November 20, 2013 Special Dispatch No. 5528

Al-Arabiya Editor: The Obama Administration Is Boosting Iran's Confidence That It Can Force The World To Accept It As A Nuclear Power

November 20, 2013
Saudi Arabia, Iran | Special Dispatch No. 5528

In an article titled "Saudi Arabia's Nuclear Bomb," published November 16, 2013 in the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, 'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, the daily's former editor and the current director of Al-Arabiya, addressed the topic of Saudi Arabia's possible nuclear armament. He denied rumors that the kingdom has a nuclear program or has ever intended to acquire atomic weapons, stressing that it is a signatory to the NPT. However, he states that if Iran manages to acquire a nuclear weapon, the kingdom will have no choice but to protect itself, either by acquiring nuclear weapons of its own or "via agreements that will maintain the regional balance of power and protect Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states." This, since Iran's weapon will not be meant for defensive purposes, and Saudi Arabia is undoubtedly "one of the potential targets on Iran’s nuclear hit list."

At the same time, he stresses that he is against sparking a nuclear arms race in the region, and that the ideal solution, therefore, is to prevent Iran from developing such weapons. He criticizes the policy of U.S. President Barak Obama vis-à-vis Iran, saying that its willingness to negotiate with Iran gives the latter confidence that it will manage to convince the world to accept it as a nuclear power.

The following is an English translation of the article, published on the Al-Arabiya website.[1]

'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed

"If Iran Builds Nuclear Weapons, Saudi Arabia Will Have To Protect Itself, Either With A Nuclear Weapon Of Its Own Or Via Agreements That Will Maintain The Regional Balance Of Power "

"There has been recent talk of Saudi Arabia’s supposed determination to buy a nuclear bomb from Pakistan. Firstly, is this even possible in light of the international agreements signed by both countries forbidding the owner of a nuclear weapon to transfer or sell it? This question is especially pertinent as Saudi Arabia is not allowed to manufacture such a weapon for military purposes. Secondly, would such [a] nuclear weapon add any value to Saudi Arabia’s defense systems?

"After [Saudi Arabia] bought Chinese missiles and after news of the secret deal was leaked, it was said that Saudi Arabia might use these missiles to carry nuclear warheads.[2] However, in 1988 the kingdom signed a treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons aimed at limiting the spread of nuclear weapons technology. Saudi Arabia now abides [by] that treaty, along with 190 other countries. There have always been stories and skeptical media campaigns stating that Saudi Arabia intends to become a nuclear power. Such stories were supported by claims made by an employee who defected from the Saudi embassy in New York. He said that Saudi Arabia is building a nuclear bomb to support Iraq. Before that, a U.S. intelligence analyst had said that Saudi Arabia [had] supported Pakistan’s nuclear project with an investment of $2 billion.[3]

"After all these years, we are confident that Saudi Arabia does not have [nuclear] bombs or a nuclear military project. The question now is: If the United States allows Iran to build nuclear weapons, why [is it not] the right of Saudi Arabia, Iran’s neighbor, to protect itself and do the same? This would allow Saudi Arabia to maintain the balance of power with Iran. The two countries that have been in conflict for more than three decades. A similar situation occurred when Pakistan acquired nuclear weapons in order to maintain the regional balance of power in light of India’s nuclear weapon.

"From a theoretical, political and military perspective, Saudi Arabia will have to protect itself from the Iranian regime’s nuclear program either with a nuclear weapon or via agreements that will maintain the regional balance of power and protect Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states."

"Riyadh Is One Of The Potential Targets On Iran’s Nuclear Hit List"

"Logically, Saudi Arabia will have to do so, especially since there is a long history of aggression orchestrated by Tehran against Riyadh. The Israelis are more than aware of the Iranian leadership’s intentions and its lack of rationality, but no one should ever doubt that Riyadh is one of the potential targets on Iran’s nuclear hit list [as well]. Iran has never hesitated to directly or indirectly target the kingdom. Although Iran recently expelled Osama bin Laden’s sons and his wife from the country, it still holds those who executed the Khobar and Riyadh bombings and also sponsors hostile activities in Yemen, Iraq and Bahrain.

"When [the] Iranian nuclear weapons are ready, they cannot be seen as a defensive weapon because Saudi Arabia has never attacked Iran. Iran’s nuclear weapons will rather work to deter major countries from interfering in Iran’s regional conflicts, particularly in the Gulf. Iran might use its weapon in wars against its neighbors such as Saudi Arabia."

"The Ideal Solution Is To Insist On Preventing Iran From Building Nuclear Weapons"

"Although it is not difficult to imagine the risks of allowing Iran [to] finish the construction of its nuclear weapons, I am against setting off a nuclear weapons race in the region. Ever since Ayatollah Khomeini stepped aboard an Air France plane in 1979 to travel back to Iran, the Islamic Republic has caused chaos in the region. Iran’s threats have brought the aircraft carriers and battleships of major countries to the Gulf’s waters. Foreign powers have established [some] five bases in the Gulf region, along with establishing conventions ensuring the protection of the Gulf.

"Though Saudi Arabia and the Gulf have powerful reasons to create a nuclear power-balance vis-à-vis Iran, I am afraid that this would be a dangerous move from a security, economic and environmental perspective. The ideal solution is to insist on preventing Iran from building nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, however, the involvement of U.S. President Barack Obama’s government in six months of negotiations boosts Iran’s confidence that it can force the international community to accept it as a nuclear country, despite all the offers, guarantees and promises made to stop this from happening."


[1], November 16, 2013. The translation has been lightly edited based on the Arabic original.

[2] According to press reports, in 2011 Saudi Arabia made a secret deal with China for the purchase of ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

[3] According to press reports, in 1994 Muhammad Khaliwi, the second-in-command of the Saudi mission to the United Nations, defected and applied for asylum in the United States. He leaked over 10,000 documents of the Saudi embassy, according to which in Saudi Arabia had helped fund the Iraqi and Pakistani nuclear programs.

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