Iran’s race towards a nuclear bomb is causing its Arab adversaries to contemplate building their own weapons, with Saudi Prince al-Faisal recently hinting that his country is considering the option. The Arab Spring has thrown a wildcard into the impending nuclear arms race, as it is uncertain who is coming to the forefront—and whose hands such capabilities will fall into.
In late June, Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former chief of Saudi intelligence,told NATO officials that Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons “would compel Saudi Arabia…to pursue policies which could lead to untold and possibly dramatic consequences.” Another official provided more specificity, saying “We cannot live in a situation where Iran has nuclear weapons and we don’t. It’s as simple as that.” Earlier this year, Prince al-Faisal said that the Gulf Cooperation Council must start “acquiring the nuclear might to face that of Iran.” The GCC includes Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. Jordan and Morocco are set to become members as well, moving the GCC closer to a NATO-like alliance with the purpose of deterring Iran.
In 2008, King Abdullah privately told the U.S. that if Iran goes nuclear, “everyone in the region would do the same, including Saudi Arabia.” The Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates gave a similar warning in February 2009. The Saudis have been considering building nuclear capabilities for a long time. In 1999, a top member of the Saudi Royal Family visited a Pakistani uranium enrichment site, as did representatives from the United Arab Emirates separately. It has been long-rumored that the Saudis financed the Pakistani nuclear weapons program and provided discounted oil in exchange for a promise to be provided with weapons if requested.
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