Already seven of the 10 countries in the world with the highest military budgets are in the Middle East. The development of nuclear weapons in Saudi Arabia has many speculating that it could mark the beginning of an even more dangerous era for the war-torn region.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s energy secretary, Rick Perry, has secretly approved the sale of nuclear power technology and assistance to Saudi Arabia, Reuters revealed this week. Saudi Arabia is reportedly attempting to construct at least two nuclear power plants as part of its effort to diversify its energy sector and its economy as a whole. As part of this plan it has accepted bids from Russia, South Korea and the U.S. for the lucrative contract. Perry’s approval is known as a Part 810 authorization, which allows energy companies to begin the process of planning and starting preliminary work in anticipation of the closing of a formal deal in the future.
While the Saudi proposals are presented as civilian and do not mention nuclear weaponry, U.S. approval and sale of nuclear technology has been seen by many as a prelude to the development of a Saudi nuclear weapon, which could potentially spark a nuclear arms race in the region. Riyadh has long coveted atomic weaponry and has considered developing its own in its quest to maintain military dominance in the region. “If Iran develops a nuclear weapon, that will be unacceptable to us and we will have to follow suit” Prince Turki al-Faisal, former Saudi ambassador to the United States, told the Guardian in 2011, noting that the kingdom may feel “compelled” to pursue the option in the future, if tensions with Iran remain high. Continue reading