgery at the Riyadh Medical Complex.
He sat as chairman of the accreditation committee for health promotion at King Fahd Medical City, was a consultant of neurosurgery at King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center, and was an honorary professor of assistant clinical neurosurgery at King Saud University.
In addition, he held the positions of assistant executive director of medical departments and deputy executive director for medical affairs at King Fahd Medical City.
He is a representative of Saudi Arabia and an examiner on the Arab Board of Neurosurgery, and an executive partner of the Qimam Fellowship, which provides its fellows with one-on-one mentorship from senior public and private sector leaders.
Al-Yamany gained master’s degrees in health administration, and health management from Washington University, bachelor’s degrees in medicine, and surgery from King Saud University’s college of medicine in Riyadh.


Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and US President Biden discuss regional security

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and US President Biden discuss regional security
Updated 26 February 2021

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and US President Biden discuss regional security

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and US President Biden discuss regional security
  • The talks dealt with ‘the most important issues in the region’
  • They discussed Iran’s destabilizing behavior and ending the war in Yemen

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and US President Joe Biden discussed regional and global stability during a phone call on Thursday.
The two leaders stressed the importance of strengthening the partnership between the two countries and the depth of their historical relations, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
During the call, King Salman congratulated Biden on taking office last month.
The talks dealt with the most important issues in the region and reviewed developments of common interest, the report said.
The two sides discussed Iran’s behavior in the region, its destabilizing activities and its support for terrorist groups.
“King Salman thanked the US president for Washington’s commitment to defend the Kingdom against any threats and his assurance that Iran would not be allowed to possess nuclear weapons,” SPA said.
Biden commended the Kingdom’s support for UN efforts to reach a truce and a cease-fire in Yemen.
King Salman said the Kingdom was keen to reach a comprehensive political solution in Yemen and to achieve security and development for the Yemeni people.
A statement from the White House said the US president told King Salman he would work to make the bilateral relationship as strong and transparent as possible.


SAF improving lives of autistic children in Saudi Arabia for years

SAF improving lives of autistic children in Saudi Arabia for years
Updated 26 February 2021

SAF improving lives of autistic children in Saudi Arabia for years

SAF improving lives of autistic children in Saudi Arabia for years
  • Arab News spoke to Prince Saud bin Abdulaziz bin Farhan Al-Saud, SAF’s chairman, to discover more about the charity’s efforts since its launch in 2009

JEDDAH: The Saudi-based Charitable Society of Autism Families (SAF) has been assisting families with autistic children and pushing for greater community inclusion for more than 10 years now. But while awareness of autism in the region has improved in that time, there remains a stigma around and lack of understanding of the condition in the Kingdom.

Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a neurodevelopmental disorder that impairs a person’s ability to communicate or socialize with others. It can lead to a variety of seemingly anti-social behaviors, including a lack of desire to interact with other people, displays of apparent hostility, avoidance of eye contact, repetitive patterns of behavior, and more.

Arab News spoke to Prince Saud bin Abdulaziz bin Farhan Al-Saud, SAF’s chairman, to discover more about the charity’s efforts since its launch in 2009.

“With the right health care and resources, combined with family support, some of the children on the spectrum can gain the necessary skills to lead a ‘normal’ life and, in some cases, demonstrate special talents and capabilities not common in the wider population,” Prince Saud said. “We see many inspiring examples in our society and we regularly showcase these success stories.”

Autism is commonly diagnosed by the age of three and is more prevalent in males than females. The first studies of autism appeared in the 1960s, but less-severe varieties of autism were not identified until the 1980’s. Today, three types of ASD have been identified — each with specific characteristics that help doctors diagnose patients. They are autistic disorder, also known as classic autism; Asperger syndrome; and pervasive developmental disorders, also known as atypical autism.

Prince Saud said it is difficult to produce an accurate estimate of how many people in the Kingdom have ASD, due to the lack of sufficient studies. “However, according to the US CDC, 1 in 54 children — across all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups — has been identified with ASD, meaning an approximate 1-2 percent of the global population is on the spectrum,” he said “This percentage might be applicable to the Kingdom.”

One of SAF’s most-common methods of raising awareness is through its series of public seminars, but it has recently also become more active on social media, in part because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Aside from its campaigning work, the society also helps arrange the provision of services including rehabilitation, educational development, guidance and assistance from other organizations for the families it supports, as well as a range of online offerings, including consultations, lectures and workshops, and rehabilitation services.

“We will continue our efforts to create a welcoming community in which autism is well understood so that those on the spectrum and their families can get the support they need,” Prince Saud said.

 


Saudi Arabia is a critical partner: US Yemen envoy

Saudi Arabia is a critical partner: US Yemen envoy
Updated 26 February 2021

Saudi Arabia is a critical partner: US Yemen envoy

Saudi Arabia is a critical partner: US Yemen envoy
  • Prince Khalid and Lenderking discussed diplomatic efforts and Saudi Arabia’s commitment to finding a solution to the conflict and supporting Yemenis

LONDON: Saudi Arabia is a critical partner of the US, the country’s envoy to Yemen said on Thursday in talks about resolving the conflict.

“The US recognizes the conflict in Yemen cannot be resolved without Saudi support,” Timothy Lenderking said after a meeting with the Kingdom’s Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman.

Prince Khalid and Lenderking also discussed diplomatic efforts and Saudi Arabia’s commitment to finding a solution to the conflict and supporting Yemenis.