Sorry, Fareed: Saudi Arabia Can Build a Bomb Any Damn Time It Wants To

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Why do we think it’s so hard for a non-European country to acquire a 70-year-old technology?

Fareed Zakaria has written a predictably buzzy article suggesting that, whatever Saudi officials might say, Riyadh is simply too backward to build a nuclear weapon. “Whatever happens with Iran’s nuclear program,” Zakaria writes, “10 years from now Saudi Arabia won’t have nuclear weapons. Because it can’t.”

While I don’t think it is terribly likely that Saudi Arabia will choose to build nuclear weapons, I think it is deeply misguided to conclude that Saudi Arabia (or pretty much any state) cannot do so. Simply put, Zakaria is wrong — and it’s not all that hard to demonstrate why.

Zakaria isn’t explicit about what he believes to be the technical requirements for building a nuclear weapon, but he clearly thinks it is hard. Which was probably true in 1945 when the United States demonstrated two different routes to atomic weapons. Since then, however, the technologies associated with producing plutonium and highly enriched uranium have been developed, put to civilian use, and spread around the globe. The fact that most states don’t build nuclear weapons has a lot more to do with restraint than not being able to figure it out.

Zakaria’s argument that Saudi Arabia can’t build nuclear weapons is pretty shallow and relies largely on two assertions: a flip comment about Saudi Arabia lacking even a domestic automotive industry, and a superficially data-driven claim about Saudi Arabia’s “abysmal” math and science ranking.

First, automobile production is a terrible indicator of whether a state can build a nuclear weapon. The technologies are really not at all similar — or at least they don’t have to be. India, Pakistan, and North Korea all succeeded in building nuclear weapons despite not having much of an auto industry at home. And the Soviets were really good at building nuclear weapons, even though their cars famously sucked.

And, anyway, Saudi Arabia is investing in a domestic auto industry. The Ministry of Commerce and Industry is hoping the Meeya will be on the market by 2017. So, there’s that.

More importantly, Saudi Arabia is investing in a civil nuclear industry. “Where would Saudi Arabia train the scientists to work on its secret program?” Zakaria wonders. Oh, I don’t know, how about the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy? Somehow Zakaria never mentions that Saudi Arabia is building a dedicated city for training nuclear scientists. I can’t predict whether this investment will pay off, but then again neither can Zakaria — if he even knows it exists.

Zakaria is also skeptical because, he writes, Saudi Arabia “ranks 73rd in the quality of its math and science education, according to the World Economic Forum — abysmally low for a rich country. Iran, despite 36 years of sanctions and a much lower per capita GDP, fares far better at 44.”

Abysmally low for a rich country? Perhaps. But for a nuclear weapons state? Not nearly. Let’s do what he should have done and make a little table using his own data. Here is a list of selected countries — in bold if they currently possess nuclear weapons — by “Quality of Math and Science Education.” (Again, this is his data. Don’t blame me!)

17. France
44. Iran
51. United States
56. China
59. Russia
63. United Kingdom
67. India
73. Saudi Arabia
79. Israel
104. Pakistan
125. Libya
144. South Africa
— Iraq
— North Korea

Select Countries, Ranked by Quality of Math and Science Education

(Source: World Economic Forum)

Using Zakaria’s own measure, Saudi Arabia would hardly be the least nerdy country to acquire a nuclear weapon. Now, obviously I’d prefer to have historical data. But I strongly suspect that China’s and India’s rankings weren’t nearly so high in 1964 and 1974 when they conducted their first nuclear tests. The point is this: You don’t need to be a rich country, or have a great education system, to build a bomb.

This should be no surprise. Did I mention that we just celebrated the 70th anniversary of the first nuclear explosion, Trinity? Seventy years. What other 70-year-old technology do we believe remains impossible for non-European countries to acquire, even after several have done so? You know what else was invented in the 1940s? Microwave ovens, solid-body electric guitars, and the Slinky.

I don’t mean “acquire” in terms of buying a nuclear weapon off the shelf — I agree with Zakaria that is a nutty idea. And I don’t mean purchasing a turn-key infrastructure to produce plutonium, as Syria did from North Korea, or highly enriched uranium as Libya did from Pakistan’s A.Q. Khan. No, I mean building a bomb from scratch. The fancy machine tools, materials, and components that were good enough to build the nuclear weapons of the 1970s are widely available now. My favorite example is that one of the machine tools linked to the A.Q. Khan network was a used Denn machine tool. If you go to the Denn website, they tell you what their machine tools can be used for: everything from armaments to kitchenware. And, be still Fareed Zakaria’s fluttering heart, auto parts. (Flow forming machines make sweet rims.) Talk about dual use!

The United States was deeply skeptical that Pakistan could build centrifuges in the 1970s because of the country’s limited industrial base. What U.S. analysts didn’t grasp was that Pakistan’s industrial base — and that of every other proliferator — was the entire world. There is no reason to think this problem went away with A.Q. Khan. Take a spin around Alibaba, the big Chinese online B2B procurement site sometime.

Moreover, a proliferator doesn’t have to try to acquire the most modern centrifuges. When U.N. inspectors were stumbling across the remnants of the Iraqi nuclear program in the early 1990s, they made a surprising discovery: Calutrons. These were an obsolete uranium enrichment technology (electromagnetic isotope separation) from the 1940s that fell out of favor after World War II. Inefficient, sure, but good enough to make the highly enriched uranium for the Little Boy bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.

Frankly, we’re lucky that nuclear weapons have not spread as quickly as the technology to make them. Some of the success in slowing the spread of nuclear weapons is down to sanctions, export controls, and the occasional air strike. Most of the success, however, goes to the regime that discourages states that could build nuclear weapons from doing so in the first place.

If you ask a policy wonk whether the nonproliferation regime has been successful or not, the chances are better than even that you’ll hear about President John F. Kennedy’s famous warning that “I see the possibility in the 1970s of the President of the United States having to face a world in which 15 or 20 or 25 nations may have these weapons.” (It’s kind of a standard talking point we all learn early on.)

That didn’t happen — and credit usually goes to the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). To see why, look at the countries that were in Kennedy’s list of 15, 20, or 25 nuclear-armed states. Kennedy’s estimate came from a 1963 briefing paper provided by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara that is now declassified. Here is McNamara’s chart:




Look at those names. They aren’t rogue states, but rather a list of the world’s relatively industrialized countries, along with a few developing regional powers like China and the UAR (The United Arab Republic was a brief political union of Egypt and Syria). The working assumption behind Kennedy’s estimate was that any state that could build nuclear weapons probably would. That’s because, before the NPT, nuclear weapons were seen by many people as just another weapon, part of any modern military’s future arsenal. In fact, virtually all the non-Warsaw Pact countries on this list seriously considered a nuclear weapons program. Australia, Sweden, and Switzerland all had active nuclear weapons programs.

The NPT helped changed that. (In the case of Australia, Jim Walsh has written a particularly compelling account of the role played by the NPT in constraining Canberra’s nuclear aspirations.) Treaties are absolutely necessary. It is simply not possible to sustain a nearly universal regime through technology denial and military action. The regime depends on the vast majority of states choosing compliance, allowing the international community to focus its enforcement efforts on a small number of hard cases like North Korea and Iran.

The nonproliferation regime can only function with the support of those states that can build nuclear weapons, but choose not to — states like Saudi Arabia. The Saudis are clearly alarmed by the possibility of an Iranian nuclear weapon. While I suspect that a lot of the talk about acquiring nuclear weapons is intended to make the United States focus on Saudi security concerns, it doesn’t help to dismiss Riyadh’s anxieties by mocking their educational system and ability to go nuclear.

