Iran's Leader Is Worse Than Hitler and Wants to Spread Islam to America, Says Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman

The heir to the Saudi throne has lambasted Iran, saying its Supreme Leader is the first side of a "triangle of evil" along with the Muslim Brotherhood and extremist Islamist groups like Isis.

In an echo of former U.S. president George W. Bush's 2002 reference to Iran's supposed role in an "axis of evil," Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told The Atlantic that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was akin to Hitler and headed a regime that wanted to spread "extremist Shiite ideology."

The crown prince added that if Tehran got its way, "the hidden Imam will come back again and he will rule the whole world from Iran and spread Islam even to America," referring to the final savior of humankind according to Iran's Twelver Shia faith.

He said: "The second part of the triangle is the Muslim Brotherhood, which is another extremist organization. They want to use the democratic system to rule countries and build shadow caliphates everywhere… And the other part is the terrorists, al-Qaeda, ISIS, that want to do everything with force.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia October 24, 2017. He has said that Iran's leader "makes Hitler looks good." REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed/File Photo

"I believe that the Iranian supreme leader makes Hitler look good. But the supreme leader is trying to conquer the world. He believes he owns the world. They are both evil guys. He is the Hitler of the Middle East," he added.

The wide-ranging interview will be seen as the latest move by the royal to present a different image of his country. In November he ordered a crackdown on businessmen and officials accused of corruption, which has reportedly recovered 100 billion dollars in financial settlements, although critics said it was a purge of his rivals to consolidate power.

Women will also be allowed to drive for the first time in the kingdom, although the country's guardianship laws, which he describes as only "customs," which restrict women's freedoms, remain in place.

The crown prince insists his country is part of a group of moderate Muslim nations which include Jordan, Oman, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates which are, in his view, countries based on the founding principles of the United Nations whose values are at odds with those of the "evil triangle."

But Salman puzzled his interviewer when he denied that Wahhabism, the austere fundamentalist strand of Islam which is the bedrock of the country, even existed in Saudi Arabia.

"No one can define Wahhabism. There is no Wahhabism. We don't believe we have Wahhabism. We believe we have, in Saudi Arabia, Sunni and Shiite. We believe we have within Sunni Islam four schools of thought," he said, adding that Shiites held many positions of power in government and society.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addresses the Muslim faithful during Friday prayers at Tehran University, June 2009. He has been accused by the Saudi Crown Prince of being worse than Hitler. Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images

He said he has no religious objections to the right of Israel to exist, and that his concerns were solely about the fate of the holy mosque in Jerusalem and the rights of the Palestinian people.

"I believe that each people, anywhere, has a right to live in their peaceful nation. I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land. But we have to have a peace agreement to assure the stability for everyone and to have normal relations.

"We have religious concerns about the fate of the holy mosque in Jerusalem and about the rights of the Palestinian people. This is what we have. We don't have any objection against any other people.

"Our country doesn't have a problem with Jews. Our Prophet Muhammad married a Jewish woman. Not just a friend—he married her. Our prophet, his neighbors were Jewish. You will find a lot of Jews in Saudi Arabia coming from America, coming from Europe. There are no problems between Christian and Muslims and Jews. We have problems like you would find anywhere in the world, among some people. But the normal sort of problems," said the crown prince.