Riyadh wants a civilian atomic program but would also consider a military path, should Iran choose to take that route
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu © Sean Gallup / Getty Images
Israel has agreed to the idea of the US building a uranium enrichment facility in Saudi Arabia as part of a deal that would see Riyadh establish diplomatic ties with West Jerusalem, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The newspaper reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has instructed senior nuclear and security officials to cooperate with Washington on the issue. Progress came after Netanyahu met US President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session on Wednesday, the WSJ said on Thursday, citing Israeli and American sources.
Israel is widely believed to be the sole nation with a nuclear capability in the Middle East, but has never confirmed its status as such. According to officials cited by the WSJ, the country would accept Riyadh hosting a US-controlled uranium enrichment plant.
The proposed facility would presumably have contingency measures in place so that it could be disabled remotely in a crisis, the newspaper suggested.
Opponents of the potential deal have claimed that it would increase the risk of nuclear proliferation. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, famous for its ‘Doomsday Clock’ marking the time supposedly remaining until the annihilation of mankind, last month warned against the plan after reports initially appeared in the US media.
“There are hints that such a bargain may have more to do with keeping the Saudis out of China’s orbit,” the Bulletin claimed. It criticized the White House for lobbying Congress to accept what it described as “demands” from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The powerful Saudi scion has publicly stated that his nation would seek a nuclear weapon if regional rival Iran obtained one. He reiterated that position this week during an interview with Fox News.
“If they get one, we have to get one,” bin Salman told journalist Bret Baier, after suggesting that developing nuclear weapons capabilities would be bad policy because they could not be used without antagonizing the entire world.
Tehran has denied having ambitions for a nuclear bomb, and its leadership has branded weapons of mass destruction “un-Islamic.”
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Skeptics of the Saudi government have argued that it could create a nuclear weapon preemptively. There is also the risk of radicals coming to power in the kingdom in the long run, according to experts cited by the WSJ.
The newspaper added that the Biden administration has yet to sign off on the proposed plan involving Saudi Arabia and Israel, and is considering other options.