Christopher Hobbs and Michael Moran from the Centre for Science and Security Studies at Kings College London, and their new paper have caused a media storm. As guest bloggers in Julian Borger’s Global [In]Security Blog, featured in The Guardian, Hobbs and Moran believe that a nuclear arms race in the ME, is well, much ado about nothing. Damien McElroy’s Telegraph piece on the same issue is based entirely on the Kings College report.
In the Guardian blog Moran and Hobbs note:
“Prominent commentators such as Matthew Kroenig, claim that, at the very least, a nuclear-armed Iran would prompt a ‘proliferation cascade’ in the Middle East. If Iran acquires nuclear weapons – whatever form that scenario may take – its regional rivals will follow suit. The argument here is seductive; it is easier to assume the worst than to hope for the best. The problem is, we find that the counter-argument is more compelling.”
Why would Saudi Arabia even want/need nuclear weapons they ask when the US has their back?
“In recent years, the role of Washington as the silent guarantor of Riyadh’s security has grown apace with the structural changes in the Middle East….”
“The relationship barters Saudi oil for US conventional arms and an implicit commitment to Saudi’s defence.”
However, there are serious considerations which are overlooked by this over-simplified theorem. America could indeed be energy efficient by the end of the decade. Then what? There is also the ‘Mubarak-phenomenon’ whereby dictators have lost faith in the US as a guarantor of their security – be it personal or national.
Likewise, we can point to a host of reports, many originate straight from the horse’ (king’s) mouth, which stand in direct contradiction to the claims of Hobbs and Moran.
UPI reported in July that the Saudis had increased their military and potential nuclear cooperation with fellow Sunni state, Pakistan, and were even mulling the purchase of nukes.
The Guardian’s own Ian Black and Simon Tisdall themselves quoted at length from leaked US embassy cables, highlighting that:
Dennis Ross, went even further, recapping on conversations he had with the Saudi King:
“If they get nuclear weapons, we will get nuclear weapons,” Abdullah told Ross during a meeting between the two in April 2009. Ross said he responded to the King’s assertion with a lengthy appeal against nuclear proliferation, but after hearing him out, the king responded by repeating the same line: “If they get nuclear weapons, we will get nuclear weapons.”
Let’s not forget that there are also two other large Sunni states, both led by devout Sunni Islamists: Turkey and Egypt. Are they going to sit back and allow a nuclear armed Persian, Shia super power in the East? I highly doubt it. Both countries have recently expressed interest in nuclear power albeit for civilian purposes (Morsi famously on a Charlie Rose CBS interview). You read between the lines…
And let’s not forget….Seasons greetings to all!!