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To that end, a recent report surfaced that Saudi Arabia — long suspected of contributing to Pakistan’s nuclear program — has already arranged for the use of two Pakistani nuclear bombs or guided missile warheads.
However, given Pakistan’s recent dalliance with the Islamist Republic, the Pakistanis may prove to be less of a reliable option for the Saudis. Despite last minute appeals from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan’s president, Asif Ali Zardari, has twice in the last month made visits to Tehran to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In both instances, Zardari has praised Iran as both a “natural ally” and “important friend” of Pakistan in the region.
While Pakistan and Iran’s budding romance may never come to full fruition, the courtship nevertheless reinforces the Saudi view of its strategic vulnerability to the Islamist state. So, while the Saudis grapple with the problematic issues of going the nuclear route, they continue on with an unabated buildup of conventional forces.
To that end, the Saudis have entered into a $60 billion arms deal with the United States, one which calls for the Saudi purchase of 84 US-built F-15 combat aircraft and an upgrade of 70 existing Saudi F-15s. The arms deal is also said to include an upgrade of the Saudi Patriot short-range missile defense in favor of a system to defend against higher-flying, medium-range ballistic missiles.
In addition to the arms deal, reports have recently surfaced that the US has been secretly training and equipping an elite Saudi Arabian force of 35,000 troops to provide security for Saudi energy production facilities, desalinization pants and nuclear reactors. The newly developed force is separate from the Saudi military, as well as the Saudi Arabian National Guard.
The creation and deployment of this new security force seems a particularly good investment given the fact that in March 2011 Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, declared a holy war against the Saudis for their intervention in the Bahrain unrest. To that end, Iranian leaders have openly created centers to recruit volunteers for suicide bombings against Saudi interests worldwide, with reports of hundreds having been already registered.
Yet despite the military buildup and the technological sophistication of their weaponry, the Saudis know they can’t overcome 75 million Iranians — more people than the Saudis and its Persian Gulf state partners combined — in a long, sustained conventional war
So, while some may dismiss Saudi Arabia’s nuclear threat as nothing more than a strategic bluff, the reality looks to be far different. For the Saudis, the road to victory over their Persian enemy has now taken a nuclear turn.
Frank Crimi is a writer living in San Diego, California. You can read more of Frank’s work at his blog, www.politicallyunbalanced.com.
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