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Saudi Crown Prince Says Iran War Would Bring Down Global Economy

Hailey Waller

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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman warned that war between his country and Iran would lead to a “total collapse of the global economy” and should be avoided.

In comments that echo clear signals from the Trump administration that it doesn’t want to resort to conflict to punish Iran for disputed attacks on Saudi oil facilities, the prince said a “political and peaceful solution is much better than the military one.”

“Oil prices will jump to unimaginably high numbers that we haven’t seen in our lifetimes,” he said of any war. Still, the world needed to take “strong and firm action to deter Iran” or see further escalations, the prince said in an interview for CBS’s “60 Minutes” on Sunday.

The U.S., Saudi Arabia and major European nations have all blamed Iran for the Sept. 14 aerial attacks on two Saudi oil installations, which knocked out almost 5% of global supply.

But after weighing their possible responses, President Donald Trump opted first to tighten sanctions on Tehran, while the U.K., Germany and France have pushed for talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Iran denies it carried out the strikes, saying they were the work of Yemen’s Houthi rebels who are fighting a Saudi-led coalition.

Together with apparent efforts to build on a fledgling peace process in Yemen, the international moves have eased fears that the Middle East was sliding toward another catastrophic war.

Favors Talks

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— 60 Minutes (@60Minutes) September 30, 2019

“If Iran stops its support of the Houthi militia, the political solution will be much easier,” the prince said. “Today we open all initiatives for a political solution in Yemen.”

The oil facility attacks were motivated by “stupidity,” the prince said. “There is no strategic goal. Only a fool would attack 5% of global supplies.”

He said he’s in favor of Trump and Rouhani holding face-to-face talks. Trump -- who won the White House vowing to remove the U.S. from wars overseas and faces re-election next year -- had talked up the possibility of meeting Rouhani until the attack on Saudi oil fields.

Iran has repeatedly said it won’t negotiate with the U.S until it returns to the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal that Trump existed last year and lifts all sanctions.

The war in Yemen has killed thousands and triggered one the world’s worst humanitarian disasters since Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates intervened in 2015 to restore an allied government ousted by the Houthis.

The U.A.E. has signaled it will pull its forces from the conflict by the end of the year as the war threatened to ignite a catastrophic wider conflict with Iran. Last week, a Yemeni official said the Saudis had agreed a partial cease-fire.

On the murder of government critic and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi last year, Prince Mohammed said he took “full responsibility.” Asked how he could have been unaware of the operation, he said he can’t know “what 3 million people working for the Saudi government do daily.”

“This was a mistake,” the prince said. “And I must take all actions to avoid such a thing in the future.”

The question of the prince’s role in the murder has particularly weighed on the kingdom’s relations with the U.S., a key ally. Trump has shielded the prince even as Congress condemned Saudi Arabia.

Prince Mohammed first spoke publicly about the killing in October last year at an investor conference in Riyadh, calling it a “heinous crime” and promising that the killers would be brought to justice.

To contact the reporter on this story: Hailey Waller in New York at hwaller@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: James Ludden at jludden@bloomberg.net, Tony Czuczka, Mark Williams

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