Former senior U.S. diplomat Dennis Ross warned that Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz has explicitly warned that if Iran obtains nuclear weapons, Saudi Arabia will seek to do so as well.
The threat came during a meeting between Abdullah and Ross in April 2009, and is the clearest and first public announcement about Saudi Arabia’s position Iran’s nuclear ambitions. It was reported previously, though not confirmed, that Abdullah had made a similar assertion in his February 2007 summit in Riyadh with Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
Relations between the Saudi regime and its Iranian neighbour have been historically bad. The Saudis supported Saddam Hussein during his 8-year war against Iran.
May 27, 2012
Analysis and Forecast: Increasing Risk
The Saudi position on the Iranian nuclear programme is not a surprise. However, its making public carries implications on a number of fronts.
The main context to view this threat with is that the West generally, and the US and Israel in particular would be against the Saudis acquiring nuclear weapons. Despite the strategically strong relations with the Saudi regime, the long-term stability of the country and its relationship with the West remains a concern in certain circles. This is particularly the case in case of a pro-Western regime taking over in Iran, which may well be an outcome of a strike against Iran.
The first message is directed against the Iranian regime. The second and more serious one will be seen as incitement by the Saudis encouraging all action against Iran to stop its nuclear programme, including a military strike.
The publication by Dennis Ross, whilst serving the purpose of showing that any Western or Israeli strike against Iran has Arab backing, places the Saudis in a precarious position. If a strike does go ahead, the public Saudi support will likely further inflame the Shiite population of Saudi. In addition, the now public Saudi position increases the risk of an attack against Iran.
The overall impact of the publication of the Saudi position on Saudi itself is an overall increase of risk level.