Berlin (dpa) – Saudi Arabia reserves the right to use nuclear weapons in case an Iranian atomic bomb cannot be prevented. “It is definitely an option,” Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubair said in an interview with the German news agency.
If Iran becomes a nuclear power, other countries will follow. “And Saudi Arabia has made it clear that it will do everything possible to protect its people and protect its territory.”
Saudi Arabia and Iran are vying for supremacy in the Near and Middle East, a region with many conflicts such as the bloody wars in Syria and Yemen. Iran has been working on the use of nuclear energy for decades. In 2015, the permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany signed an agreement with the government in Tehran to prevent the construction of an atomic bomb. In return, the economic sanctions were lifted.
Under President Donald Trump, however, the United States withdrew from the deal and brought it to the brink of failure. The Trump administration wants a broader deal that includes Iran’s missile program and that will end Iran’s interference in regional conflicts. Saudi Arabia supports this. “We believe Iran has so far responded only to pressure,” Al-Jubair said. When asked if he feared a change of course under Joe Biden as US president, he declined to comment: “We’ll see.” Trump is seen as a staunch ally of Saudi Arabia.
An oil-rich desert state nuclear program is not known. So far, the kingdom also does not have a nuclear power plant. However, the authoritarian-ruled country has said it intends to build 16 nuclear reactors over the next 20 to 25 years. Its cost could be estimated at 80 billion US dollars. Saudi Arabia wants to meet its growing energy needs with civilian use of nuclear power and also use smaller reactors for seawater desalination.
At the same time, the country wants to export more oil which would otherwise end up in the domestic market at subsidized prices. Riyadh works mainly with China on its nuclear power projects. Fears that Saudi Arabia may also keep open the possibility of building nuclear weapons have been around for some time. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in an interview with US broadcaster CBS 2018 that Riyadh would seek nuclear weapons “as soon as possible” if Iran did so.
Like Iran, Saudi Arabia has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, in which states without nuclear weapons commit not to acquire nuclear weapons in the future either. In January, however, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Jawad Sarif threatened to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty amid the dispute over the nuclear deal.