With the North Korea nuclear standoff still making headlines, other nuclear-related stories – including those involving Saudi Arabia, Israel and Syria – have largely gone unnoticed, Ted Snider explains.
By Ted Snider
The past week featured two crazy nuclear stories. And neither of them involved North Korea.
The first involved Saudi Arabia. Although this highly significant story passed almost uncovered by the media, White House officials confirmed that talks between President Donald Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “included critical discussions” about Saudi Arabia’s “nuclear aspirations.” Apparently, talks between Energy Secretary Rick Perry and the Saudis have been going on quietly for some time.
The crazy part isn’t that Saudi Arabia aspires to a nuclear program. Article IV of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty guarantees every country the right to a civilian nuclear program for energy and medical purposes. The crazy part also isn’t Saudi Arabia’s insistence that it would be allowed to enrich its own uranium: the same article promises that right.
The crazy part is that while Trump was continuing “to engage with our Saudi partners on their plans for a civil nuclear program and possible US supply of nuclear equipment and material,” the Crown Prince was simultaneously openly declaring Saudi Arabia’s willingness to use that aid to build a nuclear bomb. Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS, told a CBC interview that “Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb, but without a doubt, if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we would follow suit as soon as possible.”
The Saudi cabinet recently passed a national policy program that limits nuclear activities to peaceful purposes. However, MBS’s open declaration shows the fragility and flexibility of that cabinet promise.
The danger in MBS’s declaration is not in the way it is formulated. It is formulated as a conditional: if Iran builds a nuclear bomb, Saudi Arabia will build a bomb. The conditional holds no danger because Iran is not building a bomb, as the International…