A day after President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of a 2015 deal that sought to restrain Iran’s nuclear program, Saudi Arabia warned it would develop its own nuclear weapons if Iran resumed the program.
“We will do whatever it takes to protect our people. We have made it very clear that if Iran acquires a nuclear capability we will do everything we can to do the same,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir told CNN's Wolf Blitzer when asked if Riyadh would “build a bomb itself.”
His comments came shortly after Houthi rebels fired two ballistic missiles toward Riyadh. Since the conservative Sunni kingdom maintains Tehran is backing the militia in Yemen, the Saudi official said the strikes amounted to a “declaration of war.”
“These missiles are Iranian manufactured and delivered to the Houthis. Such behavior is unacceptable. It violates U.N. resolutions with regards to ballistic missiles. And the Iranians must be held accountable for this,” al Jubeir continued. “We will find the right way and at the right time to respond to this … We are trying to avoid at all costs direct military action with Iran, but Iran’s behavior such as this cannot continue.”
The Saudi official, who recently met with new Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, also applauded the U.S. commander-in-chief for his decision on the Iran deal — becoming only country apart from Israel expressing its joy over the disturbing development that threatens to shatter the barely-there peace in the conflict-ridden Middle East.
“We believe the nuclear deal was flawed,” al Jubeir added. “We believe the deal does not deal with Iran's ballistic missile program nor does it deal with Iran's support for terrorism.”
Under the Iran nuclear agreement, the threat of an Iranian nuclear bomb could have been averted for at least 10 years. That is not a short period of time. Also, even without complying, Iran currently does not have the capability to make a bomb for at least the next year. Some experts believe it could also be several years.
“As long as Iran was constrained and closely inspected, the Saudis could afford to put off their nuclear ambitions,” Mark Fitzpatrick, executive director of the American branch of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told CNN. “Now their calculations change. ... Trump's rejection of the diplomatic solution to the Iran nuclear crisis undermines multilateral diplomacy and the very underpinnings of the nuclear order. It gives a new writ to nuclear lawlessness, since Iran's having abided by the agreed rules will be proven to have been in vain.”
Unsurprisingly, this is not the first time a Saudi official has talked about pursuing nuclear weapons program.
“Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb[s], but without a doubt if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible,” Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman told CBS in an interview earlier this year.
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Reuters, Hamad I Mohammed