2003 October 23 Thursday
Saudi Arabia May Go Nuclear In Response To Iranian Nuke Program

UPI Editor in Chief Arnaud de Borchgrave reports that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have have just agreed to a secret program for nuclear weapons cooperation. (and see a slightly different version of the article)

"It will be vehemently denied by both countries," added this ranking Pakistani source known to this correspondent for more than a decade as a knowledgeable insider, "but future events will confirm that Pakistan has agreed to provide KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) with the wherewithal for a nuclear deterrent."

...

"Both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia," the Pakistani source explained, "see a world that is moving from non-proliferation to proliferation of nuclear weapons."

...

The Sunni Saudis have concluded that nothing will deter Shiite Iran from continuing its quest for nuclear weapons. Pakistan, on the other hand, is openly concerned about the recent armaments agreement between India, its nuclear rival, and Israel, a long-time nuclear power whose inventory is estimated at between 200 and 400 weapons. Iran and India, located on either side of Pakistan, have also signed a strategic agreement whose aim is regarded with suspicion in Islamabad.

Pakistan (justifiably in my view) fears closer Iranian-Indian cooperation. The Saudis fear the Iranians. The Saudis have oil to give to the Pakistanis in exchange for Pakistani nuclear protection while the Pakistanis also gain another location from which to base missiles that will be able to reach India and Iran.

Of course this has been denied by the Saudis and Pakistanis with the Saudis saying the meeting was about Pakistani troops coming to Saudi Arabia. UPI reporter Martin Walker asks the obvious question:

Why would the Saudis want Pakistani troops on their soil anyway -- unless they were guarding something highly important to Pakistan?

And why do the Saudis think they need the Pakistanis to protect them? The Saudis no longer have faith that they can count on Washington DC to protect their perceived interests. On that note see my previous post Without US As Ally Saudi Arabia Could Go Nuclear. Those who have been so intent on the US taking a harder line with Saudi Arabia may not like the result. The Saudis will no doubt continue to fund Pakistani Madrassahs as the Pakistanis continue to spend little government money on schools.

What me worry? The US government is treating the latest rumours as unsubstantiated allegations.

"We've seen them (the reports), we've seen the allegations. We have not seen, however, any information to substantiate what would seem to us to be rather bald assertions," State Department deputy spokesman J Adam Ereli said at his regular briefing in Washington.

He said, "We are confident that Pakistan clearly understands our concerns regarding proliferation of nuclear technology, and we would also note that Saudi Arabia is a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), under which it has agreed not to obtain nuclear weapons."

The State Department's continued faith in NPT is unfounded in reality. As Henry Sokolski argues the NPT has major holes and countries are free to leave the NPT anyhow.

An Israeli general has told an Israeli Knesset parliamentary committee that the Saudis are reacting to the increasing likelihood that Iran will become a nuclear power.

The secret Saudi effort is designed to meet the imminent threat from an Iranian atomic arsenal, Israeli Major Gen. Aharon Zeevi told a parliament committee.

You might be thinking that the recent deal between some European countries and Iran to put tighter safeguards on Iran's nuclear program will prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. Iran has, after all, tentatively agreed to stop doing uranium enrichment and to allow international inspectors to monitor suspected nuclear weapons development activities. Iran is going to allow more intrusive inspections. But New Scientist reports that Iran could continue enriching uranium clandestinely or it could build a covert underground reactor to produce plutonium for bombs.

Bunn, now at the Belfer Centre for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University, told New Scientist that Iran could still hide a facility to enrich uranium for weapons. And he thinks it could still carry on building the gas centrifuge enrichment plant at Natanz.

James Goodby and Kenneth Weisbrode believe the United States doesn't have the stomach to do what it takes to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear power (I certainly agree) and foresee that other Middle Eastern states will follow Iran and become nuclear powers as well.

If Iran joins Israel as a de facto nuclear weapon state, with three other nuclear weapon states Russia, India and Pakistan nearby, it is very unlikely that other nations in the vicinity will be able to resist launching or accelerating their own nuclear weapon programs. It is not at all inconceivable that a Middle East with four, five, or six nuclear weapon states including Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey will be the reality of the early decades of the 21st century.

The domestic political scene in the United States is such that it seems very unlikely that the US will undertake any major initiatives to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. Brit Hume reports that Democrats in key primary states do not attach much importance to the battle to fight terrorism.

A new poll taken in Iowa -- a key election state because it's hosting the first caucus -- shows that fighting terrorism ranks last among Iowa Democrats' biggest concerns, with one percent of respondents saying it worries them the most.

The thought of fighting nuclear weapons proliferation is probably even lower than terrorism in the ranking of what Democrats see as important.

There was a report a year ago that Saudi Arabia was trying to buy nuclear weapons. See my previous post FrontPage: Saudis Trying To Buy Nukes. Saudi Arabia has been rumoured to have funded the development of Pakistan's nuclear program in the first place: Former DIA Analyst: Saudi Arabia Bankrolled Pak Nukes. The idea of Pakistan maintaining control of nukes placed in Saudi Arabia has also been discussed previously: Henry Sokolski: Iran Watching Bush Handling Of North Korea. Are these continuing rumours indicative of an underlying activity on the part of the Saudis to cooperate with the Pakistanis and to have Saudi Arabia protected by a Pakistani nuclear umbrella? It seems highly plausible.

