Tom Regan, a columnist at factsandopinion.com, previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, the Boston Globe and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He is the former executive director of the Online News Association and was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard in 1992.

  • Failing to stop Iran’s nuclear effort could energise Saudi Arabia’s programme, On: Sun, 22 Oct 2017

  • A Syrian refugee’s ‘Peace by Chocolate’, On: Sun, 17 Sep 2017

  • Iran, Israel pose greatest threats to stability in southern Syria, On: Sun, 13 Aug 2017

  • Omar Khadr’s long journey to freedom divides Canadians, On: Sun, 06 Aug 2017

  • Trump v reality in Palestinian-Israeli conflict, On: Sun, 23 Jul 2017

  • Erdogan’s crackdown hurting Turkey’s investment opportunities, On: Sun, 16 Jul 2017

  • Turkey’s authoritarian drift is foreclosing any open debate, On: Sun, 02 Jul 2017

  • Iran shows off missile might, adds to tensions, On: Sun, 25 Jun 2017

  • Shaping an undemocratic image of Turkey, On: Sun, 28 May 2017

  • Can Middle East intelligence services trust the White House? , On: Sun, 21 May 2017

  • The problems with Trump’s strike on Syria , On: Sun, 16 Apr 2017

  • Trump takes hands-off approach to US military in Middle East, On: Sun, 09 Apr 2017

  • China signals it wants to be major player in Middle East, On: Sun, 09 Apr 2017

  • Canada struggles with growing Islamophobia, On: Sun, 26 Mar 2017

  • American Muslims reach out to Jews after cemetery vandalism, On: Sun, 05 Mar 2017

  • Turkey and Germany becoming Europe’s odd couple, On: Sun, 19 Feb 2017

  • Is Canada as open-minded as the media present it? , On: Sun, 12 Feb 2017

  • Why Trump’s anti-Muslim immigration ban is ineffectual, On: Sun, 05 Feb 2017

  • Iran’s military budget increase raises tensions with US, On: Sun, 15 Jan 2017

  • Why many in the Middle East prefer Trump over Obama , On: Sun, 08 Jan 2017

  • The end of a terrible year, the beginning of another one , On: Sun, 25 Dec 2016

  • Iran sees Syria’s future as its zombie state, On: Sun, 06 Nov 2016

  • Iraq can’t afford to repeat mistakes in Mosul , On: Sun, 30 Oct 2016

  • Clinton’s Syria proposals are problematic , On: Sun, 30 Oct 2016

  • Most Muslims are well integrated into American society, On: Sun, 09 Oct 2016

  • Can a Mosul victory in October help Clinton? , On: Sun, 14 Aug 2016

  • Erdogan’s failed policies are the real motivation behind coup, On: Sun, 24 Jul 2016

  • The battle for Falluja is between US and Iran proxies, On: Sun, 19 Jun 2016

  • When al-Sadr attempts to regain spotlight , On: Sun, 22 May 2016

  • Why young Iraqis do not like the United States , On: Sun, 24 Apr 2016

  • A gloomy mood in Turkey , On: Sun, 17 Apr 2016

  • Partition is gaining momentum in Syria and Iraq , On: Fri, 25 Mar 2016

  • Disappearing Iraq , On: Fri, 04 Mar 2016

  • Failing to stop Iran’s nuclear effort could energise Saudi Arabia’s programme

    It is not out of the question that the US president would help Saudi Arabia by contributing components to develop nuclear weapons.


    2017/10/22 Issue: 128 Page: 15



    US President Donald Trump, by announc­ing that he would not recertify the Iran nuclear deal, may have not only accel­erated Tehran’s plans for nuclear weapons but possibly those of Saudi Arabia, too.

    Riyadh’s interest in acquiring or developing nuclear weapons is no secret. It’s also no secret why it wants them. They are meant to counteract any nuclear weapons capability developed by Iran.

    Saudi Arabia is in the initial stages of developing a civilian nuclear industry that follows in­ternational protocols. The Saudis told the annual general conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna that it was working with South Korea to develop reactors that could be built in remote areas.

    Construction on the first two reactors could start as early as next year. Even if it success­fully launched a different kind of nuclear programme, it would take years to get to any kind of success.

    That said, the Iran nuclear deal may have lessened the urgency. In March, the Washington-based Institute for Science and Interna­tional Security released “Saudi Arabia’s Nuclear Ambitions and Proliferation Risks,” a report that noted that the pressure on Saudi Arabia to develop nuclear weapons had been delayed by the nuclear deal with Iran.

    The report’s authors stated, optimistically if somewhat mistakenly: “A priority of the administration of Donald J. Trump is to prevent Saudi Arabia from developing such capabilities, in particular acquiring reprocessing and uranium enrichment facili­ties. The administration’s stated commitment to better enforce and strengthen the JCPOA [the acronym for the official name of the Iran deal] provides a sounder foundation to achieve that goal.”

