Discussion on a post-racial America aside, let me bring your attention to a very interesting piece from the guardian which was forwarded to me, entitled Pakistan’s Bomb and Saudi Arabia by Julian Borger of the Guardian, part of his Global Security blog.According to Borger, who recently attended a wee conference in Brussells hosted by The Centre for European Studies and the German Marshall Fund of the United States beautifully entitled ”Transatlantic test: What should the West do with Iran?”
While the discussion was to be about, well, what the West should do with Iran, the resulting concern was pretty much Iran’s sworn mortal enemy: Saudi Arabia .
Putting it briefly: Turkey would not jeopardise the Nato umbrella by going nuclear unilaterally. Egypt has considered its options and decided it cannot afford to go nuclear and risk losing its annual US grant. The biggest worry is Saudi Arabia, which cannot rely on a US nuclear umbrella for reasons of domestic and regional politics.
According to western intelligence sources (the meeting was under Chatham House rules so I am not allowed to be more specific) the Saudi monarchy paid for up to 60% of the Pakistani nuclear programme, and in return has the option to buy a small nuclear arsenal (‘five to six warheads) off the shelf if things got tough in the neighbourhood.
The Saudis and the Pakistanis have consistently denied any such deal, but what I heard in Brussels was billed by an official as being from intelligence sources. Whether or not anything has been signed, however, there are real questions on whether Pakistan would deliver when it came to the crunch.
This should be interesting. The race for influence in the Gulf and the Muslim word, between Saudi Arabia and Iran (Sunni/Shia respectively, so you know it’s historically haut), has been happening for awhile and it is unsurprising that with Iran working on it’s nuclear program that the incentive for Saudi Arabia to build its own program and bomb would grow. Another Guardian writer explored Saudi’s interest in nuclear weaponry back in 2003:
Saudi Arabia, in response to the current upheaval in the Middle East, has embarked on a strategic review that includes acquiring nuclear weapons, the Guardian has learned.
This new threat of proliferation in one of the most dangerous regions of the world comes on top of a crisis over Iran’s alleged nuclear programme.
A strategy paper being considered at the highest levels in Riyadh sets out three options:
· To acquire a nuclear capability as a deterrent;
· To maintain or enter into an alliance with an existing nuclear power that would offer protection;
· To try to reach a regional agreement on having a nuclear-free Middle East.
Until now, the assumption in Washington was that Saudi Arabia was content to remain under the US nuclear umbrella. But the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the US has steadily worsened since the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington: 15 of the 19 attackers were Saudi.
Yet while Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have a very cozy relationship, it’ll be interesting to see if, as mentioned above, the Islamic Republic will actually go through with the alleged talks and deals considering how it’s own (albeit fragile and of the lackey persuasion) relationship with the United States will influence its decision. I’m guessing increased drone attacks would be how the US might nudge their dislike for the alleged deal.
[tarboush tip: faiz, ali]Filed Under iran, nuclear program, Pakistan, Sana, Saudi Arabia