Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is forcing its enemies in the region, such as Saudi Arabia, to also consider acquiring them to counter the threat. A Middle East nuclear arms race will soon begin that could quickly spiral out of country and spread beyond the region.
Arnaud de Borchgrave has brought attention to a significant statement by Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former chief of Saudi intelligence, at the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies. He called on the Gulf Cooperation Council, which consists of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, to create a united army and to begin “acquiring the nuclear might to face that of Iran.” This is the first time that an influential member of the Saudi Royal Family has called for beginning a nuclear weapons program, which is undoubtedly what he was referring to.
It has been long rumored that Saudi Arabia agreed to finance the Pakistani nuclear weapons program in return for a guarantee that weapons and delivery systems would be provided if the need arose. A 2003 report gave credence to these rumors, alleging that the Saudis agreed to give the Pakistanis cheap oil in return for access to their nuclear technology. Notably, in 1999, Prince Sultan Bin Abdul-Aziz visited Pakistan’s uranium enrichment and missile factory at Kahuta, as did officials from the United Arab Emirates on a separate trip.
According to GlobalSecurity.org, the Saudis have the necessary infrastructure to quickly start-up a nuclear weapons program. “While there is no direct evidence that Saudi Arabia has chosen a nuclear option, the Saudis have in place a foundation for building a nuclear deterrent,” it says. In 2006, the International Atomic Energy Agency revealed that several Arab countries were expressing an interest in a domestic nuclear energy program; the oft-used front for working on weapons. These countries included Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria and Egypt—all enemies of Iran. Jordan has also begun a nuclear program and has sought help from the Obama Administration in developing it.
It is unclear who will lead Egypt after elections are held in September, but the Mubarak regime was not shy about telling U.S. officials off-the-record that it was ready to develop nuclear weapons if Iran is not stopped. One cable released by Wikileaks from May 2008 stated that “Mubarak said that Egypt might be forced to begin its own nuclear weapons program if Iran succeeds in those efforts.” He also said in 2007, “We don’t want nuclear weapons in the area, but we are obligated to defend ourselves…We will have to have the appropriate weapons.”