Saudi prince raises prospect of nuclear arms race with Iran


Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former Saudi intelligence chief, has warned that if Iran obtained nuclear weapons, Saudi Arabia would too. Analysts say the two are already engaged in a ‘cold war’ in various parts of the world.

Britain’s Guardian newspaper revealed recently that Prince Turki al-Faisal gave an unpublicized speech earlier this month to senior officials at a NATO air base in the UK during which the former Saudi intelligence chief and ambassador to Washington and Britain implied that a nuclear arms race could break out in the Middle East if Iran continues to pursue its nuclear ambitions.

Faisal did not outline specific policies, but warned that if Iran had a nuclear weapon, it “would compel Saudi Arabia … to pursue policies which could lead to untold and possibly dramatic consequences.”

The newspaper also quoted an unnamed Saudi official as saying “we cannot live in a situation where Iran has nuclear weapons and we don’t.”

“If Iran develops a nuclear weapon, that will be unacceptable and we will have to follow suit,” the official said.

Yemeni anti-government protesters shout slogans during a demonstrationThe Saudis fear Iran’s influence in the Arab Spring

None of this is particularly surprising to Guido Steinberg, researcher at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP).

“He’s said something like this before, if I remember rightly,” he told Deutsche Welle. “Also, you have to be careful, because Faisal doesn’t hold any official position at the moment, though I think it’s clear that he would like to become foreign minister.

“He often says things that a member of the government wouldn’t say, but which could well have been approved by the government. It’s a sort of semi-official statement,” he added.

New old news

The speech seems to confirm what many observers had previously speculated. Jon Marks, an associate fellow at the London-based think tank Chatham House, does not consider this new news either.

“The Gulf States have always ruled out that they would go nuclear – however, they’ve looked at nuclear power programs for some time in the Gulf, and they’ve often posited the idea that if Iran were to go nuclear, then they might go nuclear too,” he told Deutsche Welle.

“At a level of strategic planning, that idea has been envisaged, but whether there are actually any concrete moves towards such an outcome, I really don’t know,” he added.

Marks emphasizes that this move needs to be understood in the context of the steadily worsening relations between the two Middle Eastern rivals.

“I think it reflects the general ratcheting up of tensions,” he said. “We already have a region where both Israel and Iran might have nuclear weapons, so the military balance might suggest that the Gulf Cooperation Council states should have some as well, but clearly it’s not going to reduce tensions.”

Old enemies

Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant Iran’s nuclear program is heightening fears in the region

Iran and Saudi Arabia are historical rivals who both see themselves as the most legitimate natural leaders of the Muslim world. Iran is a majority Shia state that subscribes to an politicized Islamist ideology, while Saudi Arabia is a predominantly Sunni monarchy.

But this year’s Arab Spring has given the rivalry an extra edge.

Saudi Arabia fears that Iran will take advantage of the democracy movements that have toppled a series of dictatorships in the region to strengthen its influence in those countries.

Iran has positioned itself as an ally to these protest movements, and there are concerns within the Saudi government that the country’s Shia minority would even answer a call to arms from Iran.

A global cold war

As far as some analysts are concerned, the current situation amounts to a serious conflict.

“Saudi Arabia and Iran are now engaged in a regional cold war that is spreading out into the rest of the world,” said Theodore Karasik, director of research and development at the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis (INEGMA).

“It’s a cold war where Saudi Arabia and Iran are using proxies to fight against each other and creating a sectarian Sunni–Shia divide.”

Rulers of the Gulf Sates around the table as they attend the 27th GCC summitSaudi Arabia wants to maintain control of the GCC

The flashpoints have already been identified. Saudi Arabia recently invited Morocco and Jordan, both Sunni monarchies, to join the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a group made up of Sunni autocratic states. This was seen as an attempt to create a defensive alliance against Iran.

By the same token, Saudi Arabia sent troops to Bahrain earlier this year to help quell protests led by Shia Muslims.

But this proxy conflict extends to more unexpected places. Saudi Arabia and Iran are competing in Malaysia, Indonesia and Bangladesh, said Karasik. They are rivals in West Africa, especially in Nigeria, and in Latin America the two nations compete when it comes to building mosques and distributing sectarian literature.

Yet neither side appears interested in more direct conflict. For analyst Steinberg, the significance of Faisal’s speech is not so much the threat of a nuclear arms race.

“I think the point is less that Saudi Arabia is really planning to make nuclear weapons – it’s about impressing on the US how urgent it is to react to Iran’s nuclear program,” he said.

Author: Ben Knight
Editor: Kyle James


About Eeyore

Canadian artist and counter-jihad and freedom of speech activist as well as devout Schrödinger's catholic

13 Replies to “Saudi prince raises prospect of nuclear arms race with Iran”

  1. I have to agree with Mr. Steinberg that Saudi Arabia does not really intend to make a Nuclear weapon and is trying to pressure the US and other to finally do something to decisively stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

    I can’t credit the hearsay and far too speculative story about the loud dressing down the Saudi King might have given Obama over this when Obama might have said the Middle easts problems could be solved by solving the unsolvable Israeli/Palestinian morass, but there was a Wikileak several months back saying Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been petitioning America to get Israel to put a stop to Iran’s nuclear program.

