Despite being one of the most conflict riddled regions on the planet, the Middle East has somehow avoided widespread nuclear proliferation. With the exception of Israel, and a handful of American nukes parked in Turkey (which can’t be launched unless the US gives them the authorization codes) the nations of the Middle East completely lack nuclear weapons. And it’s not because they don’t have the ability to build these weapons. There are plenty of oil rich governments in the region that could build them if they wanted to. The only thing preventing that is a series of international treaties, and nothing more.
No doubt, it’s a good thing that a nuclear arms race never occurred in the Middle East. Granted, an arms race is never a good thing, but it would be especially disastrous in the Middle East, where ethnic and religious wars have been endemic for thousands of years, and where global superpowers like Russia and the US have vested interests.
Unfortunately, this may not be the case in the near future. And by near future, I mean right now, because there are plenty of signs that suggest several nations in the Middle East are considering the construction of nuclear weapons.
The most obvious candidate for a new nuclear program would be Saudi Arabia, which is frightening to think about when you consider all the sabre rattling they’ve been up to recently. It’s been rumored for several years that the Saudis have an agreement with Pakistan to deliver ready-made nukes upon request, but there hasn’t been any clear evidence of this agreement.
However, their foreign minister was recently asked by CNN about whether or not they’re planning to purchase nukes from Pakistan. His response was rather unsettling to say the least.
When asked about nuclear cooperation with Pakistan, he told CNN on Tuesday: “I am not going to get into details of discussions we have with foreign governments, and certainly not allied governments. I’m sure you understand.”
“Saudi Arabia is committed to two things. I always say two things we do not negotiate over: our faith and our security.”
He added: “Saudi Arabia will do whatever it takes in order to protect our nation and our people from any harm. And I will leave it at that.”
The day before that conversation transpired, John Kerry went on CNN to warn Saudi Arabia about any such agreement, and to assure the world that there was nothing to worry about. “You can’t just buy a bomb and transfer it,” he told Wolf Blitzer before adding “There’s all kinds of (nonproliferation treaty) consequences. I mean, there are huge implications of that. And Saudi Arabia knows, I believe, that that is not going to make them safer, nor is it going to be easy, because the very things that Iran went through, they would then be subject to with respect to NPT and inspection and so forth.”
However, the Saudis don’t care about these treaties, and neither does anyone else in the Middle East. The reason why has to do with our government’s recent treaty with Iran. According to Zero Hedge:
Unfortunately, one of the frightening ironies of the deal is that it’s causing some states to reconsider commitments they made to the US with regard to nuclear weapons development. “In barely noticed testimony last month, Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the UAE’s ambassador in Washington, Yousef al-Otaiba, had informed him in a telephone call that the country no longer felt bound by its previous nuclear agreement with the United States,” AP reported last autumn.
“He told me, ‘Your worst enemy has achieved this right to enrich. It’s a right to enrich now that your friends are going to want, too, and we won’t be the only country,’” Royce said in a phone interview.
And more recently, an Israeli official has expressed concerns about the potential for a nuclear arms race among Arab countries, as a result of our nuclear agreement with Iran.
On Sunday, in the latest sign that the crowning achievement of Obama’s presidency is about to backfire in dramatic fashion, Israeli defense minister Moshe Ya’alon claimed Sunni Arab nations are moving ahead with plans to aquire nuclear weapons. “We see signs that countries in the Arab world are preparing to acquire nuclear weapons, that they are not willing to sit quietly with Iran on brink of a nuclear or atomic bomb,” he said, after meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah.
And he didn’t stop there. “If at a certain stage they feel confident, particularly economically, they are liable to make a break for the bomb,” Ya’alon claimed, referencing Iran’s windfall crude profits. “15 years is just around the corner,” he warned, a reminder to the world that the deal to limit Iran’s nuclear enrichment has an expiration date.
It’s impossible to know for sure if the Iranians are really going to build nuclear weapons. The Israelis have been wagging their finger at the international community for decades, claiming that the Iranians are on the brink of building these weapons. And in that time, they haven’t built a single fissile bomb. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that an arms race won’t happen.
Assume for a moment that Iran has no intention of going nuclear. All that matters, is that their neighbors believe that they’re going to build them, and they will counter this imaginary threat by building their own weapons. At that point, Iran will have no choice but to renege on their promise to maintain a peaceful nuclear program.