The Saudi Nuclear Program Poses a Danger to Israel

Dec. 18 2019

In October, shortly before stepping down, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry announced that talks over providing Riyadh with American assistance in developing its civilian nuclear capabilities had reached an impasse over Saudi reluctance to pledge not to enrich uranium. Once a country can enrich uranium itself, it can produce not only the low-enriched fuel used for civilian purposes but also the high-enriched form necessary for nuclear weapons. For decades, the American-led nonproliferation regime has allowed nations to purchase the former while forbidding them to enrich it themselves. But the Obama administration’s recognition of an Iranian “right to enrich” has overturned that standard. Yoel Guzansky notes the consequences:

The kingdom’s interest in nuclearization is nothing new, [but] in March 2018, [the] Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman said publicly—and explicitly—for the first time that if Iran acquired military nuclear capabilities, the Saudis would follow suit without delay.

It’s possible that a dangerous nuclear loop has been established between Iran and its neighbors: Iran’s nuclear efforts are motivating the states that feel threatened by Iran to nuclearize, and attempts by Saudi Arabia—and Turkey—to nuclearize do nothing to convince Iran to stop its nuclear program. At some point, Iran and its neighbors’ progress on nuclear infrastructure and knowledge could pass the point of no return.

Israel has an interest in preventing even Arab countries with which it cooperates, whether openly or in secret, from nuclearizing. This is because of the concern over a regional dynamic of nuclearization, which could push Iran to step up its own nuclear work; concern over dissemination of nuclear information; and concerns about a future change to the alignment of regional players or changes to friendly nations—for example, if a regime were to fall.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Iranian nuclear program, Israeli Security, Middle East, Nuclear proliferation, Saudi Arabia


When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount