French President Nicolas Sarkozy has started a one-day-trip to Saudi Arabia, to meet with King Abdallah in Riyadh. Among other issues such as the Middle East peace process, the two leaders are also expected to discuss the Iranian nuclear weapons development program.
Also on Sarkozy’s agenda during his visit is the signing of an agreement on peaceful nuclear cooperation between Saudi Arabia and France that could lead to the sale of French atomic energy technology to the Gulf kingdom.
However, it seems that the kingdom intents to build up its own nuclear capacities as well. In August 2009 Saudi minister Abdullah Al Hosain disclosed to the Saudi daily Al Watan, that a research center in Riyadh is currently working on plans for Saudi Arabia’s first nuclear plant.
Alirza Nurizadeh, an expert from the Arab-Iranian Center for Strategic Studies in London states that such an initiative by Saudi Arabia counters Iranian nuclear ambitions. Mustafa Ozjan, a Turkish Middle East analyst concurs: “the construction of nuclear power plant in Saudi Arabia is a response to Iran’s attempts to become a nuclear power in the region.”
On March 3rd 2009 Saudi Foreign Minister at a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo called for a joint Arab strategy, a common vision to deal with the “Iranian challenge” including its nuclear drive.
On December 16, 2008, Saudi Arabia and other GCC states met with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany to express their concerns about Iran’s nuclear program and to support for the efforts of the six world powers to pressure Iran to halt potential nuclear-weapon development activities. The Saudi Prince Saud al-Faisal urged Iran to comply with its nuclear obligations to spare the Middle East “devastating conflicts, futile arms races and serious environmental hazards.”
On March 29, 2008, Saudi Arabia’s leading newspaper Okra Reports wrote that the Saudi Shura Council is preparing “national plans to deal with any sudden nuclear and radioactive hazards that may affect the kingdom following experts’ warnings of possible attacks on Iran’s Bushehr nuclear reactors.”
Iran triggers arms race in the region
Iran’s developing missile program and test firing, in defiance of UN Security Council Resolutions, causes grave regional security concerns and has cascading effects on leading GCC states particularly Saudi Arabia, to bulk up their militaries.
Saudi Arabia, like other GCC states, has massively improved its deterrence capacity with conventional weapons. Since 2003, Arab military spending has increased to unprecedented levels. The weapons purchased by the GCC states seem well-suited to counter Iranian threats. Saudi Arabia is procuring long-range strike fleets, refueling capabilities, and standoff weapons. It signed agreements to buy at least seventy-two state-of-the-art fighter aircraft. In a deal worth $1.5 billion, the Royal Saudi Air Forces asked the Pentagon to upgrade its AWACS and aerial tanker aircraft with advanced communications and surveillance/ air traffic management systems.
Saudi Arabia along other GCC states strengthen security alliances with Western countries. In 2006, the U.S. launched a Gulf Security Dialogue in which bilateral military committees increase U.S.-GCC security cooperation.
Since the establishment of the Shiite Islamic Republic of Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iran have had an increasingly difficult relationship. Saudi Arabia fears a nuclear Iran with growing influence of Shiite populations in surrounding neighbor states and inside the kingdom itself. Officials in Riyadh feel that Tehran is threatening the physical security of the Saudi kingdom and even banding together with the Shiite population, which lives in the oil rich regions of Eastern Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is also involved in an extensive number of proxy-wars with Iran: In Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, the Palestinian territories, Afghanistan, Yemen and other places. Experts say that the confrontation between the two strong powers in the region can increase if one of the sides transfers to the military use of nuclear energy.
(c) Copyright 2009, Realite-EU
By Realite EU