Israel Should Be Wary of Saudi Arabia’s Nuclear Ambitions

When the U.S. was negotiating the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, skeptics warned that it could lead to a rush among Middle Eastern regimes to acquire nuclear capabilities of their own. After all, if the international community recognized Tehran’s “right to enrich” uranium—and thus produce the fuel necessary for both military and civilian nuclear projects—on what grounds could it deny such a right to other nations? As predicted, Saudi Arabia has undertaken civilian nuclear projects, insisted to Washington that it should be allowed to enrich uranium, and now reportedly has constructed a uranium-refinement facility with Chinese help. Yoel Guzansky, Ephraim Asculai, and Eyal Propper examine the implications:

Saudi Arabia itself has ample resources and substantial uranium deposits [as well as] connections with various countries that are liable to share necessary nuclear knowledge and expertise with it, chief among them North Korea and Pakistan.

Saudi Arabia [also] has sufficient motivation for acquiring its own nuclear capability. Its motive for relying on the Chinese and others is rooted, inter alia, in its doubts about the reliability of American support. . . . Iran’s waning commitment to the [2015] agreement and the shortening of the time needed for an Iranian breakout to a nuclear weapon are liable to increase concern among the Saudi leadership, and to expedite its activity toward the acquisition of nuclear capability, including by way of shortcuts.

Israel cannot remain indifferent to accelerated nuclear developments in Saudi Arabia. It must improve the intelligence tools at its disposal to facilitate better knowledge about the kingdom’s nuclear-related activities. Despite its considerable shared interests with Saudi Arabia, Israel should also establish a professional dialogue in the matter with its partners in the United States and Europe and raise its concerns with China. In recent years, Israel has to a large extent turned a blind eye to the military buildup by a number of Gulf states—a buildup that erodes Israel’s qualitative military edge.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: China, Iranian nuclear program, Israeli foreign policy, Nuclear proliferation, Saudi Arabia

Iran’s Options for Revenge on Israel

On April 1, an Israeli airstrike on Damascus killed three Iranian generals, one of whom was the seniormost Iranian commander in the region. The IDF has been targeting Iranian personnel and weaponry in Syria for over a decade, but the killing of such a high-ranking figure raises the stakes significantly. In the past several days, Israelis have received a number of warnings both from the press and from the home-front command to ready themselves for retaliatory attacks. Jonathan Spyer considers what shape that attack might take:

Tehran has essentially four broad options. It could hit an Israeli or Jewish facility overseas using either Iranian state forces (option one), or proxies (option two). . . . Then there’s the third option: Tehran could also direct its proxies to strike Israel directly. . . . Finally, Iran could strike Israeli soil directly (option four). It is the riskiest option for Tehran, and would be likely to precipitate open war between the regime and Israel.

Tehran will consider all four options carefully. It has failed to retaliate in kind for a number of high-profile assassinations of its operatives in recent years. . . . A failure to respond, or staging too small a response, risks conveying a message of weakness. Iran usually favors using proxies over staging direct attacks. In an unkind formulation common in Israel, Tehran is prepared to “fight to the last Arab.”

Read more at Spectator

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syria