Rather, we need to focus on making sure the nonproliferation regime works for Saudi Arabia and other states. That means closer consultations on regional defense issues, expanded security arrangements, and crucially an attempt to head off an Iranian bomb with a negotiated settlement. Fareed Zakaria may well win his bet that the Saudis will not have a bomb in 10 years, but it’s not because they can’t have one. If he wins — and I hope he does — it’s because the United States and other powers have successfully addressed Iran’s nuclear program and the regional security issues that would push Riyadh toward a bomb. And who knows, maybe in 10 years we’ll all be driving Meeyas.
 
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And . . . who said only native born physicists are the ones who can build nuclear weapons?

How hard would it be to hire experts from India, Pakistan, Russia, China or any other place as long they are paid well for their services?

And there's an even simpler solution. It's far easier to buy ready-made nukes. Why build when you can buy?
 
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So instead of trying to fix the economic and social welfare of their nations, these idiots that are called politicians are more concerned with building bombs and buying weapons in order to go to war with other nations. This is the 21st century and if the human race still can't settle differences peacefully then the future of the Earth where human existence is concerned is looking bleak.
 
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It's going to be ugly when someone decides to do what they want... Without America's permission
 
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It's going to be ugly when someone decides to do what they want... Without America's permission
Not for Saudi Arabia if that what you mean.
 
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Our beloved’ Fareed Zakaria

Mshari Al Thaydi

American populist journalist Fareed Zakaria vents his anger at Saudi Arabia whenever there’s a chance. It’s baffling when it comes to interpreting this, especially as Zakaria is of Indian Muslim origin.

Not to attack the man, but many of his articles and interviews in recent years have been based on his anger at Saudi Arabia.

But in contrast, Zakaria is lenient and understanding when writing about Khomeini’s Iran or the Muslim Brotherhood. Is he expressing an implied political stance against Saudi Arabia and Operation Decisive Storm, particularly as he is presented as one of the liberal media figures in support of Barack Obama?

Zakaria’s recent op-ed in the Washington Post has prompted me to write this column. In his piece, which comments on the analytical view that Saudi Arabia may seek to attain nuclear weapons if Iran does, there is no official Saudi stance on the matter – Zakaria insulted Saudi Arabia. He believes the kingdom ignorant and incapable, stating: “Saudi Arabia can dig holes in the ground and pump out oil but little else.”

Commenting on the Saudi-led “Operation Decisive Storm” campaign against the Iranian offensive in Yemen, Zakaria wrote: “This assertiveness has been portrayed as strategic. In fact, it is a panicked and emotional response to Iran.”

Yes, Zakaria is right, that's what worries Saudi Arabia – so why is he angry?

Not to attack the man, but many of his articles and interviews in recent years have been based on his anger at Saudi Arabia

Mshari al-Thaydi
Last March, the White House’s official Twitter account retweeted an article written by Zakaria that was against the Saudi point of view on Iran’s nuclear program. The article was in support of Iran and it addressed Obama’s generous policy towards the Islamic Republic.

During the Muslim Brotherhood’s reign in Egypt, U.S.-based journalist Hussain Abdulhussain commented on Zakaria’s stances and wrote in the magazine al-Majalla that “Zakaria pretends to know more than he actually does, particularly in Middle Eastern affairs.”

Abdulhussain noted Zakaria’s boldness as he commented on Middle Eastern affairs recalling that during an interview with Jon Stewart, Zakaria confidently said that then-Egyptian president Mohammad Mursi will not assign a premier from among the Brotherhood and that he will probably assign American-Egyptian economist Mohammad al-Erian. Zakaria was so confident, he even said that those stating otherwise are in fact the Brotherhood’s enemies. The next day, however, Mursi assigned leading Brotherhood figure Hisham Qandil as prime minister.

It was expected that Zakaria would disappear from the media scene for a while after Western media outlets obliged him in August 2012 to issue a public apology for plagiarizing an article. Or it was least it was expected that he’d cut down a little on his bright confidence as he speaks about the Arab and Muslim world’s affairs, but God has his way!
 
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It's going to be ugly when someone decides to do what they want... Without America's permission

@ WebMaster, @ BLACKEAGLE, @ Stealth, @ Rakan.SA, @ Scorpion, @ Legend, @ Gasoline


It’s already too late (1983, first cold test) my dear Dorothy. *-^

We are not waiting for anyone to do what we had to do to protect our people, our lands and our glorious civilization.


Quote 1 :

Fear and Loathing in the Kingdom

How Washington stabbed the Saudis in the back, and why the Iran deal will start a nuclear arms race in the Persian Gulf.

BY John Hannah
NOVEMBER 29, 2013


Pundits and policymakers are missing the big worry about the Obama administration's Iranian nuclear deal: its greatest impact is not ensuring that Iran doesn't get the bomb, but that the Saudis will.

Indeed, the risk of arms race in the Middle East -- on a nuclear hair trigger -- just went up rather dramatically. And it increasingly looks like the coming Sunni-Shiite war will be nuclearized.

Two aspects of the agreement, in particular, will consolidate Saudi fears that an Iranian bomb is now almost certainly coming to a theater near them. First, the pre-emptive concession that the comprehensive solution still to be negotiated will leave Iran with a permanent capability to enrich uranium -- the key component of any program to develop nuclear weapons. In the blink of an eye, and without adequate notice or explanation to key allies who believe their national existence hangs in the balance, the United States appears to have fatally compromised the long-standing, legally-binding requirements of at least five United Nations Security Council resolutions. If the Saudis needed any confirmation that last month's rejection of a Security Council seat was merited -- on grounds that U.S. retrenchment has rendered the organization not just irrelevant, but increasingly dangerous to the kingdom's core interests -- they just got it, in spades.

Second, the agreement suggests that even the comprehensive solution will be time-limited. In other words, whatever restrictions are eventually imposed on Iran's nuclear program won't be permanent. The implication is quite clear: At a point in time still to be negotiated (three years, five, ten?) and long after the international sanctions regime has been dismantled, the Islamic Republic of Iran's nuclear program will be left unshackled, free to enjoy the same rights under the Non-Proliferation Treaty as any other member in good standing. That looks an awful lot like a license to one day build an industrial-size nuclear program, if Iran so chooses, with largely unlimited ability to enrich uranium and reprocess plutonium, a la Japan.

But of course Iran is not Japan -- a peaceful, stable democracy aligned with the West. It is a bloody-minded, terror-sponsoring, hegemony-seeking revisionist power that has serially violated its non-proliferation commitments and which aims to destroy Israel, drive America out of the Middle East, and bring down the House of Saud.

Whether or not President Obama fully appreciates that distinction, the Saudis most definitely do.

Of course, Saudi concerns extend well beyond the four corners of last week's agreement. For Riyadh, Iran's march toward the bomb is only the most dangerous element -- the coup de grace in its expanding arsenal, if you will -- of an ongoing, region-wide campaign to overturn the Middle East's existing order in favor of one dominated by Tehran. The destabilization and weakening of Saudi Arabia is absolutely central to that project, and in Saudi eyes has been manifested in a systematic effort by Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to extend its influence and tentacles near and far, by sowing violence, sabotage, terror, and insurrection -- in Bahrain, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, and most destructively of all, in the IRGC's massive intervention to abet the slaughter in Syria and salvage the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

Fairly or not, from the Saudi perspective, the nuclear deal not only ignores these central elements of the existential challenge that Iran poses to the kingdom's well-being, it threatens to greatly exacerbate them by elevating and legitimizing the Islamic Republic's claim to great power status. As surely as Obama's chemical weapons deal with Syria implicitly green-lighted the intensification of the Assad regime's murder machine, so, too, the Saudis fear, a nuclear deal with the mullahs will grant a free hand -- if not an implicit American imprimatur -- to the long-standing Iranian quest for regional supremacy that, to Saudi minds, won't end until it reaches Mecca and Medina.

