Saudi prince urges nuclear option
Riyadh, December 7, 2011
Former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki Al-Faisal, voicing alarm about Iran's nuclear programme, has said the leadership should consider acquiring nuclear weapons to counter threats from Tehran, and from Israel.
The prince, seen as influential though no longer holding public office, noted that Israel is widely assumed to have a nuclear arsenal and that Iran, Riyadh's arch-rival in the Middle East, is believed by many to be developing such weaponry.
"If our efforts, and the efforts of the world community, fail to convince Israel to shed its weapons of mass destruction and to prevent Iran from obtaining similar weapons, we must, as a duty to our country and people, look into all options we are given, including obtaining these weapons ourselves," he told a conference in Riyadh.
The remarks were covered in the Saudi press on Tuesday. Prince Turki has argued for a nuclear-free Middle East in previous speeches, but is now also pushing the idea that the conservative Islamic kingdom might enter an atomic arms race if Iran, its bitterest regional rival, became a nuclear power.
Few analysts believe Riyadh, the world's top oil exporter and a key ally for the United States, is likely to embark upon a weapons programme in defiance of US calls for restraint. But Turki's remarks signal the extent of concern over non-Arab Iran's military ambitions among Arab Gulf countries.
In his speeches, the prince has always repeated Saudi Arabia's official policy that the crisis over Iran's nuclear programme can only be solved through diplomacy and he has repeatedly warned against a military confrontation.
However, Turki has been more outspoken in public than other leading Saudis against what Riyadh sees as Iranian expansionism in the Middle East.
In June, a British newspaper quoted Turki as telling Nato officials that Saudi Arabia would have to develop nuclear weapons if Iran succeeded in acquiring them.
Iran, like Saudi Arabia a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), insists its nuclear programme is exclusively for generating electricity. It has suffered heavy sanctions from international powers demanding it halt activities that they believe are intended for military purposes. -Reuters