Saudis Up the Nuclear Ante

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Fearful that he will soon face a nuclear-armed Iran, Saudi Arabia’s Prince Turki al-Faisal recently warned that the Saudi Kingdom would have no choice but to develop its own nuclear weapons, a move he said would lead to “untold and possibly dramatic consequences.”

While the Saudi’s have long voiced the strategic goal of a nuclear-free Middle East, they have also unequivocally stated that they won’t sit back and allow themselves to be the only nonnuclear nation in the region.

So, the remarks by al-Faisal — a former Saudi intelligence official — simply echo that view, one espoused by Saudi King Abdullah in 2006 when he said that if Iran ever developed nuclear weapons, “everyone in the region would, including Saudi Arabia.”

However, with Iran now edging ever closer to acquiring its own nuclear weapons, it appears the Saudis have actually begun laying the groundwork for a similar pursuit. For example, in April 2011, the Saudis purchased from China advanced ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. One of the missiles, the DF-21, can carry a 500kT nuclear warhead over 1,800 kilometers.

Moreover, in June 2011, the Saudi government announced a $300 billion plan to build 16 nuclear reactors over the next 20 years. While the Saudis have long been looking to develop a civilian nuclear program to meet its increasing electricity demands — having recently signed nuclear cooperation agreements with both France and China — the acquisition of nuclear power plants is the first crucial step in the development of a nuclear weapons program.

Skeptics of the Saudi nuclear threat, however, point to the fact that these nuclear agreements only allow for the transfer of knowledge regarding the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Moreover, they also note that the Saudis are a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, although so is Iran, and that factoid hasn’t slowed down the Islamist state’s nuclear weapons pursuit.

Still, it should be noted that even if the Saudis are seriously intent on pursuing a nuclear weapons course, a myriad of obstacles abound. For starters, the Saudis have the money to build a nuclear weapons system, but they presently lack the technological capacity, in particular an absence of highly skilled technicians, engineers and scientists. As such, the final development of a nuclear weapon could take one to two decades.

Unfortunately for the Saudis, time is a scarce commodity. According to British Foreign Secretary William Hague, Iran is already testing missiles capable of carrying nuclear payloads, as well as tripling its capacity to produce enriched uranium.

Confirmation of Hague’s latter accusation came when the Iranians recently announced they were shifting their nuclear enrichment program to an underground bunker at their Fordo plant near the Holy City of Qom, a move that experts believe will seriously accelerate Iran’s final push to make a nuclear bomb.

So, in order to quickly bridge the nuclear gap with Iran, the Saudis may be motivated to purchase or even rent a nuclear device or two from a willing seller. One likely broker is Pakistan, Saudi Arabia’s Sunni ally.

The Pakistanis have been increasing their annual production of nuclear weapons in recent years. While the United States in 2009 estimated Pakistan to have 60 nuclear weapons, that figure is now believed to be closer to 100. Given both Pakistan’s need for money and its disgraceful record of dealing nuclear technology, fears abound that it will sell its nuclear surplus to another country.

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  • mlcblog

    Somehow I am glad about this. Maybe someone will stand up to Iran.

  • Mike E

    When will you write about the fact that Israel has 200 nukes and never signed Non-Proliferation treaty while Iran did sign it.

    Neocons and Zionists will plunge this planet into WW3 and millions will die. All with support of Mainstream Media propaganda

    • StephenD

      You point this out because we can TRUST a signature from an Iranian on a treaty right? Do you REALLY think you must have a signature from Israel? Have they used or threatened to use nukes for anything other than protecting themselves from annihilation (which has been PROMISED by their surrounding neighbors)?
      What sort of dim wit are you?

    • MixMChess

      Israel has never tested, used or threatened the use of nuclear weapons. Israel has called for the creation of a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East and has repeatedly stated that it will not be the first state to use nuclear weapons in the region.

      Israel’s decision not to be bound by the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is based on the FACT that the treaty has done NOTHING to stem nuclear proliferation in the region. Iraq was a signatory to the NPT, and amassed a large amount of nuclear material without the knowledge of the International Atomic Energy Agency prior to the Israeli attack on its reactor in 1981.

      More recently, it was discovered that another signatory to the NPT, Iran, has had a secret nuclear weapons program for more than a decade and now their President is openly calling for a nuclear weapons program. Syria, yet another NPT signatory, recently began a clandestine nuclear program that was destroyed by Israel.

      • ali

        You say that Israel has repeatedly said that it will not be the first country to use nuclear weapons in the region. Doesn't it mean it will be the immediate second to use the weapon. How can it happen without Israel possessing a nuclear arsenal.

    • ObamaYoMoma

      Mike E is an unhinged bigot as he is obviously obsessed with fomenting a second holocaust of Jews in Israel, which also explains why he is so completely ignorant of Islam and the threat it presents to the free world. People like him are so far gone that they are beyond hopeless. Short of getting struck by lightning there is nothing that will shock him back into reality. I’ve seen a million Mike E’s.

  • Chezwick_mac

    This is just the beginning folks. Other states in the region will surely follow suit. Soon, even small states and non-state entities will have nuclear-weapons programs. And all because we (both Bush and Obama) dilly-dallied around while Iran defied the world.

    Our invasion of Iraq not only turned the American people against the Republican Party (with all the attendant fiscal, security, and sociological repercussions), but it tied us down while the Iranians pursued their nuclear ambitions unfettered. And while everyone is congratulating Def Sec Robert Gates as he retires after decades of national service, history will remember him for sitting on the Presidential commission in 2007 that claimed – all evidence to the contrary – that Iran abandoned its nuclear program in 2003.

