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Saudi Arabia wants to reshape world politics

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The very gullible Guardian reports:

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”.

He did not state explicitly what these policies would be, but a senior official in Riyadh who is close to the prince said yesterday his message was 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 said that Saudi Arabia would reluctantly push ahead with its own civilian nuclear programme. Peaceful use of nuclear power, Turki said, was the right of all nations.

The Guardian buys the argument that Saudi Arabia can develop its own nuclear capability. Half a world away, the Australian parses the subtext of this claim:

Saudi-Pakistani co-operation extends to the nuclear realm as well. Over the decades Saudi Arabia has helped finance Pakistan’s nuclear and missile programs and Saudi Arabia may seek to capitalise on its investment.

In terms of nuclear development, these two Sunni nations located on either side of Shia Iran have overlapping interests: Pakistan has knowledge and skilled manpower, but lacks cash, while Saudi Arabia has vast cash reserves but lacks the relevant infrastructures and skilled manpower. The two might seek to balance Iran’s power by increasing co-operation, despite the political risks primarily to their already strained relations with the US and the fact that doing so would contradict Saudi international commitments and its own public position favouring a nuclear-free Middle East.

If Pakistan were to station some of its nuclear weapons in the kingdom, Saudi Arabia might argue that this is not an infringement of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty to which it is a signatory, especially if the weapons remain under Pakistani control. It will also be “cheaper” in terms of Saudi public opinion to host Muslim forces on Saudi soil than “infidels”.

HT adds a terse bit of analysis of the worst case:

Riyadh has never bothered to develop any indigenous nuclear capacity. Instead, believe Indian, Israeli and Western sources, they have simply arranged to buy warheads and missiles from Pakistan directly whenever they wish. The Saudis have been known to have been financing Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme from at least 2003.

But if finally consummated, it would mean a Saudi-Pakistan alliance in which Islamabad would be Riyadh’s final security guarantor — a relationship that would be of concern for India. Pakistan would have access to Saudi oil wealth and the existing militant Islamicist linkage between the two would be strengthened.

Now, this is clearly the worst of all possible worlds for India, and some thought must indeed be spent on analyzing the consequences and, if possible, averting this outcome.

However, one must also consider less awful outcomes. It seems that the Saudi statement is a feint: a positioning and bargaining statement. With the elimination of Osama bin Laden, the unmasking of Pakistani duplicity, and the new timetable for US winding down its presence in Afghanistan, it was clear that the threat perception of Iran was decreasing. The Saudis do not like that, and are ratcheting up the decibels. The people most likely to lose if West Asia normalizes are the hereditary dictatorships in the region, and the Saudis are the first of these. This is a threat to hang on to power.

How will the USA react to this threat of proliferation from one of its two most unreliable allies?

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Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

July 1, 2011 at 4:31 am

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