Saudi Arabia - A New Player on the Nuclear Scene?

(Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies/Tel Aviv University) Ephraim Asculai - In the late 1980s, China sold Saudi Arabia thirty-six CSS-2 missiles, with a range of 3,000 kilometers. This raised many eyebrows, since the only logical use for such missiles would be to deliver unconventional warheads to well-protected strategic targets. Otherwise, the considerable Saudi Air Force would be capable of delivering a more substantial conventional explosives payload at much reduced cost. As reported by a former U.S. intelligence officer, it is China that is actually interested in the cooperation with Saudi Arabia. But China has chosen Pakistan as the vehicle for this cooperation since it does not want to disclose a direct nuclear link. China and Pakistan have a lengthy history of nuclear cooperation that facilitated Pakistan's becoming a de facto nuclear weapons state. Saudi Arabia, it was reported, has been financing Pakistan's purchases from China, and thus has become deeply involved in the nuclear development program that Pakistan could hardly have financed on its own. The Saudi-Pakistani agreement confronts the world with a number of problems: the possibility that Saudi Arabia will, in fact, become a nuclear weapons state; the growing role of Pakistan as a global nuclear proliferator; and the further danger that nuclear weapons on Saudi territory could fall into the hands of terrorists or be inherited by a successor regime in case the current regime is overthrown.

2003-10-27 00:00:00

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