    Folks, if you think the first decade of the new century has been "interesting", you ain't seen nothing yet.

    • alanmirs

      Having the peaceful nuclear energy hence having the knowledge of building the bomb takes away the importance of possession and helps the destruction of such weapons

  • alanmirs

    Iranians are intelligent nations they know one or two warhead is no competition for… and waste of time, funds, and effort especially when it could never be used! There for they have no such plan U.S and Israel use this propaganda tactics because Iranians refuse to be their puppets as… and they are seeking justice in the region and the world

    • StephenD

      "and they are seeking justice in the region and the world ."
      Can you pass that prescription around? I think everyone would like a ride on that cloud. Are there unicorns there too?

      • alanmirs

        To emigrate one seeks for a better standard of life and safer environments and yet the most settlers in Israel come from the western countries with the opportunity for a better standard of life and safer environment, there for it seems that the settlers are either castoffs from their community seeking satisfaction of their aggression or ambitious politicians aiming for position by deception
        Israel is not a Jewish state, and not because they are or not Jews but because they don’t belong to the environment and since the circumstances is not like the new world, they don’t understand the heritage, culture, and the history of the land
        Iran has never attacked any other nations
        Except defending her borders from American puppet like Saddam Hussein!
        And read about 1963 Mosadegh Shah and CIA

        • MixMChess

          You're an idiot alanmirs. Not only do you not understand the concept behind emigration and immigration, you lied about Israel's citizens.

          Recall, Israel has had a continuous Jewish presence for over 3,000 years. The Zionists of the 1800's were merely a continuation of this age old pattern. The Zionists who emigrated to Israel in the first half of the 20th century did so to escape persecution and build their own free country. In fact, had Britain not restricted immigration, more Jews could have been saved the perils of the Holocaust.

          You also conveniently forget that over 1/2 of Israel's population were refugees from Arab/Islamic nations – over 850,000 refugees after 1948.

          Read a book.

    • Chezwick_mac

      On the contrary….Iran has eventual plans for building literally thousands of nuclear warheads and an equal number of delivery vehicles. Their goal is the status of super-power. They will render obsolete all our current arms-control agreements with Moscow.

  • alanmirs

    The past decade has been witness to unending and unremitting clash between Iran and the West over Tehran’s nuclear program. The West has constantly accused Iran of trying to build nuclear bombs while Tehran has persistently denied the allegation. What do you think about the nature of Iran’s nuclear program? Why has it become so controversial and contentious? We already know that there are four nations in the world, who are not signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but nobody in the international community pressures them to halt their nuclear program and nobody investigates their nuclear arsenals. Why Iran is being singled out?
    The reason Iran’s nuclear program has become so controversial, therefore, has nothing to do with nuclear nonproliferation, any more than the war on Iraq had anything to do with weapons of mass destruction or terrorism. The problem with Iran is the same as that posed by Iraq, which is that it is too independent, too willing to defy orders from Washington, D. C. The U.S. used to support Iran’s nuclear program, when the country was under the Shah’s regime. The U.S. installed the Shah in 1953 after the CIA coup that overthrew the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq for nationalizing Iran’s oil industry, for standing up to the West and saying that Iran’s oil belonged to the Iranian people.

    • UCSPanther

      Let me guess: You are either extremely ignorant, or you are on Iran's payroll, considering how eager your blog looks to defend the Ayatollahs and their minions.

  • ObamaYoMoma

    For the Saudis, duping the USA is like stealing candy from a baby. Like Donald Trump says, America’s enemies can’t believe how stupid and incompetent our government is. We should be ceasing their oilfields and confiscating their oil wealth, not selling them weapons. The notion that the Saudis are moderate is a political correct myth. There is no such thing as a moderate Muslim country. Indeed, the entire Islamic world is our mortal enemy. It’s as if we have been hijacked by delusional Euroloons.

    Our federal government, our State Department, and our military establishment today couldn’t be any more incompetent. I have no doubt that had those same loons been in charge at the end of WWII, Communism would have been proclaimed a totalitarian ideology of peace being hijacked by a tiny minority of extremists and then the flood gates would have been opened up to allow millions of Communists to immigrate and infiltrate our country to become fifth columns.

    The USA doesn’t have long for this life. It’s on its last legs right now. The Left has destroyed it from within. Our children and grand children will not nearly have it as good as we have had it and that sucks. Indeed, the end of the shuttle program was a signal of America’s rapid decline. Our days are numbered.

  • WilliamJamesWard

    How do these camel jockeys get the money to play with dooms day weapons,
    our environemntalist (freedom destroying communist/leftist) subversives assure
    through their congressional minions we buy their oil. The prices are through the
    roof and the greatest transfer of wealth in World History takes place so that
    America becomes a poverty zone while sitting on more oil than anyone will
    admit to in government. Americans of our generation will go down in history as
    the largest conglomeration of jackasses ever produced. Without our money all
    of these nations would implode and the World might go back to a safer place to
    be but no, environmentalists and Saudi money assure a quisling congress and
    our destruction, now pending action by the One and D.C…………..William

  • MaryWilbur

    Finally the Saudis have seen the light and are going nuclear. Hopefully it's better late than never and they can buy a bomb from Pakistan. Otherwise it's going to be very tough for them.

    • Masaiari

      Yes sir , totally agree with you , but I see this magazine as a biased !