The world is becoming a more dangerous place. North Korea is helping Iran's nuclear program. China's continued economic growth promises to give China the economic and military might to build alliances with some Muslim countries. But the Muslim countries are divided between Shias and Sunnis. The United States and Europe can ill afford to be split and slow moving in responding to all these developments and yet the EU mandarins are so interested in building a counterweight to the United States that they don't recognize the extent to which the West as a whole is destined for demographic reasons to decline in power relative to the rest of the world. Also, US success on the battlefield is not translating into success in achieving its grand strategic objectives and it seems doubtful that US leaders even have a clear idea what its grand strategic objectives ought to be. It is even more obvious that the Europeans, too jealous of American power to think clearly about their own predicament, do not recognize where their own best interests lie.

See my recent post on the thoughts of William H. McNeill and Samuel P. Huntington on clashes within and between civilizations for a sense of a larger historical context in which to interpret current events.

Thanks to Trent Telenko for the heads up on the latest rounds of rumours about Saudi nuclear intentions.

Update: Hassan Rohani, head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, says Iran is not committing to permanently stop uranium enrichment or other nuclear development efforts. (same article here)

But Rohani was non-committal on how long Iran would maintain the freeze on uranium enrichment.

"We voluntarily chose to do it, which means it could last for one day or one year, it depends on us," he said. "As long as Iran thinks this suspension is beneficial it will continue, and whenever we don't want it we will end it."

The official Iranian news agency later quoted him as saying Iran was not prepared to abandon totally its uranium enrichment programme.

The Iranians are driving to drive a wedge between US officials who realize how little the Iranians conceded and European officials who will claim that the Iranians have made a big concession. The Iranians are playing for time. They are still determined to develop nuclear weapons. The Saudis and the Israelis know what the Europeans don't want to believe.

Besides placating assorted Western governments Iran also gets valuable technology out of the deal.

Hassan Rowhani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, said in Tehran that the government had decided to sign the protocol so that it could continue its civilian nuclear activities, which it said were for generating electricity. In exchange, Iran would be allowed to buy new nuclear technology kept out of its reach by 20 years of sanctions.

Civilian nuclear technology helps build up the fuel cycle that provides the materials needed for bomb making. It moves the Iranians ever closer to having a bomb. This deal is not progress.

Update II: Iran is already backpedalling on their agreement with the Euros to stop uranium enrichment efforts.

Iran appears to be having second thoughts about its promise to the European Union to suspend its uranium-enrichment effort -- a central part of the international crisis over Iran's suspected nuclear-weapons program. The Foreign Ministry now says Tehran will have to consider the "modalities of a suspension" before taking action, while the arms-control community remains determined that Iran renounce its enrichment activities.

...

Iran's uranium-enrichment effort worries international arms-control experts because it could provide the direct means for developing a nuclear bomb. Iran's enrichment activities first came to light in the summer of last year when an exiled Iranian opposition group reported the existence of a secret pilot enrichment plant at Natanz, south of Tehran. A visit to the site by IAEA inspectors earlier this year revealed Iran had constructed some 160 operational gas centrifuges for enriching uranium in fortified facilities largely being built underground.

Fred Wheling, an arms control expert at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, California, said the secret nature of the site casts doubt on Tehran's subsequent explanations that it is purely intended to develop fuel for commercial reactors. "If Iran was to develop an indigenous enrichment capacity, it could eventually make its own fuel, which could then be used in [Iran's planned commercial reactor at] Bushehr," Wheling said. "But if that were really the case, then you wouldn't need to go to all the trouble of having a clandestine facility and acquiring uranium under the table to test it and so on."

Only regime change will stop the Iranian nuclear program. Ditto for North Korea.

The Europeans thought they had a diplomatic deal.

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- European Ministers urged Iran on Monday to follow through on its recently announced commitment to suspend uranium enrichment efforts and allow increased international inspections of its nuclear program.

What, we can't make a safer world just by making diplomatic deals?

Update III: Here are more details on the Democracy Corps poll of the Democratic Party primary voters done on October 2-13, 2003 in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. The first is an analysis by Byron York.

But what is perhaps more important is that most analysts have ignored what may be the poll's most stunning finding.

The survey focused on Democrats who take part in the nominating process in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. And, Iraq aside, what it found was that Democrats, at least those who are most active in politics, simply don't care about terrorism.

September 11, 2001 had far less impact on public thinking than did December 7, 1941. Terrorists slamming airplanes into skyscrapers just are not seen to be as clear of a threat to a substantial portion of the American population today as the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Philippines, Guam, and other American Pacific holdings was seen by the American public of 1941. Has the public changed? Or is a terrorist attack harder for the public to see as part of a bigger threat? Probably a combination of both. The bottom line result is that the United States will not execute the strategy of preemption well enough to prevent the threat of catastrophic terrorism from growing.

The full text results of the Democracy Corps Democratic primary voter poll is downloadable in PDF format. It makes for grim reading for those of us who see a very dangerous future ahead for America because the advance and spread of technology will make terrorist groups more capable of acts of what the CIA calls "catastrophic terrorism".

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 October 23 11:36 PM  US Foreign Weapons Proliferation Control


Comments
shiapakistan said at May 30, 2004 10:26 AM:

absolute bull!
time to wake up buddy!

uncle joe said at March 29, 2006 3:32 PM:

Whoa!

Saudi Arabia has appearently been at this for years and is way further along than this artice indicates.
This is not a new development!
I suggest you check out another artice for more info on this.

http://www.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=65139


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