It should be said that Saudi paranoia about being sacrificed on the altar of a U.S.-Iranian deal is nothing new. But the fact is that, today, the Saudis look around and believe they've got more reasons than ever before to think that they're largely on their own.

As the saying goes, even paranoids have enemies. On one issue after another that they've deemed absolutely vital to their interests -- Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Syria, and now Iran -- the Saudis view the Obama administration as having been at best indifferent to their most urgent concerns, and at worst openly hostile. To Saudi minds, a very clear and dangerous pattern has now been conclusively established. And its defining characteristic is not pretty at all to behold: the selling out of longtime allies, even betrayal. Indeed, the Saudi listen to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rail against the Iran deal and realize that even Israel, by leaps and bounds America's foremost friend in the Middle East, is not immune. And they wonder where in the world does that leave them. How do you say "screwed" in Arabic?

The crisis of confidence in the reliability, purposes, and competence of American power has reached an all-time high. The Saudis have taken due note of National Security Advisor Susan Rice's declaration that "there's a whole world out there" beyond the Middle East that needs attention, and her predecessor's lament that the United States had "over-invested" in the region. The kingdom has become increasingly convinced that there's a method to Obama's madness, a systematic effort to reduce America's exposure and involvement in the region's conflicts, to downsize Washington's role and leadership, to retrench and, yes, to retreat.

Whatever the reason -- a weak and unprincipled president, a tired and fed up population, a broken economy and dysfunctional politics, growing energy independence (the Saudis cite all these and more) -- there's a growing conviction in Riyadh that the United States has run dangerously short of breath when it comes to standing by its allies in the Middle East. Obama wants out. Face-saving deals on issues like Syria and Iran that are designed not to resolve the region's most dangerous problems, but rather to defer them from exploding until he's safely out of office are the order of the day -- Saudi vital interests be damned ... or so they fear.

It must be noted that the breach in trust has become intensely personal. The Saudi dismay with Obama and his chief lieutenants is hard to overstate at this point. Secretary of State John Kerry in particular has become a target of derision. In the days immediately following the Assad regime's Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack, the phone calls between Kerry and senior Saudi leaders apparently ran fast and furious. Proof that Syria had smashed Obama's red line on chemical weapons was overwhelming, Kerry assured his interlocutors. A U.S. attack to punish the Assad regime was a sure thing. The Saudis were ecstatic, convinced that at long last Obama was prepared to get off the sidelines and decisively shift the conflict's trajectory in favor of the West and against Iran. Intelligence, war planning and targeting information were allegedly exchanged. Hints abound that the Saudis were ginned up not only to help finance the operation, but to participate actively with planes and bombs of their own. King Abdullah is rumored to have ordered relevant ministries to prepare to go to the Saudi equivalent of DEFCON 2, the level just short of war.

Then, on Aug. 31, the Saudis turned on CNN, expecting to watch President Obama announce the imminent enforcement of his red-line -- only to see him flinch by handing the decision off to Congress. The Saudis were enraged, dumbfounded, and convinced that Kerry had deliberately deceived and misled them. Told that Kerry himself had been caught largely unaware by Obama's decision, the Saudis were hardly mollified. A liar or an irrelevancy? Either one was disastrous from their perspective.

Unfortunately, the routine has repeated itself several times since -- on one issue after another considered critical to Saudi interests. Hence: Riyadh learned about the U.S.-Russia deal on Syria's chemical weapons from CNN. Riyadh learned about Obama's decision to suspend large chunks of military assistance to Egypt from CNN. And two weeks ago, Riyadh learned that the P5+1 was on the verge of signing an initial (and from its perspective, very bad) deal with Iran from CNN -- even though Kerry had just been in Saudi Arabia earlier that week in an effort to contain at least some of the fallout from the Syria fiasco. Instead, he ended up doubling down on the breach. Detailed revelations in recent days that for the better part of a year, the Obama administration has been engaged in secret bilateral talks with Iran that it sought to keep hidden from its allies -- while merely adding detail to what the Saudis had already suspected from their own sources -- will no doubt only further stoke the kingdom's fears that the fix is in between Washington and the mullahs.

An atmosphere this poisonous is dangerous, to say the least. The incentive for the Saudis to engage in all kinds of self-help that Washington would find less than beneficial, even destructive, is significant and rising. Driven into a corner, feeling largely abandoned by their traditional superpower patron, no one should doubt that the Saudis will do what they believe is necessary to ensure their survival. It would be a mistake to underestimate their capacity to deliver some very unpleasant surprises: from the groups they feel compelled to support in their escalating proxy war with Iran, to the price of oil, to their sponsorship (and bankrolling) of a much expanded regional role for Russia and China at America's expense. Convincing ourselves that the Saudis will bitch and moan, but in the end prove powerless to act in ways that harm key U.S. interests would be a very risky strategy.

Which brings us to the question of the Saudi bomb. King Abdullah has been unequivocal with a series of high-level interlocutors going back several years: If Iran gets the bomb, we get the bomb. There's not much artifice to the man. He's been clear. He's been consistent. He's not known to bluff. And I believe him.

Whether or not all the stories about the longstanding arrangements with the Pakistani nuclear program are true, there's enough of a link there that no one should be too shocked if we wake up next week, next month, or next year to discover that a small nuclear arsenal has suddenly shown up in the Saudi order of battle. If the prospect of an Israel-Iran nuclear standoff doesn't quite get your pulse to racing, how do you feel about adding a Saudi-Iran standoff to the mix?

Think of two nuclear powers eyeball to eyeball across the Strait of Hormuz -- with religious hatreds boiling over, ballistic missile flight times measured in minutes, and command and control protocols, well, less than robust. Even short of a nuclear exchange, what do you think that would do to the price premium on a barrel of oil? Can anyone say "instant global recession"?

That's clearly the direction we're headed, and it's my hunch that the Iran deal has pushed the day of reckoning dangerously closer. I don't know if it's possible at this late date to walk the Saudis back from the ledge. But the Obama administration should try. I think the place to start, and rapidly, is with the Saudi national security advisor and intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan. Formerly Riyadh's ambassador to Washington, Bandar is now clearly the tip of the spear in King Abdullah's efforts to combat the Iranian threat around the region -- not to mention the principal point of contact in the kingdom's thick relationship with Pakistan's military and intelligence establishment. He's been in virtually every major international capital in recent months -- with the notable exception of Washington. That alone speaks volumes of how much the situation has deteriorated. President Obama personally needs to get Bandar in the Oval Office as quickly as possible for a very frank discussion about the strategic situation in all its complexities -- and what the United States and Saudi Arabia, together, can do about it. At this point, no one else but the commander-in-chief stands a chance of convincing the Saudis that more desperate measures are not called for.

