Interesting Article: "Saudi Arabia's Al-Faisal Hints at Nuclear Arms Ambition . . . Again" by MICHAEL CECIRE / Riyadh published Thursday, December 9, 2011
An interesting article spoke about recent remarks by a prominent Saudi Arabian royal have fanned new fears that Iran's advancing nuclear program could kick-start a nuclear arms race in the region. Prince Turki al-Faisal, the former Saudi ambassador to the U.S. and the kingdom's ex-intelligence chief, suggested that given the failure to denuclearize the Middle East, Saudi Arabia should also consider an arsenal of its own. Predictably, al-Faisal's comments fed ongoing speculation that other Arab states might pursue nuclear weapons programs in response to an Iranian bomb. Rather than broadcast the Saudi kingdom's nuclear ambitions, al-Faisal, who is not currently serving in any official capacity for the Saudi government, is more likely seeking to put pressure on the West to take firmer steps to block Iranian ambitions. Though al-Faisal's remarks were widely seen as being directed toward Iran, he also referred to Israel's widely assumed, if unconfirmed, nuclear weapons program as a partial rationale for any Saudi buildup. However, Henderson does not believe this is a major issue for Saudi policymakers, considering that Israel's nuclear arsenal has been well-known to the Saudis for decades. Simon Henderson, the Baker fellow and director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy believes that al-Maktoum's public acknowledgement that Iran is a problem, but that an Iranian weapon is not yet a foregone conclusion, reflects the region's dirty little secret: that the Gulf states continue to look to Israel to counter this threat. So what of Saudi Arabia's nuclear ambitions?
According to news reports, Saudi Arabia will spend more than $100 billion to establish 16 nuclear energy plants in different parts of the country within the next few years, based on Commerce and Industry Minister Abdullah Zainal Alireza comments to a Saudi-US business forum in Atlanta recently. Alireza emphasized the strong, historic relations between Saudi Arabia and the US and hoped the Atlanta forum would contribute to strengthening the Saudi-US partnership. The US received 95 percent of the total Saudi exports to North America valued at SR124.68 billion in 2010, a statistical report issued by the Ministry of Economy and Planning said. The forum, which concluded on Wednesday, discussed new investment opportunities worth $385 billion in the Kingdom in the key sectors of education, energy, electricity and water, transport and logistics, petrochemicals and infrastructure. Massive public investment, rapid private-sector growth and new sector initiatives are driving an expansion projected to offer more than $1 trillion in trade and investment opportunities over the next decade. Speaking about the ninth Five-Year Development Plan, which has earmarked a budget of $385 billion, he said the projects mentioned in the strategy would be financed by the national revenue. He also spoke about the growing role of the private sector, saying it contributes 48 percent of GDP. The minister also referred to the Kingdom's diversification drive to reduce dependence on oil revenue. "We are now focusing on value-added products such as plastics and petrochemicals," he said. There are about 80 new petrochemical projects in the Kingdom, which would be completed by 2015. He described the Kingdom's housing sector as one of the largest in the Middle East, adding that $66 billion would be invested to construct 500,000 new homes. All of which need massive power to operate, leading to their nuclear needs. Interestingly enough, in 2003 it was reported that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia had entered a secret agreement on "nuclear cooperation" providing Saudi Arabia with nuclear weapons technology in return for access to cheap oil for Pakistan. In March 2006, the German magazine Cicero reported that Saudi Arabia had since 2003 received assistance from Pakistan to acquire nuclear missiles and warheads. Satellite photos allegedly reveal an underground city and nuclear silos with Ghauri rockets in Al-Sulaiyil, south of the capital Riyadh. Pakistan has denied aiding Saudi Arabia in any nuclear ambitions. In May 2008, the United States and Saudi Arabia signed a memorandum of understanding to boost Saudi efforts for a civilian nuclear energy program. On a side note, in 1987 it was reported that Saudi Arabia purchased between 50 and 60 Chinese-made CSS-2 intermediate-range ballistic missiles equipped with a high explosive warhead, which have a range of 2,800 km with a payload of either 2,150 or 2,500 kg together with between 10 and 15 transport vehicle systems. The DF-3 (Dongfeng 3 (CSS-2)) is often considered China's first "domestic" intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM). After the Soviets refused to provide China with R-12 (SS-4) missile design, China decided to develop their own IRBM in early 1960s. The design has been attributed to both Tu Shou'e and Sun Jiadong, and the missile was produced at Factory 211 (Capital Astronautics Co.), also known as Capital Machine Shop. The 2,500 km DF-3 was originally designed with 2,000 kg payload to carry an atomic (later thermonuclear) payload. A further improved DF-3A with 3,000 km range (~4,000 km with reduced payload) was the one developed in 1981 that was exported to Saudi Arabia with a conventional high-explosive warhead. But knowing the Saudis, this might be there signal to the west to ramp up efforts against Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Let us wait and see.
Akaki Dvali. Center for Nonproliferation Studies (nti.org) (March 2004). Will Saudi Arabia Acquire Nuclear Weapons?; Arnaud de Borchgrave. Washington Times (October 22, 2003)
The Guardian (September 18, 2003). Saudis consider nuclear bomb
DF-3A / CSS-2 GlobalSecurity.org
DongFeng 3 (CSS-2) Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missile Sinodefence.com