Saudi Arabia warns it might join a nuclear arms race

Dec 7, 2011 15:45 Moscow Time

Prince of Saudi Arabia Turki bin Faisal Al Saud. Photo: EPA

Prince of Saudi Arabia Turki bin Faisal Al Saud warned his country may start its own nuclear program as a response to Iran’s effort to develop a nuclear warhead.

Iran and Saudi Arabia are the main rivals in the region. And Turki al-Faisal, a former intelligence chief and a nephew to King Abdullah – has always been critical towards Shiite-ruled Iran. Earlier, however, he stopped short of saying his country was eager to join “a nuclear arms race”.

This may lead to a runway arms race in the Middle East, Vladimir Evseev, an analyst from the Center for social and political studies, believes:

“Saudi Arabia has not got any infrastructure for building a nuclear warhead. Instead, it will be looking for a state that could manufacture a bomb for it. Egypt, which has the necessary infrastructure, would be one of the options. All this is extremely dangerous, especially taking into account that Turkey is closely monitoring the developments in Saudi Arabia and will certainly join the race.”

Petr Topychkanov, an expert at the Centre for International Security of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations falls in with his colleague. At the same time, he says, the aggressive rhetoric voiced by Saudi Arabia might help find new approaches to resolving the stand-off over Iran’s nuclear program:

“If Iran gets hold of nuclear weapons, it may have a domino effect across the whole region. Iran’s efforts can not be stopped by sanctions. There should be other measures, in fact, a whole set of measures to halt its efforts. The US will make Iran give up its nuclear program only by normalizing relations with Tehran. This is not the case right now, as Iran regards sanctions as politically motivated and not related to its nuclear program.”

Saudi Arabia’s threat to join a nuclear arms race can also be a bargaining tool in the US talks with Russia and China, as neither of them supports sanctions against Iran. Yet, analyst Vladimir Evseev does not believe that it will help the US achieve its goals:

“The US is using various tools to put pressure on Russia and China. One of these tools, for instance, is the claims that, if sanctions are not toughened, Israel will launch an air strike against Iran’s nuclear sites. This is pure blackmail. The US has to find stronger arguments for convincing Russia to cooperate.”

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