Exactly what Obama would have to say to make the sale is another matter. On the nuclear deal, he'd have to be able to guarantee that any follow-on agreement would, at a minimum, see Iran compelled to accept a massive roll-back of its existing capabilities -- as close to zero as possible -- as well as a specially-designed, highly-intrusive verification regime. And should Iran reject that bottom-line, the president would have to be equally convincing that he's prepared to walk away from a bad deal and use force decisively to dismantle the most dangerous elements of the Iranian program. Should it come to that, and as a mark of his seriousness, he might broach the range of important contributions the Saudis could make to such an effort -- including managing global oil markets and Arab public opinion, basing and over-flight rights, financing, and direct military participation.

On the broader Iranian regional challenge, Syria is absolutely central for the Saudis. The president would need to be able to say something new and compelling about a genuine shift in U.S. strategy, one seriously committed to working with the kingdom to change the balance of power on the ground against the Assad regime and its Iranian backers, while marginalizing al Qaeda. Obama also be well-served by a serious discussion of Saudi regional priorities, and ways that Washington is prepared to cooperate with Riyadh in a sustained and careful way to advance our common interests -- in weakening Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthi rebellion in Yemen, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and Iran's influence in Iraq.

The chances that President Obama will be prepared to do any of this, I admit, are slim to none. Doing what comes as second-nature to Iran's leaders -- fighting and negotiating with your enemy at the same -- is just not in his DNA. Moreover, it would be completely contrary to his broader strategic purpose of extricating the United States from what he sees as the Middle East morass. The fact is that Obama thinks he's on the right track. If that makes the Saudis uncomfortable, if it forces them to adjust and take matters more into their own hands, so be it. To his mind, there's really not much that they can do without shooting themselves in the foot. At the end of the day, Obama believes, the Saudis know that they need us far more than we need them, and will act accordingly. At most, a pat on the head, a few vague reassurances that we take their concerns seriously, and a promise to consult more frequently on key issues will suffice to keep them quiet and in line.

I hope he's right. But I strongly suspect that he may be wrong and that we all could be in for a rude awakening at some point. My fear is that in a few years time, we will look back and conclude that President Obama -- who came to office with the lofty ambition of restoring America's standing with the Arab world and strengthening the global non-proliferation regime -- has instead done extensive damage to both causes that will be difficult, if not impossible, to repair in short order, and will come at a very, very high price in blood, treasure, and U.S. interests. If that's the case, we're in for a very rocky road, indeed. Buckle up.


Foreign Policy


...


Quote 2 :

The Nuclear Handshake

Is the Pakistan-Saudi weapons program for real?

BY Simon Henderson
NOVEMBER 8, 2013


BBC Newsnight, a British equivalent of ABC's 20/20, ran a story on Nov. 6 saying intelligence reports judged that Pakistan was ready to deliver nuclear weapons to Saudi Arabia. The purpose would be to counter Iran's perceived nuclear weapons program: "It is now possible that the Saudis might be able to deploy such devices more quickly than the Islamic republic [of Iran]," the report concluded.

The story ran the night before the next round of talks between international powers and Iran in Geneva. The implicit message was that Riyadh had a fallback option in case a deal is cut with the Islamic Republic that is not to its liking. Some may be skeptical about the report due to the denials of both nations and some vagueness about the source of these claims, but dismissing the report out of hand would be foolhardy: The outline of the Newsnight story has been circulating among Saudi watchers for several months as Riyadh's frustration with Washington over its Middle East policies have grown.

Although the latest information does not appear to have come from Saudi Arabia -- an unnamed "senior NATO decision-maker" was cited as the principal source -- any transfer of Pakistani warheads or missiles would fit neatly into the category of "ways the House of Saud could make things unpleasant for Washington."

Well before the uprisings of the so-called Arab Spring, King Abdullah regarded the threat of a nuclear Iran as a major destabilizing force. More than 10 years ago, the Guardian reported the kingdom was debating a strategy paper setting out three options: acquiring a nuclear capability of its own, maintaining or entering into an alliance with an existing nuclear power that would offer protection, or trying to reach a regional agreement on a nuclear-free Middle East.

In February 2012, a correspondent of the London Times was summoned to Riyadh, where he was told by an unnamed senior Saudi official that the kingdom could acquire nuclear warheads "within weeks" of Iran developing atomic weapons. In the event of a successful Iranian nuclear test, Riyadh would "immediately launch a twin track nuclear weapons program," according to the Saudi source, while warheads would be purchased "off the shelf" from abroad. At the same time, the kingdom would upgrade its planned civil nuclear program to include a military dimension.

President Barack Obama's administration will find it challenging to shrug off these stories as mere rumors. Among those interviewed by Newsnight was Gary Samore, until recently the National Security Council's WMD czar, who expressed his belief that the Saudis have an understanding "that, in extremis, they would have claim to acquire nuclear weapons from Pakistan." (Full disclosure: I was interviewed for the program and some of my sager comments were included in the film report.)

In a studio discussion that immediately followed the film, Sir William Patey, who was British ambassador in Riyadh from 2006 to 2010 and had previously been in charge of the Middle East department at the Foreign Office, did not contradict the report.

The collaboration between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan on Islamabad's nuclear program has deep roots that could go as far back as the early 1970s, when Saudi King Faisal agreed to fund what is now the main mosque in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad. Riyadh was almost certainly also tapped for funds by then Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to pay for Pakistan's uranium enrichment program in the mid-1970s -- when the enrichment plant was revealed in 1979, diplomats and journalists in Islamabad saw the kingdom as one of the only likely sources of funds for such a project. The head of Pakistan's nuclear program, A.Q. Khan -- who was later condemned for proliferating nuclear technology to Iran, Libya, and North Korea -- told me he visited the kingdom more than 40 times and was offered citizenship by one of King Abdullah's half-brothers.

In 1999, Khan hosted Saudi Defense Minister Prince Sultan at the Kahuta uranium enrichment plant outside Islamabad, along with Pakistani premier Nawaz Sharif and Army chief Gen. Pervez Musharraf. The general would overthrow Sharif a few months later, sending him into exile in Saudi Arabia, an altogether more comfortable interlude than the inside of a Pakistani prison.

Sultan also saw more than Kahuta's enrichment centrifuges: He was also shown a mock-up of the Pakistani bomb. According to A.Q. Khan, Khalid bin Sultan, the defense minister's son, tried to pick up the hemispherical "tamper," which is used to contain the initial moment of the nuclear explosion, but it was too heavy for him to lift.

Some may expect U.S. intelligence to know every in and out about such dealings, but Washington's knowledge of Saudi military planning has not always been perfect. In 1988, the kingdom took delivery of Chinese CSS-2 missiles even before Washington realized that Saudi Arabia and China had inked a deal two years earlier. The missiles were spotted by a U.S. satellite being trucked to launch sites south of Riyadh, having been flown in on giant transport aircraft that landed at a private airport on a farm belonging to Prince Sultan.

Those missiles, previously part of China's nuclear strike force, were arguably already obsolete, being liquid-fueled with unstable industrial alcohol and nitric acid. The immediate fear in Washington and other Western capitals was that they had come with nuclear warheads, though Riyadh insisted that they only contained conventional explosives. In another twist, the atomic bomb design that China gave Pakistan in 1982 would fit nicely on a CSS-2 -- Pakistani scientists redesigned it to make it fit on one of their own missiles.

Last week's reported schism between Riyadh and Washington was supposedly patched up by the visit of Secretary of State John Kerry to Riyadh on Monday. According to former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal, addressing a private group in Washington on Nov. 6, the two men "exchanged the frankest words ever."