    Now all bets are off. If the US Congress is unable to find a way to resolve the problems Trump has identified with the deal and if Trump’s intention to kill the agreement is realised and Tehran resumes development of its nucle­ar arsenal, there is little doubt that Saudi Arabia will kick its nuclear programme into high gear.

    The Institute for Science and International Security report noted that when the Iran deal ef­fectively ends, in about a decade, Saudi Arabia could be counted on to speed up development of its nuclear programmes. Accordingly, if the Iran deal ends even sooner, so does Saudi Arabia’s reason not to rush.

    Saudi Arabia and its Gulf neigh­bours were never big fans of the nuclear pact with Iran because they believed Iran was determined to develop a nuclear weapon re­gardless of the time frame.

    The countries of the Gulf Coop­eration Council would prefer that the United States force Iran to end its nuclear programme but if the United States fails to prevent nu­clear proliferation in Iran (or North Korea), the message is loud and clear: There is little reason not to go ahead with a nuclear weapons programme of your own.

    One wildcard in this scenario is Pakistan. It’s hard to say how Pa­kistan would react if Saudi Arabia approached it about accelerating its nuclear programme. There has been nuclear talk between the two countries.

    The relationship between Tehran and Islamabad, which had been growing closer, recently hit some bumps. In May, Iranian lead­ers accused Pakistan of harbouring Sunni Muslim terrorists within its borders and threatened to attack their hideouts. If Iran acts on its threats, would that encourage the Pakistanis to help the Saudis?

    The other wildcard is Trump. His affinity towards the use of nuclear weapons has been writ­ten about often by the US media. During the 2016 US presidential campaign, Trump said it would be “OK” if South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia acquired nuclear weapons. It is not out of the ques­tion that Trump would help Saudi Arabia by either contributing components needed to develop nuclear weapons or by positioning American nuclear weapons within Saudi Arabia’s borders.

    The latter is a bit dicier in that Riyadh is reluctant to allow US military personnel to be stationed in Saudi Arabia. It depends on the threat from Iran and how Saudi Arabia views the urgency of the situation. Let’s not forget Israel, which has long billed itself as America’s greatest ally in the region, and how it might react if the United States helped create another Muslim nuclear nation.

    If the situation is not handled thoughtfully and diplomatically, it could metastasise. The United States has long been the champion of non-proliferation but under Trump it could start moving in the other direction.

    In the end, Trump’s desire to destroy — out of pure spite — any­thing created by his predecessor could result in a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

    Editors' Picks

    The Arab Weekly Newspaper reaches Western & Arabic audience that are influential as well as being affluent.

    From Europe to the Middle East,and North America, The Arab Weekly talks to opinion formers and influential figures, providing insight and comment on national, international and regional news through the focus of Arabic countries and community.

    Published by Al Arab Publishing House

    Publisher and Group Executive Editor: Haitham El-Zobaidi, PhD

    Editor-in-Chief: Oussama Romdhani

    Managing Editor: Iman Zayat

    Deputy Managing Editor and Online Editor: Mamoon Alabbasi

    Senior Editor: John Hendel

    Chief Copy Editor: Richard Pretorius

    Copy Editor: Stephen Quillen

    Analysis Section Editor: Ed Blanche

    East/West Section Editor: Mark Habeeb

    Gulf Section Editor: Mohammed Alkhereiji

    Society and Travel Sections Editor: Samar Kadi

    Syria and Lebanon Sections Editor: Simon Speakman Cordall

    Contributing Editor: Rashmee Roshan Lall

    Senior Correspondents: Mahmud el-Shafey (London) & Lamine Ghanmi (Tunis)

    Regular Columnists

    Claude Salhani

    Yavuz Baydar

    Correspondents

    Saad Guerraoui (Casablanca)

    Dunia El-Zobaidi (London)

    Roua Khlifi (Tunis)

    Thomas Seibert (Washington)

    Chief Designer: Marwen Hmedi

    Designers

    Ibrahim Ben Bechir

    Hanen Jebali

    Published by Al Arab Publishing House

    Contact editor at:editor@thearabweekly.com

    Subscription & Advertising: Ads@alarab.co.uk

    Tel 020 3667 7249

    Mohamed Al Mufti

    Marketing & Advertising Manager

    Tel (Main) +44 20 6702 3999

    Direct: +44 20 8742 9262

    www.alarab.co.uk

    Al Arab Publishing House

    Kensington Centre

    177-179 Hammersmith Road

    London W6 8BS , UK

    Tel: (+44) 20 7602 3999

    Fax: (+44) 20 7602 8778

    Follow Us
    © The Arab Weekly, All rights reserved