There has been recent talk of Saudi Arabia’s supposed determination to buy a nuclear bomb from Pakistan. Firstly, is this even possible in light of the international agreements signed by both countries forbidding the owner of a nuclear weapon to transfer or sell it? This question is especially pertinent as Saudi Arabia is not allowed to manufacture such a weapon for military purposes. Secondly, would such nuclear weapon add any value to Saudi Arabia’s defense systems?
After buying Chinese missiles and after news of the secret deal was leaked, it was said that Saudi Arabia might use these missiles to carry nuclear warheads. However, in 1988 the kingdom signed a treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons aimed at limiting the spread of nuclear weapons technology. Saudi Arabia now abides to that treaty, along with 190 other countries. There have always been stories and skeptical media campaigns stating that Saudi Arabia intends to become a nuclear power. Such stories were supported by claims made by an employee who defected from the Saudi embassy in New York. He said that Saudi Arabia is building a nuclear bomb to support Iraq. Before that, a U.S. intelligence analyst had said that Saudi Arabia supported Pakistan’s nuclear project with an investment of $2 billion.
After all these years, we are confident that Saudi Arabia does not have bombs or a nuclear military project. The question now is: If the United States allows Iran to build nuclear weapons, why can’t be in the right of Saudi Arabia, Iran’s neighbor, to protect itself and do the same? This would allow Saudi Arabia to maintain the balance of power with Iran. The two countries that have been in conflict for more than three decades. A similar situation occurred when Pakistan acquired nuclear weapons in order to maintain the regional balance of power in light of India’s nuclear weapon.
From a theoretical, political and military perspective, Saudi Arabia will have to protect itself from the Iranian regime’s nuclear program either with a nuclear weapon or via agreements that will maintain the regional balance of power and protect Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states.
Logically, Saudi Arabia will have to do so, especially since there is a long history of aggression orchestrated by Tehran against Riyadh. The Israelis are more than aware of the Iranian leadership’s intentions and its lack of rationality, but no one should ever doubt that Riyadh is one of the potential targets on Iran’s nuclear hit list. Iran has never hesitated to directly or indirectly target the kingdom. Although Iran recently expelled Osama bin Laden’s sons and his wife from the country, it still holds those who executed the Khobar and Riyadh bombings and also sponsors hostile activities in Yemen, Iraq and Bahrain.
Despite Saudi Arabia and the Gulf’s strong conviction to work on ending the nuclear standoff with Iran, I am afraid that it would be a dangerous move with regards to security and economic questionsAbdulrahman al-Rashed
When Iranian nuclear weapons are ready, they cannot be seen as a defensive weapon because Saudi Arabia has never attacked Iran. Iran’s nuclear weapons will, rather, work to deter major countries from interfering in Iran’s regional conflicts, particularly in the Gulf. Iran might use its weapon in wars against its neighbors such as Saudi Arabia. Although it is not difficult to imagine the risks of allowing Iran finish the construction of its nuclear weapons, I am against setting off a nuclear weapons race in the region. Ever since Ayatollah Khomeini stepped aboard an Air France plane in 1979 to travel back to Iran, the Islamic Republic has caused chaos in the region. Iran’s threats have brought the aircraft carriers and battleships of major countries to the Gulf’s waters. Foreign powers have established about five bases in the Gulf region, along with establishing conventions ensuring the protection of the Gulf.
Despite Saudi Arabia and the Gulf’s strong conviction to work on ending the nuclear standoff with Iran, I am afraid that it would be a dangerous move with regards to security and economic questions.
The ideal solution is to insist on preventing Iran from building nuclear weapons. However, unfortunately, the involvement of U.S. President Barack Obama’s government in six months of negotiations will boost Iran’s self-confidence in forcing the international community to accept it as a nuclear country, despite all the offers, guarantees and promises made to stop this from happening.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Nov. 16, 2013.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.