Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud said during an interview with the Time magazine, which was released on April 5, that Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad will stay in his position and added that a strong Iranian influence in Syria is not within the interest of the Assad.
“I believe Bashar is staying for now. And Syria has been part of the Russian influence in the Middle East for a very long time. But I believe Syria’s interest is not to let the Iranians do whatever they want in Syria for the mid-term and long-term because if Syria changes ideologically, then Bashar, will be a puppet for Iran,” Bin Salman told the Times.
Bin Salman said that he hopes that the Syrian president and the growing influence of Russia will play a key role in countering the Iranian influence in the war-torn country. However, the Saudi Crown Prince didn’t specify to what level Saudi Arabia is actually counting on this.
“So better for him is to have his regime strengthened in Syria, and also it’s good for Russia. Russia, better for them is to have direct strength and they empower Bashar and have direct influence in Syria and not through Iran. So these interests could reduce the Iranian influence significantly, but we don’t know how much of a percentage.” the Crown Prince said.
When asked about his opinion regarding a possible US withdrawal from Syria, Bin Salman warned from such action and stressed that the US should stay in Syria for a long time in order to pressure the Syrian president and obstacle Iran actions in eastern Syria.
“Well, we believe the American troops should stay for at least the mid-term if not the long-term because United States of America need to have cards to negotiate and to apply pressure. If you get these troops out, you lose this card. Two, you need to have a checkpoint in the corridor between Iran and Hezbollah,” Bin Salman said.
This was the second time when the Saudi Crown Prince openly admitted that the Syrian President will stay. The first was during an interview with the Atlantic, earlier this month. This statements represent a major shift in the Saudi attitude towards the situation in Syria.
The both statements came only few days after Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah had confirmed that a meeting between Saudi and Syrian officials had been held recently.