But all the frank talk in the world may not convince Riyadh to back down if it believes Iran is on the path toward a nuclear weapon. The best the Obama administration can probably hope for at the Geneva talks is to convince Iran to place restrictions on its nuclear program -- actually stopping it seems increasingly unlikely without the use of military force. In these circumstances, the Saudis may well judge that the years of preparation they have devoted to going nuclear were well spent.


Foreign Policy


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Continue 1 :

Quote 3 :

Threat to Mideast Military Balance : U.S. Caught Napping by Sino-Saudi Missile Deal

May 04, 1988
JIM MANN | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON —
One day in early March, a U.S. official working in a special government office that keeps track of the construction of airstrips around the world looked at a reconnaissance photo of the Saudi Arabian desert and noticed something extraordinary about a newly constructed airfield.

"Doesn't that look like what the Chinese do with their missile sites?" he asked. Puzzled, he took the picture to some American experts on the Chinese military, who agreed with him.

Within 48 hours, Mideast specialists working in U.S. reconnaissance programs checked and confirmed the first official's alarming suspicions: Saudi Arabia was in the process of installing Chinese CSS-2 intermediate-range missiles.


The discovery of the missile site has reverberated throughout the U.S. government, forcing a painful reexamination of U.S. intelligence-gathering capabilities and raising questions about both the military balance in the Persian Gulf and Chinese intentions around the world.

Nearly two years had elapsed between the Saudi agreement to purchase the Chinese weapons and the discovery of the deal by U.S. intelligence officials poring over photos of the Arabian desert.

U.S. officials now acknowledge that they missed early clues to the weapons sale and were not watching closely enough what the Saudis were doing. They had not been paying much attention to the deserts of Saudi Arabia since the United States sent its warships into the Persian Gulf last summer to escort U.S.-registered oil tankers.

The new missiles now threaten to alter the military balance in the Middle East. The Chinese missiles have a range of nearly 2,000 miles and were originally designed to carry nuclear warheads.


Chinese, Saudi Pledges


Both Chinese and Saudi officials have told the United States that the missiles will carry conventional, not nuclear, warheads. Saudi Arabia recently underlined that assurance by announcing that it would sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and thus pledge not to develop nuclear weapons.

Yet the accuracy of the new missiles is so poor that they are considered of limited use with only conventional explosives. A State Department official wondered: "How can we be sure these missiles will only have conventional warheads?"

Another State Department official pointed out that Saudi Arabia has denied the United States permission to see the missile site and the missiles. "We would like to have had access to them," he said.

Apart from the missiles' impact on the Middle East, they have created new jitters within the U.S. government over China's arms sales.

Even China's sales of Silkworm anti-ship missiles to Iran was not so serious, U.S. officials said. U.S. objections to the Silkworms were based not on the nature of the weapons system but on their threat to U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf. By contrast, U.S. officials say, they objected to China's selling intermediate-range missiles to any country, whether U.S. interests were threatened or not.


'Crossing a Firebreak'


"No other country in the world has ever sought to transfer a weapon like that," said one official. "The Chinese were really crossing a firebreak by selling that kind of weapon to the Saudis."

What follows is the story of China's unprecedented sale of intermediate-range missiles and of the belated U.S. discovery of it. It is based on interviews with U.S. officials, some of whom spoke only on condition that neither their names nor their agencies would be identified.

The sale dates to July, 1985, when Prince Bandar ibn Sultan, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, made a surprise visit to China.

That trip attracted some attention because the Saudi regime is one of the 22 remaining governments that recognize Taiwan's Nationalist regime as the legitimate government of China. There was speculation in Beijing that China and Saudi Arabia were exploring the possibility of establishing diplomatic relations.

But this speculation was off the mark. The prince wanted to talk about arms, not diplomacy.

At the time, Congress had just rejected the Saudis' request for new U.S. arms, including F-15 planes and short-range Lance missiles. U.S. analysts now believe that while in Beijing, the prince reached an agreement in principle from Chinese leaders to purchase China's intermediate-range CSS-2 missiles.


'Really Big Bucks' Involved


"Bucks were a factor, really big bucks, multibillion dollars in one sale," said one U.S. analyst who asked not to be identified. "In addition, this was part of a pattern of Chinese foreign policy, of wanting to play a major role throughout the world."

U.S. officials say China has shown a particular desire for influence in the Middle East, where it has sought to cultivate relationships with virtually every country in the region. China has had recent arms deals with Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Syria and Israel, they say.

Yet never before had the Chinese sold intermediate-range missiles. U.S. officials say they are not sure whether Prince Bandar went to China seeking the CSS-2 missiles or whether Chinese officials took the initiative.

"A decision like that had to be made at the highest levels (in China)," said one U.S. expert. "Maybe no more than eight or 10 people in China knew what was happening." U.S. officials believe that only Chinese military officials, and China's paramount leader, Deng Xiaoping, knew about the discussions.

U.S. government analysts believe China and Saudi Arabia ironed out the details and struck a final deal on the sale of the missiles in 1986. Soon afterward, some Saudi personnel began traveling to China for secret training on the missiles.


Work Begun Last Year

Construction of the missile site is thought to have started some time last year about 60 miles south of Riyadh. One U.S. source suggested the Saudis may have used a private construction crew from a third country, but other government experts said Chinese workers were imported.


China is thought to have produced no more than 100 of the CSS-2 missiles in their original version, which was first made operational in 1971. U.S. officials say they believe Saudi Arabia purchased between 20 and 24 of these missiles.

What U.S. officials finally uncovered in early March was "a training center," said one U.S. government expert. The Saudis were preparing to train crews to man the missile sites.

The Saudi missile site presented U.S. policy-makers with an awkward problem. Chinese Foreign Minister Wu Xueqian was about to arrive in Washington in March for a long-awaited official visit, which the United States hoped would ease a series of recent strains in Sino-American relations.


"It was a bad time for the China hands," said one U.S. official. "Wu was coming to town the next day. All the policy people were saying, 'Don't give us another problem.' "


State Department Disclaimer

A State Department official involved in the policy discussions insisted this was not true. "There wasn't any disinclination to address this issue," he said.


U.S. officials led by Secretary of State George P. Shultz raised the subject of the missile sale during the talks with Wu. Asked whether the United States was satisfied with China's response, a State Department official replied: "No, but we're satisfied that if we want to pursue this, we have the means for doing it."

In early April, Wu publicly confirmed the sale of the missiles to Saudi Arabia. But he said the Saudis had promised China the missiles would not be transferred to other countries and would be used only for defensive purposes. The sale of the missiles "will help stabilize the situation in that country and in the Middle East in general," Wu asserted.

The discovery of the missiles by U.S. officials produced a quick examination of how U.S. intelligence agencies had failed to detect the missile sale. U.S. agencies prepared a Special National Intelligence Estimate, an internal intelligence report, reviewing the transaction, but the report is classified and could not be obtained.

One official familiar with this review said the United States had failed to uncover the sale at the time the deal was made. He said there were some "early indications" that China was shipping arms to Saudi Arabia, but U.S. analysts mistakenly believed that Saudi Arabia was merely being used as a transshipment point for Chinese weapons sales elsewhere in the Mideast.


'Looking at the Desert'


The other problem, this official said, was that U.S. intelligence analysts were not paying enough attention to Saudi Arabia, a nation with which the United States has long enjoyed close relations. "Analysts were focused on the gulf and Iran," he said. "They were not focused on the desert. . . . Now it's a high priority, and our people are looking at the desert."

U.S. officials in the executive branch described the discovery of the missile site in March as stemming from aerial or satellite reconnaissance. A source on Capitol Hill said that while this might be true, he believed U.S. intelligence officials might have first received a tip from a human source.

