Daily Israel Report

Saudis Raise Specter of Nuclear Arms Race

Saudi Arabia will seek nuclear weapons if Iran comes close to obtaining them, raising the specter of a nuclear arms race in the Mideast.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 7/1/2011, 12:59 PM / Last Update: 7/1/2011, 3:07 PM

Saudi Arabia has warned of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East if Iran comes close to approaching nuclear weapons.

Prince Turki Al Faisal, a former Saudi intelligence chief and ambassador to Washington, warned senior NATO military officials that the existence of such a device "would compel Saudi Arabia to pursue policies which could lead to untold and possibly dramatic consequences."

While Faisal did not explicitly say what these policies would be a senior official in Riyadh close to the prince said the message is clear.

"We cannot live in a situation where Iran has nuclear weapons and we don't. It's as simple as that," the official said. "If Iran develops a nuclear weapon, that will be unacceptable to us and we will have to follow suit."

Officials in Riyadh say that Saudi Arabia would reluctantly push ahead with its own civilian nuclear program with a 'wait and see' attitude.

"Peaceful use of nuclear power is the right of all nations," Turki said echoing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmidinijad.

Iran a Paper Tiger

Turki's comments were made during a meeting at RAF Molesworth in Cambridgeshire, the NATO facility used for gathering and collating intelligence on the Middle East and the Mediterranean.

According to a transcript of his speech, Turki said Iran was a "paper tiger with steel claws" which he accused of "meddling and destabilizing" throughout the region.

"Iran is very sensitive about other countries meddling in its affairs. But it should treat others like it expects to be treated. The kingdom expects Iran to practice what it preaches," Turki said.

Foreign minister

Turki holds no official post in Saudi Arabia but is seen as an ambassador at large for the kingdom and a potential future foreign minister.

Diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks revealed that King Abdullah, who has ruled Saudi Arabia since 2005, had previously warned Washington in 2008 that if Iran developed nuclear weapons "everyone in the region would do the same, including Saudi Arabia".

Saudi Arabian diplomats and officials have launched a serious campaign in recent weeks to rally global and regional powers against Iran, fearful that their country's larger but poorer regional rival is exploiting regional unrest to gain influence in the region and within the kingdom itself.

Meanwhile, the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council, of which Saudi Arabia is a member, is moving towards a unified diplomatic and military confederation to serve as a ballast against Iran.