Iran nuke unlikely to start Mideast arms race: report

RIYADH Wed Feb 20, 2013 5:56am EST

EDITORS' NOTE: Reuters and other foreign media are subject to Iranian restrictions on leaving the office to report, film or take pictures in Tehran. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi

EDITORS' NOTE: Reuters and other foreign media are subject to Iranian restrictions on leaving the office to report, film or take pictures in Tehran.

Credit: Reuters/Raheb Homavandi

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RIYADH (Reuters) - Fears that an Iranian nuclear weapon might trigger an atomic arms race across the Middle East are overplayed, a U.S. security thinktank said on Tuesday, arguing that countries like Saudi Arabia face big disincentives against getting the bomb.

Western powers believe Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon under cover of a civilian atomic electricity program, a charge Tehran denies.

Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter, is engaged in a fierce rivalry with Shi'ite power Iran and is seen in Western countries as the most likely Middle Eastern state to seek an atomic weapon if Iran did the same.

Analysts have also said an Iranian nuclear weapons capability might persuade Egypt and Turkey to seek a bomb too.

Israel, which has never declared its atomic weapons capability, is thought to be the Middle East's only nuclear-armed power now although Iran's eastern neighbor Pakistan has atomic weapons.

In December 2011, former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal said that if Tehran did gain nuclear weapons capability, Saudi Arabia should consider matching it.

Riyadh has also announced plans to build 17 gigawatts of atomic energy by 2032 as it moves to reduce domestic oil consumption, freeing up more crude for export.

However, a report by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) says that although there is some risk that Saudi Arabia would seek an atomic bomb, it would more likely rely on its ally, the United States, to protect it.

"The conventional wisdom is probably wrong," the report said.

Even if Saudi Arabia wished to acquire a bomb, "significant disincentives would weigh against a mad rush by Riyadh to develop nuclear weapons".


CNAS, based in Washington, was set up in 2007 as a non-partisan thinktank aiming to develop U.S. security policy.

The report's authors include Colin Kahl, a former deputy assistant U.S. Secretary of Defense for the Middle East, and Melissa Dalton, a foreign affairs specialist with the secretary.

The difficulty and expense of embarking on a nuclear arms program in defiance of international law and the wishes of the kingdom's most important ally, Washington, would be a powerful argument against such an undertaking, it said.

Riyadh is a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Some analysts have argued that instead of attempting to build its own atomic weapon, Riyadh might try to buy a fully developed nuclear bomb from ally Pakistan.

However, the report said this was also unlikely.

"Instead, Saudi Arabia would likely pursue a more aggressive version of its current conventional defense and civilian nuclear hedging strategy while seeking out an external nuclear security guarantee," they said.

The report said Egypt did not see Iran's nuclear ambitions as an existential threat and that Turkey already has a nuclear deterrent in the form of its NATO security guarantees.

(Reporting By Angus McDowall; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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Comments (10)
americanguy wrote:
There were no nuclear weapons in the Mideast.
Then Israel got nuclear weapons.
Now Iran is trying to get nuclear weapons.
Al Qaeda wants nuclear weapons.
Earth to wonderful brilliant “think tank”, THE NUCLEAR ARMS RACE STARTED LONG AGO with Israel.
That group should call themselves the “stupid tank”.
This is why the world is falling apart.
People who say they are experts and know it all, are illogical idiots.

Feb 20, 2013 7:20am EST  --  Report as abuse
stambo2001 wrote:
And who was it that illegally proliferated the nuclear technology and weaponry to Israel? Yup, France. And of course the USA has added goodies since then. BTW it is illegal under american law for them (the USA) to trade with any nuclear armed country not a signatory of the NPT, which Israel is not. So daily the USA violates its very own laws in this matter.

Feb 20, 2013 7:42am EST  --  Report as abuse
reality-again wrote:
This report says (quote): “The conventional wisdom is probably wrong,”

Has anyone ever suspected the Islamist regime in Tehran to possess any kind of wisdom, be it conventional or unconventional?
What does conventional or unconventional wisdom have to do with North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, or with Pakistan’s nuclear weapons?
All these nuclear programs have in common is the total lack of sense.

When it comes to the Middle East, both common sense and common wisdom as rare as water, and the region is already plagued with endless sectarian and political conflicts as is – no need to add another dimension.


Your teachers in Tehran told you to blame Israel for everything, and I’m sure they’re very pleased with you.

Feb 20, 2013 8:01am EST  --  Report as abuse
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