Throughout the summer and fall of 1987, the United States and China were at odds over China's sales of Silkworm anti-ship missiles to Iran. The regime of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini had installed the Silkworms near the entrance to the Persian Gulf, and U.S. officials had became concerned that the Chinese missiles could be used against U.S. ships.

U.S. officials say the sale of intermediate-range missiles was different from the Silkworm sale--in some ways less serious, in other ways more so.

"The Saudi missile problem falls into a different realm," said one State Department expert. "No U.S. territory was threatened. It was sold to a friendly country. It raised concerns about Israel's security, but in all probability, the reason the Saudis bought them had nothing to do with Israel."


Protection Against Iran


The Saudi regime wanted the missiles as protection against Iran, this official said. Last month, Saudi King Fahd warned in a newspaper interview that his country would not hesitate to use the Chinese missiles in defense against Iran.

But apart from being unprecedented, the sale of intermediate-range missiles introduced a new weapons system into the Mideast, perhaps the most volatile region in the world, raising the question of whether other nations in the region would seek to acquire similar missiles.

"This says a lot about Chinese priorities, about their views on nuclear proliferation and their role in the world," said one U.S. analyst. "They seem to have different views of what is responsible behavior in the international arena than we have in the West, or even the Soviet Union."

The principal unanswered question is whether Saudi Arabia intended the CSS-2 missiles to carry nuclear warheads.

U.S. officials say the Chinese missiles are so inaccurate that they seem to be of little use in carrying conventional weapons. A nuclear warhead would ensure destruction of a target even if a missile fell far from where it was intended.


Missile Not Accurate Enough


"You can't make that (missile) accurate enough to be useful" with a conventional warhead, one U.S. official said. Still, he added, Saudi Arabia's recent signing of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty has helped persuade him that the Saudis had bought the missile for use with a conventional warhead.

One American analyst said the Saudis might have sought to develop a nuclear program in an unprecedented, backward fashion. "Others build a bomb and then obtain the delivery vehicle," he said. "The Saudis seem to have bought the vehicles, and maybe they hope the team (to develop a nuclear bomb) will come later."

If China and Saudi Arabia are telling the truth and the missiles were never intended to carry nuclear weapons, then why did the Saudis buy them? One Capitol Hill source raised the possibility that the missiles could be used with poison gas.

But U.S. officials say there is another explanation--that the Saudis actually intended from the start to use the inaccurate missile with a conventional warhead.

"Maybe the Chinese pulled off the caper of the century," one expert said. "They took these old missiles they're probably phasing out anyway, put conventional warheads on them and sold them to the Saudis for use against Tehran."


Los Angeles Times


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"Report Alleges Saudi Arabia Working on 'Secret Nuclear Program' with Pakistani Assistance," WMD Insights, May 2006, wmdinsights.org

(James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies)

Download Link (PDF) : Doc 1



...


Continue see all old links :

Saudi Arabia says it won't rule out building nuclear weapons

Jordan signs $10 billion nuclear power plant deal with Russia | World Defense

Govt endorses summary to get 8 submarines from China, defence committee told | World Defense



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Not for Saudi Arabia if that what you mean.
It wasn't directed at anyone in particular. I'm wondering, in these situations where a country, any country, wants to do something, and we say "no", I don't understand what America's bargaining chip is. If we say no, why would anyone listen? And what will the reprucussions be when someone decides not to listen? I'm not trying to funny, or deep, or insightful. I really don't understand what gives us authority over other countries that we don't own.

@Bubblegum Crisis
I didnt learn any of that in school

You could write a Greek comedy with all this. Or maybe an Abbot and Costello episode.

How many nukes will it take to make us even? I don't like anyone having them. They should have never come into existence to begin with. You can't unleash something like that and expect other countries to not want some of their own. And you definitely can't expect someone who has gotten them to let other countries continue to boss them around.
 
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I didn't get your tag because you left a space after the @ mark. For the mention feature to be working properly don't leave a space between the @ sign and the username.
@ WebMaster, @ BLACKEAGLE, @ Stealth, @ Rakan.SA, @ Scorpion, @ Legend, @ Gasoline


It’s already too late (1983, first cold test) my dear Dorothy. *-^

We are not waiting for anyone to do what we had to do to protect our people, our lands and our glorious civilization.


Quote 1 :

Fear and Loathing in the Kingdom

How Washington stabbed the Saudis in the back, and why the Iran deal will start a nuclear arms race in the Persian Gulf.

BY John Hannah
NOVEMBER 29, 2013


Pundits and policymakers are missing the big worry about the Obama administration's Iranian nuclear deal: its greatest impact is not ensuring that Iran doesn't get the bomb, but that the Saudis will.

Indeed, the risk of arms race in the Middle East -- on a nuclear hair trigger -- just went up rather dramatically. And it increasingly looks like the coming Sunni-Shiite war will be nuclearized.

Two aspects of the agreement, in particular, will consolidate Saudi fears that an Iranian bomb is now almost certainly coming to a theater near them. First, the pre-emptive concession that the comprehensive solution still to be negotiated will leave Iran with a permanent capability to enrich uranium -- the key component of any program to develop nuclear weapons. In the blink of an eye, and without adequate notice or explanation to key allies who believe their national existence hangs in the balance, the United States appears to have fatally compromised the long-standing, legally-binding requirements of at least five United Nations Security Council resolutions. If the Saudis needed any confirmation that last month's rejection of a Security Council seat was merited -- on grounds that U.S. retrenchment has rendered the organization not just irrelevant, but increasingly dangerous to the kingdom's core interests -- they just got it, in spades.

Second, the agreement suggests that even the comprehensive solution will be time-limited. In other words, whatever restrictions are eventually imposed on Iran's nuclear program won't be permanent. The implication is quite clear: At a point in time still to be negotiated (three years, five, ten?) and long after the international sanctions regime has been dismantled, the Islamic Republic of Iran's nuclear program will be left unshackled, free to enjoy the same rights under the Non-Proliferation Treaty as any other member in good standing. That looks an awful lot like a license to one day build an industrial-size nuclear program, if Iran so chooses, with largely unlimited ability to enrich uranium and reprocess plutonium, a la Japan.

But of course Iran is not Japan -- a peaceful, stable democracy aligned with the West. It is a bloody-minded, terror-sponsoring, hegemony-seeking revisionist power that has serially violated its non-proliferation commitments and which aims to destroy Israel, drive America out of the Middle East, and bring down the House of Saud.

Whether or not President Obama fully appreciates that distinction, the Saudis most definitely do.

Of course, Saudi concerns extend well beyond the four corners of last week's agreement. For Riyadh, Iran's march toward the bomb is only the most dangerous element -- the coup de grace in its expanding arsenal, if you will -- of an ongoing, region-wide campaign to overturn the Middle East's existing order in favor of one dominated by Tehran. The destabilization and weakening of Saudi Arabia is absolutely central to that project, and in Saudi eyes has been manifested in a systematic effort by Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to extend its influence and tentacles near and far, by sowing violence, sabotage, terror, and insurrection -- in Bahrain, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, and most destructively of all, in the IRGC's massive intervention to abet the slaughter in Syria and salvage the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

Fairly or not, from the Saudi perspective, the nuclear deal not only ignores these central elements of the existential challenge that Iran poses to the kingdom's well-being, it threatens to greatly exacerbate them by elevating and legitimizing the Islamic Republic's claim to great power status. As surely as Obama's chemical weapons deal with Syria implicitly green-lighted the intensification of the Assad regime's murder machine, so, too, the Saudis fear, a nuclear deal with the mullahs will grant a free hand -- if not an implicit American imprimatur -- to the long-standing Iranian quest for regional supremacy that, to Saudi minds, won't end until it reaches Mecca and Medina.

