Is Saudi Arabia Ramping Up Its Own Nuclear Program?
In the wake of the US and Iran working to hammer out an unlikely nuclear deal, foreign policy officials are growing worried that the move may prompt Saudi Arabia to accelerate their own nuclear program and buy nuclear technology from Pakistan. Earlier this week, Massachusetts Senator and chairman of the Senate International Development Subcommittee wrote a letter to the president, asking Obama to ensure that the US doesn’t sell any nuclear technology to the Saudis and prevent them from changing any of the terms in their nuclear cooperation agreement.
According to a report in Time magazine, the Saudis lobbied hard behind the scenes to increase sanctions against Iran rather than lift them. Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz, the Saudi ambassador to the United Kingdom, told media that “We are not going to sit idly by and receive a threat there and not think seriously how we can best defend our country and our region.”
F. Gregory Gause, a professor of Middle Eastern politics at the University of Vermont believes that this talk has nothing to do with nuclear weapons but rather a worry that Iran could become the dominant power in the Middle East. “It comes from a profound and exaggerated fear that a nuclear deal with Iran is a prelude to an American-Iranian geopolitical agreement that in essence leaves Iran as the dominant power in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq,” Gause says.
Earlier this month, leaks surfaced showing that Saudi Arabia is planning to buy nuclear technology from Pakistan. This has Israel concerned as well. Former Israeli head of military intelligence Amos Yadlin told reporters that if Iran obtained a nuke, “the Saudis will not wait one month. They already paid for the bomb, they will go to Pakistan and bring what they need to bring.”
This may not be far fetched. Saudi Arabia has long been a supporter of Pakistan’s nuclear program and has a good relationship with the country. Of course, buying nuclear weapons from Pakistan would violate the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and could find themselves having sanctions leveled against them.
According to Gary Samore, a former arms-control adviser under Obama, “Pakistan isn’t just going to hand over nuclear weapons; it’s more likely that Pakistan would station forces in Saudi, and those forces will have the ability to deploy nuclear weapons from Saudi soil”