Saudi Arabia. You’re killing me here. We’re doing the best we can on Iran, really. Do you know all the various ways we’re trying to interrupt their quest for regional hegemony? Answer: no, you don’t, because even the American people don’t know the full scope. But I assure you, KSA, we’re doing the best we can.
You know what really doesn’t help though? Moves designed to get us to go further than we want to, faster than we want to. We get it. We get that you’re between a rock and a hard place when it comes to the potential of a nuclear Iran, with a nuclear Israel already playing in your neighborhood. Moves like this one:
Prince Turki said at the [Persian Gulf security] forum on Monday that an Iranian quest for nuclear weapons and Israel’s presumed nuclear arsenal might force Saudi Arabia to follow suit. …
“It is our duty toward our nation and people to consider all possible options, including the possession of these weapons,” Prince Turki was quoted as saying.
The Prince’s words are more likely designed to be a poke in the side of the United States to ensure that Iran has our full attention, rather than an actual announcement of intention to develop a nuclear capability. Saudi Arabia has expressed a clear desire for nuclear energy in the past, and the United States is more than fine with them developing power plants, but no grumblings about potential weaponization have followed previous pronouncements of moving forward with exploring nuclear processing.
While a Saudi regime in control of nuclear weapons might not cause the same amount of fear as Iran, it can be said that destabilization would still be in order in the region as a result of such an outcome. Who’s to say that other states in the region would be content with a Saudi nuclear umbrella, or that other states in the region wouldn’t then seek to pull their own version of revisionism.
Further, the United States can’t be seen playing favorites even more than it already has; the odds of Iran actually acceding to UN Security Council demands that it halt enrichment creep even closer to zero should Tehran come to believe that Riyadh has the support of the West in obtaining weapons. In fact, such a perception would only increase the Iranian drive to weaponize its uranium stores.
A quick statement should come from the State Department denying that Saudi Arabia is either seeking or needing nuclear weapons, if Secretary Clinton were to ask me. A nuclear Arabian Peninsula wouldn’t have the deterrent impact that they’re looking for, in terms of thwarting Iranian influence. The majority of the fear towards Iran is based in its potential to project military power across the Gulf, but nuclear weapons being held by Iran would only be useful as a deterrent for counterattack, not an excuse to launch full-scale attacks. It can also be noted that Iran’s hard-power capabilities are rather lackluster in nature; proclamations of advancing its abilities on the battlefield don’t translate into a sure victory against the combined conventional forces of the other Gulf states.
So, Saudi Arabia. Please. I’m going to call your bluff here and tell you that we’re doing our level best to ensure that you and your neighbors don’t have to worry about a modified Shahab-3 carrying a nuclear payload anytime soon. Until then, please find more constructive ways of helping us out in that regard.