Does Saudi Arabia have nuclear weapons?
When it comes to the proliferation of nuclear weapons the concerns of most are focused on Iran, however, maybe some attention should be given to Saudi Arabia. While officially Saudi Arabia does not possess nuclear weapons, according to Saudi political analyst Dahham Al-‘Anzi, they already have nuclear weapons and could be on the verge of testing them in near future.
In an interview televised on Russia Today TV Dahham al-‘Anzi said:
“The Saudi army will not stand idly by. This army represents us Saudis. Why are we buying all those missiles and airplanes? We have had a nuclear bomb for over two years now. A nuclear test may be held within weeks. Why are we obtaining all these weapons, if not for the defense of Arab and Muslim rights? My dear brother, Saudi Arabia does not wish to engage in war.
[Interviewer asks something]
Yes, we have a nuclear bomb. To put it simply, yes.
[Interviewer asks] This is breaking news. I’m hearing this for the first time.
[al-‘Anzi’s reply] Sir this is not breaking news. The superpowers know about this. We said before that if Iran were to impudently announce a nuclear test, Saudi Arabia would announce one too. No problem.”
So according to Al-‘Anzi, in response to the threat of Iran, Saudi Arabia has already obtained nuclear weapons. He is not clear on whether such weapons were acquired from foreign sources (i.e. Pakistan) or indigenously produce, although if the Saudis detonated a test nuke this would imply the latter.
It seems reasonable to have doubts about Al-‘Anzi’s claims, as even the Arab interviewer seemed to be shocked at the revelation. However, based on what is occurring in the Middle East and on Saudi press reports it may not be so far fetched.
In 2013 Prince Turki Al-Faisal, former Saudi ambassador to the US, stated that “I have suggested that the Gulf Cooperation Council members should carefully weigh all options, including acquiring a nuclear deterrent, if the Iranian leadership succeed in building a nuclear weapon.”
More recently in July of 2015, during the Iran-P5+1 negotiations, numerous Saudi journalists called for the Saudi government to develop their own military nuclear program within a decade. Dr. Hashem ‘Abdu Hashem wrote an article entitled There Is No Alternative To The Option Of A Nuclear Arms Race. Khaled Ibrahim Al-Hajji argued that “The timeframe of the Iranian nuclear agreement should be long enough for us to build a Saudi nuclear program that will serve as a deterrent to the Iranian nuclear program.”
In addition to Saudi arguments for the development of a nuclear weapons program, there have also been reports that the Saudi’s have already paid the Pakistani government for nuclear weapons, which can be delivered on the order of the Saudi government when needed.
Interestingly, the Saudi Deputy Minister of Religious Affairs Abdul Aziz Al-Ammar commented that “Pakistan’s atom [bomb] is not of Pakistan alone but is of the world of Islam. The entire world of Islam is proud of it…” Of course this statement may be expressing the Islamic world’s pride in Pakistan’s development of nuclear weapons, but it could be seen as a veiled suggestion that the Saudis in fact consider Pakistan’s nukes to be theirs as well (i.e. if the need arose the Saudis could quickly acquire atomic weapons from Pakistan).
Possibly the most relevant statement was by the Saudi ambassador to the UK, Prince Mohammed bin Nawwaf bin Abdulaziz al-Saud. This important, and presumably well connected, Saudi official stated that with respect to Iran “all options are on the table,” which means the Saudis are prepared to acquire nuclear weapons if necessary.
In the context of these numerous statements, Al-‘Anzi’s claim does not seem so outlandish. The Saudis are clearly fearful of Iran, and they believe it may be necessary to develop their own nuclear weapons or get them from Pakistan, to counter Iran’s nuclear aspirations. However, most Saudi talk on nuclear weapons are aimed at the future, so if in fact they do currently possess nuclear weapons, this would be rather surprising.
Regardless of whether Al-‘Anzi’s claims are accurate or not, as Iran gets closer to developing and producing nuclear weapons, the Saudis will not be far behind, and maybe they are already ahead in the Middle Eastern race for the bomb.