    In the months following Stuxnet was inflicted upon the Iranians, notibly damaging the centerfuges in their “peacefull” nuclear plants (centerfuges are used for weaponizing nuclear materials) follwed by a short campagn of assassination.

    It is far easier and cheaper for SA to get other people to destroy Irans nuclear capability than to develop their own deterrrant. They know themselves and the Iranians better than we and KNOW deterrant is not an applicable description of the use such weapons would be put in that region.

    It is very telling that while they are in a tizzy over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, they don’t ever seem to really care about Israel’s existing nuclear arsenal. It could be that arabs don’t discuss it out of humiliation. It could aslo be that they know Israel is too decent to use them even in extremis. But Iran, whome they understand better, they are worried about.

  2. If the Saudi’s are waiting for Obama to act against Iran, they have a long wait. Well at least till obama is out of office, hopefully by 2012. Israel will strike Iran when they realize its do or die time. I enjoy watching the Religion of Peace nations fighting it out amongst each other. its all Muslims know, killing and more killing. I guess that what Allah wants.

  3. Maybe Allah wants Israel to give the Saudis a couple of low yield nukes that can only be launched at, and detonated in Iran. Maybe one for Qom and one for Tehran. Yeah I can see how Allah might want that actually. Allah was all about killing everyone who didn’t get the message of the pedophile Mohamed exactly right. that would be, everybody I think.

  4. Foxumulder “If the Saudi’s are waiting for Obama to act against Iran, they have a long wait. ” Not necissarily so. Remember Stuxnet? It was a partial solution but it was done under this administration. When they get close again we and Israel will do something else.

  5. I enjoy watching the Religion of Peace nations fighting it out amongst each other. its all Muslims know, killing and more killing. I guess that what Allah wants. Well said Foxmuldar. I certainly hope that they try to get nuclear weapons. It means the nuking of mecca is more likely. Mecca must be nuked. It is the only solution. Waiting for the petrodollar jihad to dry up with the oil drying up is a long wait. Nuclear attacks on Mecca is the solution to the current jihad.

  6. From what I have read the Saudi’s are talking to Pakistan about buying several assembled nuclear warheads and the missiles to fire them from.

  7. Oh they will, just as Iran will use theirs, if I am reading the signs right things are going to get real nasty in the next few years.

  8. Things like this require a cool head. With nukes we need people to be sober about such deadly force. I am not sure anyone will actually use them as the hotheads required for this sort of thing are not there. Big mouths certainly but not the hotheads. In fact Iran is the supreme big mouth and yet never ever does anything. If they launched a nuclear device it would be great. That part of the world needs to be nuked and if they can get the tech and do themselves great even better. The signs you are reading are the cult of the return of the Mahdi in Iran. Perhaps. For my part I am afraid it will be more of the same: big mouthing away, a little jihad here and a little jihad there. We have a problem that will not go away and so we need to prepare our minds for a kuffar world that continually makes itself stronger economically while the muslim world runs out of oil and hence funds and then reverts back to its inbred desert savagery. The power of the kuffar world by then will be so enormous that angry inbred desert savages will look and feel like primitives they are. The world of science, technology and economic power speed ahead for the kuffar and the oil runs dry for the muzzie. This is one of the reasons I keep up with the latest economic data about countries. Even now the muzzies are a lot poorer than they were compared to the eighties of the last century. Their progress continues in that direction. And since 9/11 we have wiped Iraq out of the picture as a threat. The Sheik Bin Laden is dead. So it is a more confused picture than what we see in our thinking. There are plus and negatives and sometimes we forget the postives.

  9. Brunnette Supremacy from what I have read Amadidajad (sp?) belongs to the version of Shii that thinks the Madhi will only return when there is literally hell on earth. He also believes that he was put on the face of earth to bring back the Mahdi.

    Never underestimate a fanatic like him, he has said he will nuke Israel and the US, in this we have to be careful that we aren’t making the mistake people did with Hitler. He wrote exactly what he was going to do and people said that he was just a big mouth who wouldn’t do what he said. WWII and the Holocaust proved that he meant every word he wrote.

    Can we take the chance that Amadidajad (sp?) doesn’t mean what he says?

  10. I think that is to side with caution. I agree with that. Hitler should have taught us that, but there is a crucial difference and that is we are dealing with inbred primitives who need help to get things up and running from Korea (north) and Russia. So the vast economic and military complex Hitler had is missing in this case. And do not believe that Iran is a wealth country. It does not make the top ten or top fifteen in terms of GDP calculated on a purchasing power parity basis. On a per capita basis it population live on 12,000 dollars per annum. The US is triple that number. Hitler was the leader of a mighty military industrial complex, Ahmadinejad is the leader of a country with a a great deal of poverty and just got lucky with oil wealth and so has no such brilliance as Germany had and still has to this day. Still point taken it is better to err on the side of caution. If we do not learn from History there is no hope we can ever learn anything.

  11. When Hitler took power Germany had the worst economy in the Western World, 6 years later it was the strongest and took on the world and came close to winning. Yes Iran is poor, but remember the goal of Amadidajad (sp?) is not to win the coming war, it is to create hell on earth so the Mahdi comes back. Iran or the middle east winning a major war with the west (if we fight for victory, a big question right now) is a very remote possibility, creating hell on earth is a much easier goal and is achievable by Iran.

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