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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Saudi Arabia Special Weapons

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince warned in a US television interview on 15 March 2018 that if Tehran got a nuclear weapon, his country would follow suit. “Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb, but without a doubt, if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible,” Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in an interview that aired on “CBS This Morning.”

In November 2018 MBS announced a project to build the first nuclear research reactor in the kingdom. Saudi Arabia had announced plans for a massive program to become “self-sufficient” in producing nuclear fuel. Preliminary plans suggested the Saudis may be looking to build as many as 17 light water power reactors in all.

The "New York Times" reported on 02 March 2019 that the Trump administration planned to sell Saudi Arabia a nuclear reactor that can be used in the production of nuclear weapons. The newspaper added that the senior adviser to US President Jared Kushner discussed with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the nuclear program of the Kingdom and the role of the United States to provide assistance in this area. The plan was to initially build two nuclear power stations, and to build 40 reactors in the end. The idea of selling nuclear reactor to Saudi Arabia involved a group of officials, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

The Oversight Committee of the US House of Representatives issued a report about the existence of a secret plan by Trump, Saudi Arabia to provide details of sensitive technologies. The report pointed out that Trump personally oversaw the secret plan accelerates the transfer of sensitive nuclear energy technology to Saudi Arabia. According to the report, Trump's presidential team found a number of companies for the transfer of sensitive nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia, useful to Trump's efforts to transfer the nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia is still ongoing.

IP3 International, a private company, assembled a consortium of U.S. companies to build nuclear plants in Saudi Arabia. According to media reports, IP3’s only project to date is the Saudi nuclear plan. A key proponent of this nuclear effort was General Michael Flynn, who described himself in filings as an “advisor” to a subsidiary of IP3, IronBridge Group Inc., from June 2016 to December 2016—at the same time he was serving as Donald Trump’s national security advisor during the presidential campaign and the presidential transition. According to the whistleblowers, General Flynn continued to advocate for the adoption of the IP3 plan not only during the transition, but even after he joined the White House as President Trump’s National Security Advisor. General Flynn failed to report in his security clearance renewal application a trip he took to Saudi Arabia in June 2015 on behalf of IP3 and its predecessor company.

Saudi Arabia first opened a nuclear research center in the desert military complex at Al-Suleiyel, near Al-Kharj, in 1975. The Saudis also appear to be cultivating other options. In March 2015, Riyadh signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with South Korea to look into the possibility of building two nuclear reactors at a cost of about $2 billion.

Some concern remains that Saudi Arabia, like its neighbors, may be seeking to acquire nuclear weapons, apparently by purchase rather than indigenous development. While there is no direct evidence that Saudi Arabia has chosen a nuclear option, the Saudis had in place a foundation for building a nuclear deterrent.

It was reported in mid-September 2003 that Saudi Arabia had launched a strategic review that included acquiring nuclear weapons. A strategy paper being considered at the highest levels in Riyadh set out three options:

  • To acquire a nuclear capability as a deterrent;
  • To maintain or enter into an alliance with an existing nuclear power that would offer protection;
  • To try to reach a regional agreement on having a nuclear-free Middle East.

"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is not considering acquiring a nuclear bomb or nuclear weapons of any kind," the Saudi Embassy in London said in a statement issued on 19 September 2003. "There is no atomic energy programme in any part of the kingdom and neither is one being considered," the statement said.

Saudi Arabia may trigger a new kind of arms race in the Middle East, as leaders insist the Gulf state wants to match Iran's newly established nuclear enrichment capabilities. The nuclear deal between the P5+1 and Iran may allow Tehran to keep up to 5,000 centrifuges to enrich uranium. Saudi delegates to a rare summit of Gulf leaders with President Obama made it clear that the deal means they feel they must match Iran's level of enrichment. "We can’t sit back and be nowhere as Iran is allowed to retain much of its capability and amass its research," one Saudi delegate who wished to remain anonymous told the New York Times before the meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) began on 14 May 2015.

The former Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Turki bin Faisal, also told a conference in South Korea, "Whatever the Iranians have, we will have, too." Ironically, the avoidance of just such an arms race was a central argument of the Obama administration in favor of a deal that would include the ability to monitor Iran's program. "It is almost certain that other players in the region would feel it necessary to get their own nuclear weapons," Obama said in 2012.

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister has refused to rule out that it will seek a nuclear weapon if archrival Iran becomes a threat. In an interview January 19, 2016, Reuters news agency asked Adel al-Jubeir whether Saudi Arabia would try to get a nuclear bomb if Iran obtained one, despite its agreement with six world powers. He responded that his country would do "whatever we need to do in order to protect our people."

Jubeir said the end of Western sanctions on Iran as part of the nuclear agreement would be welcome if Iran uses unfrozen funds to improve the living standards of its people. But he said if the funds "go to support the nefarious activities of the Iranian regime, this will be a negative and it will generate a pushback."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry brushed off concerns the Saudis may try to get their hands on a nuclear weapon to counter a perceived Iranian threat. "You just can't buy a bomb and transfer it," Kerry told CNN television Jan 18, 2016, noting that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and international inspections would make such a thing very difficult. He also said possessing a nuclear bomb would not make Saudi Arabia safer.

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Page last modified: 09-09-2019 19:05:27 ZULU