Saudi Arabia Sees the Handwriting on the Wall

The Obama administration insists that it is negotiating an agreement with Iran that will prevent that country from acquiring nuclear weapons–for a while, anyway. Critics of the negotiations, as reflected in the interim agreement already reached and in news reports of the discussions in progress, suspect that the deal Obama has in mind will facilitate, not prevent, a nuclear Iran. As reported, the deal will sunset in ten years, leaving Iran free to put its centrifuges, its enriched uranium and its ICBMs to work as a nuclear power.

But don’t take our word for it. For Iran’s rivals in the region, the current negotiations are potentially a matter of life and death. So what is Saudi Arabia doing? Beginning to develop its own nuclear capability. The Wall Street Journal reports:

As U.S. and Iranian diplomats inched toward progress on Tehran’s nuclear program last week, Saudi Arabia quietly signed its own nuclear-cooperation agreement with South Korea.

That agreement, along with recent comments from Saudi officials and royals, is raising concerns on Capitol Hill and among U.S. allies that a deal with Iran, rather than stanching the spread of nuclear technologies, risks fueling it.

Saudi Arabia’s former intelligence chief, Prince Turki al-Faisal, a member of the royal family, has publicly warned in recent months that Riyadh will seek to match the nuclear capabilities Iran is allowed to maintain as part of any final agreement reached with world powers. This could include the ability to enrich uranium and to harvest the weapons-grade plutonium discharged in a nuclear reactor’s spent fuel. …

The memorandum of understanding between Saudi Arabia and South Korea includes a plan to study the feasibility of building two nuclear reactors worth $2 billion in the Arab country over the next 20 years, according to Saudi state media.

A number of senior Arab officials have warned the White House in recent months the Saudi government could seek Pakistan’s aid in developing nuclear technologies—or even buy an atomic bomb—if it sees an agreement with Iran as too weak.

The Saudis can’t afford to wait for ten years and see how things develop in Iran. If they don’t believe the U.S. is serious about blocking Iran’s nuclear ambitions, they understandably think they have no choice but to begin now to try to catch up with Iran’s nuclear program. So even though no agreement has been announced, the consequences of the administration’s fecklessness are already being seen.

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