Tag Archives: Saudi Arabia nuclear weapons

Let the Race Begin: Nuclear Saudi Arabia v. Iran

image from https://www.energy.gov.sa/ar/snaep/Pages/ov.aspx

In the desert 220km (137 miles) from Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a South Korean firm is close to finishing the Arab world’s first operational nuclear-power reactor. The project started ten years ago in Washington, where the Emiratis negotiated a “123 agreement”. Such deals, named after a clause in America’s export-control laws, impose tough safeguards in return for American nuclear technology. When the UAE signed one in 2009, it also pledged not to enrich uranium or reprocess spent fuel into plutonium. Both can be used to make nuclear weapons. Arms-control wonks called it the gold standard of 123 deals.

Saudi Arabia… has its own ambitious nuclear plans: 16 reactors, at a cost of up to $80bn. But, unlike the UAE, it wants to do its own enrichment. Iran, its regional rival, is already a step ahead. The most controversial provision of the nuclear deal it signed with world powers in 2015 allows it to enrich uranium. Iran did agree to mothball most of the centrifuges used for enrichment, and to process the stuff only to a level far below what is required for a bomb. Still, it kept the technology. The Saudis want to have it, too… Indeed, critics of the Iran deal fear that a Saudi enrichment programme would compromise their effort to impose tighter restrictions on Iran. But Donald Trump, America’s president, is less concerned. He has close ties with the Saudis. He has also pledged to revitalise America’s ailing nuclear industry. Among the five firms bidding for the Saudi project is Westinghouse, an American company that filed for bankruptcy last year. It would not be able to join the project without a 123 agreement…One is Rosatom, Russia’s state-owned nuclear-power company, which is pursuing a frenetic sort of nuclear diplomacy in the Middle East. In December it signed a $21.3bn contract to build Egypt’s first power reactor. Jordan inked a $10bn deal with the Russians in 2015. Despite their differences, particularly over Syria, the Saudis are keen to have closer ties with the region’s resurgent power [Russia]. King Salman spent four days in Moscow in October 2017, the first such visit by a Saudi ruler.

Excerpt from Nuclear Power in the Middle East: An Unenriching debate, Economist,  Feb. 10, 2018

Nuclear Embrace: the Saudi Arabia-Russia Deal

The the King of Saudi Arabia, and henceforth the relations witnessed remarkable growth…

Putin and Prince Muhammad Bin Salman discussed the latest developments in the region and reviewed the efforts being exerted to resolve major crises affecting the region….Al-Jubeir added that many agreements were signed on energy, space research and other fields…

According to sources, Russia will assist the Kingdom with technology and expertise in building nuclear reactors.The Kingdom has an ambitious plan to build around 16 nuclear reactors for peaceful purposes and generation of electricity.Since several months, the Russian nuclear experts were working along with K.A CARE officials to finalize the agreement.

Gen. Abdurahman Al-Binayan, chief of the Saudi General Staff, and Alexander Fomin, director of the Russian Federal Service for Military–Technical Cooperation, signed the agreement for cooperation in various military fields.  Saudi Ambassador to Russia Abdulrahman Al-Rassi said Moscow has an “important” role in implementing a Security Council resolution on Yemen.

Rassi said there was an agreement between Saudi Arabia and Russia on maintaining legitimacy of Yemeni President Abdrabbu Mansour Hadi’s government, and that Moscow was key in implementing the resolution which demands that the Iran-backed Houthi militias withdraw from all areas seized during the latest conflict and relinquish arms seized from military and security institutions.

