Saudi Arabia has begun doubling down on its nuclear programme in order to counterbalance the threat posed by Iran as evidenced by a statement released on Monday, Iran focus reports.
The statement said that Saudi Arabia would begin uranium extraction efforts in order to achieve nuclear self-sufficiency. Although it is not clear whether Saudi Arabia would then enrich the uranium (a process needed to create nuclear weapons), this statement is a huge turning point.
The plans have received extra momentum as part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, an ambitious economic reform programme launched last year by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Saudi Arabia is considering building some 17.6 gigawatts of nuclear capacity by 2032, the equivalent of about 17 reactors, making it one of the strongest prospects for an industry struggling after the 2011 nuclear disaster in Japan. Preliminary studies have estimated Saudi Arabia has around 60,000 tonnes of uranium ore, Maher al Odan, the chief atomic energy officer of KACARE said at an electricity forum in Riyadh on 11 October.
Saudi Arabia will soon pass laws for its nuclear programme and will have set up all of the regulations for its nuclear regulator by the third quarter of 2018. Traditionally, Saudi Arabia has been cautious in its nuclear development plans because of concerns by the U.S. over nuclear proliferation. Of course, the U.S. position hasn’t changed, so what has? The Iranian one.
Ever since the U.S. decertified Iranian compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal in mid-October, the Iranian Regime has been increasing its rhetoric against the U.S. (and its allies in the Middle East) and its threats about restarting the nuclear programme. And their threats were pretty high beforehand. Saudi Arabia’s nuclear strategy is currently focused on domestic interests but that doesn’t mean they can still counter Iran.
By diversifying their energy sector away from just oil, Saudi Arabia is giving itself long-term energy security but it is also able to provide more of a threat to the Iranian Regime’s oil market. It also symbolizes that great changes are coming- changes that could make Saudi Arabia more Westernized.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is attempting national reforms to provide greater individual and economic freedom for its citizens (a direct contrast to the Iranian Regime) and believes that an independent nuclear programme will help to achieve that. They can even utilize Pakistan’s nuclear programme in order to achieve this goal quicker.
The Iranian regime would like nothing more than to see this fail because they hate democracy and freedom and so will likely attempt to attack Saudi Arabia. This is why Prince Salman believes that the country needs its own nuclear programme; although they would be reluctant to use it unless Iran was about to press the button first.
Prince Salman has led Saudi Arabia is an aggressive anti-Iran policy over the past few years; most notably in their fight against Iran’s malign influence in Yemen supporting the Houthi terrorist group against the legitimate government. The Yemeni government is back by a Saudi-led Arab coalition, which is supported by the U.S. and the UK.
The spokesperson for the coalition, Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri, said:
“We don’t lack information or evidence that the Iranians, by various means, are smuggling weapons into the area. We observe that the Kornet anti-tank weapon is on the ground, whereas before it wasn’t in the arsenal of the Yemeni army or of the Houthis. It came later.”