It should be said that Saudi paranoia about being sacrificed on the altar of a U.S.-Iranian deal is nothing new. But the fact is that, today, the Saudis look around and believe they've got more reasons than ever before to think that they're largely on their own.

As the saying goes, even paranoids have enemies. On one issue after another that they've deemed absolutely vital to their interests -- Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Syria, and now Iran -- the Saudis view the Obama administration as having been at best indifferent to their most urgent concerns, and at worst openly hostile. To Saudi minds, a very clear and dangerous pattern has now been conclusively established. And its defining characteristic is not pretty at all to behold: the selling out of longtime allies, even betrayal. Indeed, the Saudi listen to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rail against the Iran deal and realize that even Israel, by leaps and bounds America's foremost friend in the Middle East, is not immune. And they wonder where in the world does that leave them. How do you say "screwed" in Arabic?

The crisis of confidence in the reliability, purposes, and competence of American power has reached an all-time high. The Saudis have taken due note of National Security Advisor Susan Rice's declaration that "there's a whole world out there" beyond the Middle East that needs attention, and her predecessor's lament that the United States had "over-invested" in the region. The kingdom has become increasingly convinced that there's a method to Obama's madness, a systematic effort to reduce America's exposure and involvement in the region's conflicts, to downsize Washington's role and leadership, to retrench and, yes, to retreat.

Whatever the reason -- a weak and unprincipled president, a tired and fed up population, a broken economy and dysfunctional politics, growing energy independence (the Saudis cite all these and more) -- there's a growing conviction in Riyadh that the United States has run dangerously short of breath when it comes to standing by its allies in the Middle East. Obama wants out. Face-saving deals on issues like Syria and Iran that are designed not to resolve the region's most dangerous problems, but rather to defer them from exploding until he's safely out of office are the order of the day -- Saudi vital interests be damned ... or so they fear.

It must be noted that the breach in trust has become intensely personal. The Saudi dismay with Obama and his chief lieutenants is hard to overstate at this point. Secretary of State John Kerry in particular has become a target of derision. In the days immediately following the Assad regime's Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack, the phone calls between Kerry and senior Saudi leaders apparently ran fast and furious. Proof that Syria had smashed Obama's red line on chemical weapons was overwhelming, Kerry assured his interlocutors. A U.S. attack to punish the Assad regime was a sure thing. The Saudis were ecstatic, convinced that at long last Obama was prepared to get off the sidelines and decisively shift the conflict's trajectory in favor of the West and against Iran. Intelligence, war planning and targeting information were allegedly exchanged. Hints abound that the Saudis were ginned up not only to help finance the operation, but to participate actively with planes and bombs of their own. King Abdullah is rumored to have ordered relevant ministries to prepare to go to the Saudi equivalent of DEFCON 2, the level just short of war.

Then, on Aug. 31, the Saudis turned on CNN, expecting to watch President Obama announce the imminent enforcement of his red-line -- only to see him flinch by handing the decision off to Congress. The Saudis were enraged, dumbfounded, and convinced that Kerry had deliberately deceived and misled them. Told that Kerry himself had been caught largely unaware by Obama's decision, the Saudis were hardly mollified. A liar or an irrelevancy? Either one was disastrous from their perspective.

Unfortunately, the routine has repeated itself several times since -- on one issue after another considered critical to Saudi interests. Hence: Riyadh learned about the U.S.-Russia deal on Syria's chemical weapons from CNN. Riyadh learned about Obama's decision to suspend large chunks of military assistance to Egypt from CNN. And two weeks ago, Riyadh learned that the P5+1 was on the verge of signing an initial (and from its perspective, very bad) deal with Iran from CNN -- even though Kerry had just been in Saudi Arabia earlier that week in an effort to contain at least some of the fallout from the Syria fiasco. Instead, he ended up doubling down on the breach. Detailed revelations in recent days that for the better part of a year, the Obama administration has been engaged in secret bilateral talks with Iran that it sought to keep hidden from its allies -- while merely adding detail to what the Saudis had already suspected from their own sources -- will no doubt only further stoke the kingdom's fears that the fix is in between Washington and the mullahs.

An atmosphere this poisonous is dangerous, to say the least. The incentive for the Saudis to engage in all kinds of self-help that Washington would find less than beneficial, even destructive, is significant and rising. Driven into a corner, feeling largely abandoned by their traditional superpower patron, no one should doubt that the Saudis will do what they believe is necessary to ensure their survival. It would be a mistake to underestimate their capacity to deliver some very unpleasant surprises: from the groups they feel compelled to support in their escalating proxy war with Iran, to the price of oil, to their sponsorship (and bankrolling) of a much expanded regional role for Russia and China at America's expense. Convincing ourselves that the Saudis will bitch and moan, but in the end prove powerless to act in ways that harm key U.S. interests would be a very risky strategy.

Which brings us to the question of the Saudi bomb. King Abdullah has been unequivocal with a series of high-level interlocutors going back several years: If Iran gets the bomb, we get the bomb. There's not much artifice to the man. He's been clear. He's been consistent. He's not known to bluff. And I believe him.

Whether or not all the stories about the longstanding arrangements with the Pakistani nuclear program are true, there's enough of a link there that no one should be too shocked if we wake up next week, next month, or next year to discover that a small nuclear arsenal has suddenly shown up in the Saudi order of battle. If the prospect of an Israel-Iran nuclear standoff doesn't quite get your pulse to racing, how do you feel about adding a Saudi-Iran standoff to the mix?

Think of two nuclear powers eyeball to eyeball across the Strait of Hormuz -- with religious hatreds boiling over, ballistic missile flight times measured in minutes, and command and control protocols, well, less than robust. Even short of a nuclear exchange, what do you think that would do to the price premium on a barrel of oil? Can anyone say "instant global recession"?

That's clearly the direction we're headed, and it's my hunch that the Iran deal has pushed the day of reckoning dangerously closer. I don't know if it's possible at this late date to walk the Saudis back from the ledge. But the Obama administration should try. I think the place to start, and rapidly, is with the Saudi national security advisor and intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan. Formerly Riyadh's ambassador to Washington, Bandar is now clearly the tip of the spear in King Abdullah's efforts to combat the Iranian threat around the region -- not to mention the principal point of contact in the kingdom's thick relationship with Pakistan's military and intelligence establishment. He's been in virtually every major international capital in recent months -- with the notable exception of Washington. That alone speaks volumes of how much the situation has deteriorated. President Obama personally needs to get Bandar in the Oval Office as quickly as possible for a very frank discussion about the strategic situation in all its complexities -- and what the United States and Saudi Arabia, together, can do about it. At this point, no one else but the commander-in-chief stands a chance of convincing the Saudis that more desperate measures are not called for.

Exactly what Obama would have to say to make the sale is another matter. On the nuclear deal, he'd have to be able to guarantee that any follow-on agreement would, at a minimum, see Iran compelled to accept a massive roll-back of its existing capabilities -- as close to zero as possible -- as well as a specially-designed, highly-intrusive verification regime. And should Iran reject that bottom-line, the president would have to be equally convincing that he's prepared to walk away from a bad deal and use force decisively to dismantle the most dangerous elements of the Iranian program. Should it come to that, and as a mark of his seriousness, he might broach the range of important contributions the Saudis could make to such an effort -- including managing global oil markets and Arab public opinion, basing and over-flight rights, financing, and direct military participation.

