Saudis consider nuclear bomb
Ewen MacAskill and Ian Traynor in Vienna
Thursday September 18, 2003
Saudi Arabia, in response to the current upheaval in the Middle East, has embarked on a strategic review that includes acquiring nuclear weapons, the Guardian has learned.
This new threat of proliferation in one of the most dangerous regions of the world comes on top of a crisis over Iran's alleged nuclear programme.
A strategy paper being considered at the highest levels in Riyadh sets out three options:
· To acquire a nuclear capability as a deterrent;
· To maintain or enter into an alliance with an existing nuclear power that would offer protection;
· To try to reach a regional agreement on having a nuclear-free Middle East.
Until now, the assumption in Washington was that Saudi Arabia was content to remain under the US nuclear umbrella. But the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the US has steadily worsened since the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington: 15 of the 19 attackers were Saudi.
It is not known whether Saudi Arabia has taken a decision on any of the three options. But the fact that it is prepared to contemplate the nuclear option is a worrying development.
United Nations officials and nuclear arms analysts said the Saudi review reflected profound insecurities generated by the volatility in the Middle East, Riyadh's estrangement with Washington and the weakening of its reliance on the US nuclear umbrella.
They pointed to the Saudi worries about an Iranian prog-ramme and to the absence of any international pressure on Israel, which has an estimated 200 nuclear devices.
"Our antennae are up," said a senior UN official watching worldwide nuclear proliferation efforts. "The international community can rest assured we do keep track of such events if they go beyond talk."
Saudi Arabia does not regard Iran, a past adversary with which Riyadh has restored relations, as a direct threat. But it is unnerved by the possibility of Iran and Israel having nuclear weapons.
Riyadh is also worried about a string of apparent leaks in American papers from the US administration critical of Saudi Arabia.
David Albright, director of the Institute for Science and International Security, a Washington thinktank, said he doubted whether the Saudis would try to build a nuclear bomb, preferring instead to try to buy a nuclear warhead. They would be the first of the world's eight or nine nuclear powers to have bought rather than built the bomb.
"There has always been worries that the Saudis would go down this path if provoked," said Mr Albright. "There is growing US hostility which could lead to the removal of the US umbrella and will the Saudis be intimidated by Iran? They've got to be nervous."
UN officials said there have been rumours going back 20 years that the Saudis wanted to pay Pakistan to do the research and development on nuclear weapons.
In 1988, Saudi bought from China intermediate-range missiles capable of reaching any part of the Middle East with a nuclear warhead.
Four years ago, Saudi Arabia sent a defence team to Pakistan to tour its secret nuclear facilities and to be briefed by Abdul Qader Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb.
A UN official said: "There's obviously a lot of restlessness in the Middle East. Regional insecurity tends to produce a quest for a nuclear umbrella. The Saudis have the money and could provide it to Pakistan."
Mr Albright said the Saudis would face a long haul if they were determined to acquire nuclear weapons. He doubted whether anyone would sell.
Arab countries yesterday urged the International Atomic Energy Authority, the UN nuclear watchdog, to get tough with Israel to let inspectors assess its nuclear programme in line with similar pressure on Iran.
Oman's ambassador to the IAEA, Salim al-Riyami, speaking on behalf of the Arab League, which represents Arab states, said it was time to get tough with Israel. "I think it's time to deal with this issue more substantively than before," he said. http://www.guardian.co.uk/saudi/story/0,11599,1044402,00.html
posted on 09/18/2003 12:28:16 AM PDT
To: McGavin999; Eala; AdmSmith; dixiechick2000; nuconvert; onyx; Pro-Bush; Valin; Pan_Yans Wife; ...
US POLICY TOWARD IRAN SHOULD PROMOTE CIVIL SOCIETY
Mehdi Semati and Nasser Hadian: 9/17/03
A EurasiaNet commentary
US policy towards Iran must tread a fine line. The Bush administration is in danger of succumbing to wishful thinking by holding out hope that Irans conservative leaders can be toppled by popular protests. Instead, Washington should engage Tehran, offering support that encourages the democratization of Iranian society.
The student protests that shook Iran in June underscored the possibility that the same forces that helped forge the Islamic republic could also, at least in theory, bring it down.
The Bush administration seized on the student demonstrations to encourage broader popular protests, evidently in the hope that they could topple Irans conservative leadership.
Washingtons desire to foment anti-conservative protests in Iran seems to have cooled in recent weeks. Nevertheless, the Bush administrations hostility towards Iran remains self-evident. Such hostility is potentially counterproductive to promoting regional stability.
