Saudi Arabia closer than Iran to acquiring nukes, BBC reports
November 8, 2013
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Saudi Arabia is able to obtain atomic bombs “at will” through a secret pact with Pakistan, and can acquire nuclear weapons far quicker than Iran, according to the BBC. On Wednesday, the British broadcaster’s flagship Newsnight television program cited “a senior decision maker” at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, in claiming that Pakistan had already built nuclear weapons ordered by Saudi Arabia. The weapons, which include “finished warheads” that can be affixed on long-range missiles, “are now sitting ready for delivery” as soon as Riyadh asks for them, according to the BBC. The program’s producers spoke to an unnamed “senior Pakistani official” who allegedly confirmed in general terms the secret agreement between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The pact is said to require the Pakistanis to build and maintain a nuclear arsenal for use by the oil kingdom. Another Pakistani source, identified by Newsnight as “a one-time intelligence officer”, told the program that Pakistan maintained “a certain number of warheads” and that “if the Saudis were to ask for them at any given time they would immediately be transferred”. Newsnight’s diplomatic and defense editor, Mark Urban, wrote on the BBC website that Pakistan may already have transferred several Shaheen ballistic missiles to Saudi Arabia, in preparation for delivering nuclear warheads later on. This is not the first time such allegations have surfaced in public, though it is rare for Pakistani intelligence insiders to be quoted in such reports. Claims of a Saudi-Pakistani nuclear pact have been circulating in diplomatic circles since the mid-1990s, with some sources suggesting that the Saudis funded the Pakistani nuclear weapons program in exchange for access to nuclear warheads. But Saudi and Pakistani officials have adamantly and consistently denied such claims. The Newsnight report suggests that the Saudi-Pakistani secret nuclear agreement was solidified in 2003, following the invasion of Iraq by the United States. The changing security environment in the Middle East, epitomized in the removal of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, which led to the prevalence of Iranian interests in the country, led Riyadh to turn to Islamabad for assistance. The Newsnight producers contacted both the Saudi and Pakistani governments for comments on the story. The Foreign Ministry of Pakistan responded saying the allegations of a nuclear pact with Saudi Arabia were “speculative, mischievous and baseless”.