On the broader Iranian regional challenge, Syria is absolutely central for the Saudis. The president would need to be able to say something new and compelling about a genuine shift in U.S. strategy, one seriously committed to working with the kingdom to change the balance of power on the ground against the Assad regime and its Iranian backers, while marginalizing al Qaeda. Obama also be well-served by a serious discussion of Saudi regional priorities, and ways that Washington is prepared to cooperate with Riyadh in a sustained and careful way to advance our common interests -- in weakening Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthi rebellion in Yemen, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and Iran's influence in Iraq.

The chances that President Obama will be prepared to do any of this, I admit, are slim to none. Doing what comes as second-nature to Iran's leaders -- fighting and negotiating with your enemy at the same -- is just not in his DNA. Moreover, it would be completely contrary to his broader strategic purpose of extricating the United States from what he sees as the Middle East morass. The fact is that Obama thinks he's on the right track. If that makes the Saudis uncomfortable, if it forces them to adjust and take matters more into their own hands, so be it. To his mind, there's really not much that they can do without shooting themselves in the foot. At the end of the day, Obama believes, the Saudis know that they need us far more than we need them, and will act accordingly. At most, a pat on the head, a few vague reassurances that we take their concerns seriously, and a promise to consult more frequently on key issues will suffice to keep them quiet and in line.

I hope he's right. But I strongly suspect that he may be wrong and that we all could be in for a rude awakening at some point. My fear is that in a few years time, we will look back and conclude that President Obama -- who came to office with the lofty ambition of restoring America's standing with the Arab world and strengthening the global non-proliferation regime -- has instead done extensive damage to both causes that will be difficult, if not impossible, to repair in short order, and will come at a very, very high price in blood, treasure, and U.S. interests. If that's the case, we're in for a very rocky road, indeed. Buckle up.


Foreign Policy


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Quote 2 :

The Nuclear Handshake

Is the Pakistan-Saudi weapons program for real?

BY Simon Henderson
NOVEMBER 8, 2013


BBC Newsnight, a British equivalent of ABC's 20/20, ran a story on Nov. 6 saying intelligence reports judged that Pakistan was ready to deliver nuclear weapons to Saudi Arabia. The purpose would be to counter Iran's perceived nuclear weapons program: "It is now possible that the Saudis might be able to deploy such devices more quickly than the Islamic republic [of Iran]," the report concluded.

The story ran the night before the next round of talks between international powers and Iran in Geneva. The implicit message was that Riyadh had a fallback option in case a deal is cut with the Islamic Republic that is not to its liking. Some may be skeptical about the report due to the denials of both nations and some vagueness about the source of these claims, but dismissing the report out of hand would be foolhardy: The outline of the Newsnight story has been circulating among Saudi watchers for several months as Riyadh's frustration with Washington over its Middle East policies have grown.

Although the latest information does not appear to have come from Saudi Arabia -- an unnamed "senior NATO decision-maker" was cited as the principal source -- any transfer of Pakistani warheads or missiles would fit neatly into the category of "ways the House of Saud could make things unpleasant for Washington."

Well before the uprisings of the so-called Arab Spring, King Abdullah regarded the threat of a nuclear Iran as a major destabilizing force. More than 10 years ago, the Guardian reported the kingdom was debating a strategy paper setting out three options: acquiring a nuclear capability of its own, maintaining or entering into an alliance with an existing nuclear power that would offer protection, or trying to reach a regional agreement on a nuclear-free Middle East.

In February 2012, a correspondent of the London Times was summoned to Riyadh, where he was told by an unnamed senior Saudi official that the kingdom could acquire nuclear warheads "within weeks" of Iran developing atomic weapons. In the event of a successful Iranian nuclear test, Riyadh would "immediately launch a twin track nuclear weapons program," according to the Saudi source, while warheads would be purchased "off the shelf" from abroad. At the same time, the kingdom would upgrade its planned civil nuclear program to include a military dimension.

President Barack Obama's administration will find it challenging to shrug off these stories as mere rumors. Among those interviewed by Newsnight was Gary Samore, until recently the National Security Council's WMD czar, who expressed his belief that the Saudis have an understanding "that, in extremis, they would have claim to acquire nuclear weapons from Pakistan." (Full disclosure: I was interviewed for the program and some of my sager comments were included in the film report.)

In a studio discussion that immediately followed the film, Sir William Patey, who was British ambassador in Riyadh from 2006 to 2010 and had previously been in charge of the Middle East department at the Foreign Office, did not contradict the report.

The collaboration between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan on Islamabad's nuclear program has deep roots that could go as far back as the early 1970s, when Saudi King Faisal agreed to fund what is now the main mosque in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad. Riyadh was almost certainly also tapped for funds by then Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to pay for Pakistan's uranium enrichment program in the mid-1970s -- when the enrichment plant was revealed in 1979, diplomats and journalists in Islamabad saw the kingdom as one of the only likely sources of funds for such a project. The head of Pakistan's nuclear program, A.Q. Khan -- who was later condemned for proliferating nuclear technology to Iran, Libya, and North Korea -- told me he visited the kingdom more than 40 times and was offered citizenship by one of King Abdullah's half-brothers.

In 1999, Khan hosted Saudi Defense Minister Prince Sultan at the Kahuta uranium enrichment plant outside Islamabad, along with Pakistani premier Nawaz Sharif and Army chief Gen. Pervez Musharraf. The general would overthrow Sharif a few months later, sending him into exile in Saudi Arabia, an altogether more comfortable interlude than the inside of a Pakistani prison.

Sultan also saw more than Kahuta's enrichment centrifuges: He was also shown a mock-up of the Pakistani bomb. According to A.Q. Khan, Khalid bin Sultan, the defense minister's son, tried to pick up the hemispherical "tamper," which is used to contain the initial moment of the nuclear explosion, but it was too heavy for him to lift.

Some may expect U.S. intelligence to know every in and out about such dealings, but Washington's knowledge of Saudi military planning has not always been perfect. In 1988, the kingdom took delivery of Chinese CSS-2 missiles even before Washington realized that Saudi Arabia and China had inked a deal two years earlier. The missiles were spotted by a U.S. satellite being trucked to launch sites south of Riyadh, having been flown in on giant transport aircraft that landed at a private airport on a farm belonging to Prince Sultan.

Those missiles, previously part of China's nuclear strike force, were arguably already obsolete, being liquid-fueled with unstable industrial alcohol and nitric acid. The immediate fear in Washington and other Western capitals was that they had come with nuclear warheads, though Riyadh insisted that they only contained conventional explosives. In another twist, the atomic bomb design that China gave Pakistan in 1982 would fit nicely on a CSS-2 -- Pakistani scientists redesigned it to make it fit on one of their own missiles.

Last week's reported schism between Riyadh and Washington was supposedly patched up by the visit of Secretary of State John Kerry to Riyadh on Monday. According to former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal, addressing a private group in Washington on Nov. 6, the two men "exchanged the frankest words ever."

But all the frank talk in the world may not convince Riyadh to back down if it believes Iran is on the path toward a nuclear weapon. The best the Obama administration can probably hope for at the Geneva talks is to convince Iran to place restrictions on its nuclear program -- actually stopping it seems increasingly unlikely without the use of military force. In these circumstances, the Saudis may well judge that the years of preparation they have devoted to going nuclear were well spent.


Foreign Policy


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