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If Iran goes nuclear so will we: Saudi envoy

world Updated: Jun 30, 2011 23:45 IST
Jason Burke
Jason Burke
Agencies
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A senior Saudi Arabian diplomat and member of the ruling royal family has raised the spectre of nuclear conflict in the Middle East if Iran comes close to developing a nuclear weapon.

Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former Saudi intelligence chief and ambassador to Washington, warned senior Nato military officials that the existence of such a device “would compel Saudi Arabia to pursue policies which could lead to untold and possibly dramatic consequences”.

He did not state explicitly what these policies would be, but a senior official in Riyadh who is close to the prince said his message was clear.

“We cannot live in a situation where Iran has nuclear weapons and we don’t. It’s as simple as that,” the official said. “If Iran develops a nuclear weapon, that will be unacceptable to us and we will have to follow suit.”

Officials in Riyadh said that Saudi Arabia would reluctantly push ahead with its own civilian nuclear programme. Peaceful use of nuclear power, Turki said, was the right of all nations.

Turki was speaking earlier this month at an unpublicised meeting at RAF Molesworth, the airbase in Cambridgeshire used by Nato as a centre for gathering and collating intelligence on the Middle East and the Mediterranean.

According to a transcript of his speech obtained by the Guardian, Turki told his audience that Iran was a “paper tiger with steel claws” that was “meddling and destabilising” across the region.

“Iran … is very sensitive about other countries meddling in its affairs. But it should treat others like it expects to be treated. The kingdom expects Iran to practise what it preaches,” Turki said.

Saudi Arabian diplomats and officials have launched a serious campaign in recent weeks to rally global and regional powers against Iran, fearful that their country’s larger but poorer regional rival is exploiting the Arab Spring to gain influence in the region and within the kingdom itself. The Guardian

Why this matters for India

Riyadh has never bothered to develop any indigenous nuclear capacity. Instead, believe Indian, Israeli and Western sources, they have simply arranged to buy warheads and missiles from Pakistan directly whenever they wish. The Saudis have been known to have been financing Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme from at least 2003.

But if finally consummated, it would mean a Saudi-Pakistan alliance in which Islamabad would be Riyadh’s final security guarantor — a relationship that would be of concern for India. Pakistan would have access to Saudi oil wealth and the existing militant Islamicist linkage between the two would be strengthened. HTC, Delhi