While the student action in June was significant, its role in changing the political dynamics in Iran should not be exaggerated. A more nuanced understanding of what is happening in Iran today is needed to prevent the United States from taking steps that could actually damage democratization prospects in Iran.
The June protests can be considered a continuation of the 1999 student demonstrations, a seminal political moment that shook Iran. What began as student protests against privatizing higher education turned into a highly politicized call for democracy and freedom. Yet even if new protests erupt down the road, producing dramatic images beamed around the world, the Bush administration needs to understand the student movements limitations.
The bottom line is that the student protests were not as widespread and vociferous as they were portrayed in media reports. To begin with, the students had little organization, no cohesive leadership structure, and lacked clearly defined objectives. In general, Iranian students have tended to react to government decisions or actions. They have usually not been proactive in shaping the public political agenda with a formal organization or a detailed agenda. Finally, conservative authorities took action to ensure that the student movement doesnt coalesce into a threat. Over 2,000 students, including most of the protest leaders, were jailed during the protests and their aftermath. Many remain imprisoned.
The fact that the student action did not foster broader protests is an important point. The lack of wider or visible participation is just one of several signs of the loss of public confidence in the once popular reform movement. Judging by the low turnout in the local elections of February 2003, Iranians have little or no faith in the movements leadership, which has failed to fulfill bold promises of introducing the rule of law, democracy, and a free press.
The reform movement, led by President Mohammad Khatami, will now either have to become more energized in confronting conservative forces, or face becoming irrelevant.
Large numbers of Iranians have resisted getting involved because of a fundamental weariness and wariness about embracing radical ways to promote political change. The initial trauma and ongoing costs of the 1979 Islamic revolution have made most Iranians timid about participating in protests that might spark a second revolution or a counter-revolution. Most today distinctly prefer steady progress to revolution.
Rather than encourage student protests, it is far more important for Irans democratization potential to assist the development of civil society, especially promoting a body of non-government institutions that give people in all democracies the opportunity to participate in the issues and decisions that most impact their lives. Iran today has a vacuum of these intermediary institutions, from trade unions and public interest groups to volunteer associations. This is the issue critical to Irans political future. To a large extent, Iranian hardliners have managed to retain power by weakening or eliminating any institution that keeps open the channels of communication between state and society.
The Bush administrations response to the June proteststhrough its expression of support for the aspirations of the Iranian people and calling on them to take action--is insufficient and perhaps unhelpful. Any semblance of outside interference actually discredits the students and strengthens the hardliners position. In addition, extremists from both right and left, and from inside and outside Iran, appear poised to try to utilize for their own political gain any tension that is generated by future protests.
Statements are no substitute for a comprehensive policy that addresses US concerns about conservative-controlled Iran. Those concerns have potentially serious consequences, including the development of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, Iraq, and the Middle East peace process. At the same time, Irans national security needs, regional role, and economic interests ought to be considered as factors in the geopolitical equation.
Ultimately, to address all these concerns, it might prove more prudent for Washington to adopt a policy that helps the Iranian people make progress in a long struggle for a democratic society. That struggle actually began with the Constitutional Rebellion a century ago.
Editors Note: Nasser Hadian is on the faculty in the Department of Political Science at the Tehran University and currently a Visiting Scholar at the Middle East Institute of Columbia University. Mehdi Semati is on the faculty in the Department of Speech Communication at Eastern Illinois University. http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/insight/articles/eav091703.shtml
posted on 09/18/2003 1:32:24 AM PDT
by F14 Pilot
Saudi Arabia Says It Does Not Want an Atomic Bomb
Thursday, September 18, 2003; 11:45 AM
LONDON (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia said Thursday it had no intention of developing a nuclear weapon.
Citing a "strategy paper" of unclear origin, London's Guardian newspaper reported Thursday that oil-rich Saudi Arabia was mulling the option of acquiring a nuclear weapon.
"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is not considering acquiring a nuclear bomb or nuclear weapons of any kind," the embassy in London said in a statement. "There is no atomic energy program in any part of the kingdom and neither is one being considered."
A diplomat familiar with the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) told Reuters in Vienna the IAEA had no information that would back up the Guardian article.
Diplomats there also said it would be highly unusual for a country to permit any such plans to be leaked to a newspaper.
Separately, the IAEA said Thursday it had no information to indicate Syria was violating its nuclear non-proliferation obligations, as U.S. officials have suggested. http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A29442-2003Sep18?language=printer
posted on 09/18/2003 10:18:00 AM PDT
by Pan_Yans Wife
("Life isn't fair. It's fairer than death, is all.")
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