Excerpts  Russia -Saudi Arabia ties get a boost, Saudi Gazette, June  20, 2015

Frenemies with Nuclear Benefits: Pakistan and Saudi Arabia

Shaheen III-missile range, Pakistan missile tested in March 2015

The Pakistani Parliament, even while stating its commitment to protect the territory of Saudi Arabia, recently adopted a resolution not to join the Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen….The foreign affairs minister of the United Arab Emirates, Anwar Gargash, blasted the decision as “contradictory and dangerous and unexpected,” accusing Pakistan of advancing Iran’s interests rather than those of its own Persian Gulf allies. Pakistan was choosing neutrality in an “existential confrontation,” he said, and it would pay the price… Millions of Pakistanis work in the Persian Gulf, sending back vast remittances. Many of Pakistan’s politicians and generals have major investments in the region, and some have a deep affinity for Wahhabism. Rich Arabs in Pakistan are treated like royalty, allowed to flout hunting and environmental protection laws… [S]ome backpedaling has begun. The Pakistani military agreed to commit naval vessels to help enforce an arms embargo against the Houthis. This, however, will not undo the damage: The recent deterioration of Pakistan’s ties with its Arab benefactors, even if it turns out to be temporary, is unprecedented.

For Saudi Arabia, the Pakistani Parliament’s surprising assertion of independence was especially worrisome because it came on the heels of the American-backed preliminary nuclear deal with Iran…This development undermines Saudi Arabia’s longstanding nuclear strategy. In the 1970s, partly to extend its influence, partly in the name of Muslim solidarity, it began bankrolling Pakistan’s nuclear program. In gratitude, the Pakistani government renamed the city of Lyallpur as Faisalabad, after King Faisal of Saudi Arabia. When Pakistan seemed to dither after India tested five nuclear bombs in May 1998, the Saudi government pledged to give it 50,000 barrels of oil a day for free. Pakistan soon tested six of its own bombs. Later, the Saudi defense minister at the time, Prince Sultan, visited the secret nuclear and missile facilities at the Kahuta complex near Islamabad… In exchange for its largesse, Saudi Arabia has received Pakistani military assistance in the form of soldiers, expertise and ballistic missiles.

The Saudi government has taken the quid pro quo to imply certain nuclear benefits as well, including, if need be, the delivery at short notice of some of the nuclear weapons it has helped pay for. Some Pakistani warheads are said to have been earmarked for that purpose and reportedly are stocked at the Minhas air force base in Kamra, near Islamabad. (Pakistan, which has as many as 120 nuclear warheads, denies this..)

The Saudis have also come to expect that they fall under the nuclear protection of Pakistan, much like, say, Japan is covered by the United States’s nuclear umbrella. Pakistan’s nuclear forces were developed to target India, but they can strike farther, as was recently demonstrated by the successful test launch of the Shaheen-3 missile, which has a range of 2,750 kilometers.

In March 2015 Saudi Arabia signed an agreement with South Korea “to assess the potential” for the construction of two nuclear reactors in Saudi Arabia. It plans to build 16 nuclear-power reactors over the next 20 years, with the first reactor expected to be on line in 2022, according to the World Nuclear Association. It insists on having a full civilian fuel cycle, leaving open the possibility of reprocessing weapon-grade plutonium from nuclear waste.

Excerpts, Pervez Hoodbhoy, Pakistan, the Saudis’ Indispensable Nuclear Partnership, NY Times, Apr. 21, 2015

Just in Time: the Nuclear Weapons of Saudi Arabia

Pakistani missiles at ideas 2008 defense exhibition in Pakistan. Image from wikipedia

The visit by the chairman of Pakistan’s Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee in Feb. 2015 will likely prompt concern in Washington and other major capitals that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have reconfirmed an arrangement whereby Pakistan, if asked, will supply Saudi Arabia with nuclear warheads.  The main meeting on Gen. Rashid Mahmoud’s itinerary was with King Salman — the topics discussed were reported as “deep relations between the two countries and … a number of issues of common interest.”…For decades, Riyadh has been judged a supporter of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, providing financing in return for a widely assumed understanding that, if needed, Islamabad will transfer technology or even warheads…

Although Pakistani nuclear technology also helped Iran’s program, the relationship between Islamabad and Riyadh has been much more obvious.  In 1999, a year after Pakistan tested two nuclear weapons, then Saudi defense minister Prince Sultan visited the unsafeguarded uranium enrichment plant at Kahuta outside Islamabad — prompting a US diplomatic protest.

Excerpts from SIMON HENDERSON, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan may have just renewed a secret nuclear weapons pact. Business Insider, Feb. 4, 2014