Fearful of emerging Iran deal, Saudis contemplate nuclear program


Saudi Arabia is strongly considering a nuclear program of its own in the face of fears over a potential deal between the P5+1 and Iran, journalist Yaroslav Trofimov wrote in The Wall Street Journal Thursday. Abdullah al-Askar, a member and former chairman of the Saudi legislature’s foreign affairs committee, said, “We prefer a region without nuclear weapons. But if Iran does it, nothing can prevent us from doing it too, not even the international community.” Ibrahim al-Marie, a retired Saudi colonel and security analyst, asserted, “Our leaders will never allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon while we don’t.” Saudi King Salman stated in a speech at this week’s Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Riyadh that if any deal with Iran does not have the proper safeguards, it would risk “plunging the region into an arms race.”

The Saudis have long been fearful of a nuclear Iran, and do not believe that the emerging deal will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Some Saudi officials have previously asserted that the kingdom would start a program of its own if it feels an Iranian bomb is inevitable. Turki al-Faisal, former head of Saudi intelligence, said in a March interview: “I’ve always said that whatever comes out of these [nuclear] talks, we will want the same.” Saudi Arabia has a civilian nuclear program, having signed cooperation agreements with South Korea, France, China, and other countries. Unlike its neighbor, the United Arab Emirates, the Saudis have not signed an agreement with the United States that would prevent them from enriching uranium.

The Gulf countries’ anxiety has also manifested itself in asking the United States for security guarantees and new weapons systems in exchange for supporting any nuclear deal with Iran. Qatar recently signed an agreement to purchase Rafale fighters jets from France.



Inspectors from the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) found traces of the deadly nerve agents sarin and VX at a research facility in Syria that had not been publicly declared, Reuters reported today.

Samples taken by experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in December and January tested positive for chemical precursors needed to make the toxic agents, the sources told Reuters on the condition of anonymity because the information is confidential.

“This is a pretty strong indication they have been lying about what they did with sarin,” one diplomatic source said. “They have so far been unable to give a satisfactory explanation about this finding.”

Syria pledged to rid its of its deadly chemical agents, as well as eliminate the ability to manufacture them, in a deal to avert a military strike in the wake of a deadly chemical attack against residents of a Damascus suburb in August 2013. The OPCW was charged with certifying Syria’s compliance.

Even after Syria was declared to be free of chemical weapons last year, there were doubts that Syria had fully complied with its obligations. A few months later, Syria admitted to four more chemical weapons facilities that it had not previously declared.

Earlier this week, The New York Times reported that aid workers had seen Syrian forces using chlorine bombs with greater frequency. The United States is trying to convince the United Nations Security Council to create a panel to investigate the ongoing chemical weapons usage in Syria. Although chlorine itself is not prohibited because it has civilian uses, its use as a weapon is prohibited.

Syrian state media dismiss the allegations as propaganda, and the Council remains divided and hamstrung. That leaves people like Mr. Abu Marwan, who has responded to nine suspected chlorine attacks, feeling abandoned. “There is no law to defend us as human beings, this is what we understand from the Security Council,” said Mr. Abu Marwan, a law school graduate, weeping as he recalled holding a dying child in Sarmeen. “I didn’t see in humanitarian law anything that says ‘except for Syrians.’ ” (via The Tower)


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