Saudi Arabia Goes Nuclear; Ready to Counter Iranian Threat?

Is Saudi Arabia going to acquire Nuclear weapons to counter threats from Iran? The crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud launched the first research nuclear reactor in the country as per the Saudi Press Agency. As per reports, by 2032, Saudi nuclear power plants should produce up to 17.6 gigawatts of electricity and will only be used for civilian purposes. But crown prince MBS may have different ideas.

Mohammed bin Salman became the crown prince in June of last year, when his father, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud preferred him over his nephew Mohammed bin Naif. The Vision 2030 program, which provides for diversification of the economy (including by reducing dependence on hydrocarbons and developing renewable energy), has become a kind of business card for the new, young and ambitious crown prince.

The construction of a nuclear reactor is fully integrated into the vision of the crown prince. During his visit to the King Abdulaziz Center for Science and Technology, named after the grandfather of the crown prince and the first king of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman launched seven strategic projects. The reactor is just one of them.

It is noteworthy that the Saudi news agency did not provide any details (deadlines and cost of the project) regarding the construction of the country’s first nuclear facility. Saudi Arabia is one of the leading economies of not only the Middle East region. The nominal GDP of the kingdom in 2017 amounted to almost $ 700 billion. At the same time, they decided to take advantage of the huge economic potential for the active development of the national nuclear program relatively recently.

Nuclear power is already developing in the neighbouring United Arab Emirates (in cooperation with the South Korean – Korea Electric Power Corporation) and in Jordan (the first research reactor was launched again with the assistance of the Republic of Korea).

In Iran, the first nuclear power plant was commissioned in 2010. Construction of a research reactor in Israel was completed back in the 1960s. Tel Aviv, however, did not stop the project. As the former Prime Minister of Israel – Golda Meir said, “Firstly, we have no nuclear weapons, and secondly if required, we will get them.”

Saudi Arabia’s National Nuclear Program commenced in March 2018. Riyadh stresses that the aim if the nuclear project in the Kingdon will be exclusively used for civilian purposes.

However, back in 2011, Prince Turki bin Faisal (former head of intelligence of the kingdom and former ambassador of Riyadh to the United States) said that Saudi Arabia may consider acquiring nuclear weapons if Iran has them.

Tehran has repeatedly stated that they have no plans to build nuclear weapons, however, the perception in Israel and the United States is opposite. Washington has already withdrawn from the nuclear deal with Tehran, and on November 5, additional US sanctions against the Iranian oil sector came into force.

Whether Washington will impose sanctions on Saudi Arabia if the country deviates from the path of the peaceful nuclear program is unknown. For now, Washington is too keen in maintaining friendly relations with the largest buyer of US military-industrial complex and Iran’s regional rival – Saudi Arabia.

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