With the signing of a final nuclear deal with Iran looming ever closer, the nuclear arms race in the Middle East has begun.
Saudi Arabia is said to have reached out to its ally Pakistan to procure “off-the-shelf” atomic weapons, the UK’s The Sunday Times reported.
According to a former US defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, “For the Saudis the moment has come. There has been a longstanding agreement in place with the Pakistanis and the House of Saud has now made the strategic decision to move forward.”
The official explained that the Obama administration does not believe that “any actual weaponry has been transferred yet” to the Saudis, adding “the Saudi mean what they say and they will do what they say.”
The report explained that over the last several decades, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have shared a mutually beneficial relationship. Saudi Arabia has supplied Pakistan will billions of dollars’ worth of subsidized oil while Pakistan unofficially agreed to supply nuclear warheads to Gulf states when the time arrived.
“Nuclear weapons programs are extremely expensive and there’s no question that a lot of the funding of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program was provided by Saudi Arabia,” explained Lord David Owen, who served as Foreign Secretary of England from 1977 to 1979.
“Given their close relations and close military links, it’s long been assumed that if the Saudis wanted, they would call in a commitment, moral or otherwise, for Pakistan to supply them immediately with nuclear warheads,” he added.
Over the last few months, a trifecta of tensions between the US, Saudi Arabia and Iran has increased dramatically. In Yemen, the Saudi’s have amped up its military campaign against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.
In the US, US President Barack Obama is attempting to placate Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations over their concerns of the emerging nuclear deal. Last week, in a special summit hosted at the White House, Saudi Arabian King Salman refused to meet with the president in a public sign of disapproval over the president’s handling of Iran’s nuclear program.
An anonymous British military official explained to The Sunday Times that Western military officials “all assume the Saudis have made the decision to go nuclear.”
“The fear is that other Middle Eastern powers – Turkey and Egypt – may feel compelled to do the same and we will see a new, even more dangerous, arms race.”