While the kingdom’s quest has often been set in the context of countering Iran’s atomic program, it is now possible that the Saudis might be able to deploy such devices in the near future, a variety of sources have told BBC Newsnight program.
“Earlier this year, a senior NATO decision maker told me that he had seen intelligence reporting that nuclear weapons made in Pakistan on behalf of Saudi Arabia are now sitting ready for delivery,” said Mark Urban, the diplomatic and defense editor of BBC’s Newsnight program.
Last month Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israeli military intelligence, told a conference in Sweden that the Saudis already paid for a nuclear bomb, “they will go to Pakistan and bring what they need to bring.”
Since 2009, when King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia warned visiting U.S. special envoy to the Middle East Dennis Ross that if Iran obtained nuclear technology, “we will get nuclear weapons”, the kingdom has sent the Americans numerous signals of its intentions.
Gary Samore, who was President Barack Obama’s counter-proliferation adviser until March, said, “I do think that the Saudis believe that they have some understanding with Pakistan that, in extremis, they would have claim to acquire nuclear weapons from Pakistan.”
The report said the story of Saudi Arabia’s project – including the acquisition of missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads over long ranges – goes back decades.
In the late 1980s, the Saudis secretly bought dozens of CSS-2 ballistic missiles from China, the report said. These rockets, considered by many experts too inaccurate for use as conventional weapons, were deployed 20 years ago.
“It has also been clear for many years that Saudi Arabia has given generous financial assistance to Pakistan’s defense sector, including, Western experts allege, to its missile and nuclear labs. Visits by the then Saudi defense minister Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to the Pakistani nuclear research center in 1999 and 2002 underlined the closeness of the defense relationship,” the report said.
It said some experts think it is a cash-and-carry deal for warheads while others believe it is an arrangement whereby Pakistani nuclear forces could be deployed in the Kingdom.
However, Samore was quoted as saying that giving Saudi Arabia nuclear weapons would be a “very provocative action”.