TIME reports that Saudi Arabia is considering acquiring nuclear weapons – almost certain to be purchased off the shelf from Pakistan, the nuclear program of which Riyadh sponsored – in response to fears that the international community is positioning Iran to complete what is widely believed to be its drive toward producing its own nuclear weapons:
As discussions leading up to the historic agreement in Geneva unfurled over the past several months, Saudi did its utmost to express its discontent, lobbying behind closed doors for greater restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program and rejecting at the last minute a long-sought seat on the U.N. Security Council. Saudi officials even threatened to get their own nuclear weapons; just before the talks concluded the Saudi ambassador to the U.K., Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz, told the Times of London: “We are not going to sit idly by and receive a threat there and not think seriously how we can best defend our country and our region.”
TIME describes “an almost palpable sense of frustration, betrayal and impotence as Saudi Arabia watched” Iran secure an interim deal with the international community that, it is now known, will allow Iran to stockpile enriched uranium converted to uranium oxide and continue construction on its plutonium facility at Arak.
The agreement also seems to concede that Iran will be allowed to continue enriching in the context of a comprehensive agreement, and analysts have emphasized that it also risks a downward spiral that endangers the international sanctions regime. Washington has sought to reassure its traditional Saudi allies that the arrangement is in fact a good one, with uneven success.
Meanwhile Raytheon late last week announced that it was preparing to finalize the sale of missile defense systems to several Gulf countries, with Aviation Week quoting ‘U.S. industry executives’ sardonically noting that “Gulf nations have not signaled any declining interest in beefing up their missile defense capabilities despite recent U.S. talks with Iran.”
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