Saudi Prince Calls for Kingdom to Acquire WMDs
By John Daly
So much for peace in the Middle East. On 5 December Prince bin Turki al Faisal, speaking at the “The Gulf and the Globe” conference in the Saudi capital Riyadh urged the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to become a powerful regional bloc by establishing a unified armed force and defense structure.
While bin Turki’s call for the GCC to pool its military resources is nothing new, his idea of supporting Gulf countries acquiring weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) if Israel and Iran do not constrain their nuclear programs represents the edge of a precipitously slippery slope.
Bin Turki told his audience, “Why shouldn’t we commence the building of a unified military force, with a clear chain of command. But, if our efforts and the efforts of the world community fail to bring about the dismantling of the Israeli arsenal of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and preventing Iran from acquiring the same, then why shouldn’t we at least study seriously all available options, including acquiring WMDs, so that our future generations will not blame us for neglecting any courses of action that will keep looming dangers away from us.” Why?
Because Iran’s nuclear program, which Tehran insists is completely devoted to the generation of civilian nuclear power, is incipient, but subjected to increasing international pressure in the form of increased U.S. and Israeli-led international sanctions.
Israel, on the other hand, is a de facto nuclear power, despite Tel Aviv’s self professed policy of nuclear ambiguity.
The two programs cannot be reconciled, so, taking bin Turki’s statements to their logical conclusion, the GCC will eventually move towards a WMD capacity, which, in this case, means a nuclear capability.
Bin Turki’s comments should not be dismissed lightly.
Prince Turki bin Faisal bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, the son of the late King Faisal, is a grandson of the late King Abdul-Azizz, brother of Foreign Minister Prince Saud and Prince Khalid, Governor of Mecca province and a nephew of the current King Abdullah.
Bin Turki served as the head of Saudi Arabia’s main intelligence agency, al Mukhabarat al A’amah, from 1979 until 31 August 2001, two weeks before the 9-11 terrorist attacks in the U.S. Bin Turki Turki met with al Qaida head Osama bin Laden five times, the last encounter occurring in early 1990. In 2003 Bin Turki briefly served as Saudi ambassador to Britain and in 2005 he was appointed the kingdom’s ambassador to the United States from July 2005 until December 11, 2006.
As Saudi ambassador bin Turki strongly advocated that Washington engage in direct talks with Iran over its differences concerning Iran’s involvement in Iraq, its nuclear program and support of Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Unfortunately for bin Turki, other high-ranking Saudi officials, including bin Turki’s predecessor as Saudi ambassador to the U.S., Prince Bandar bin Sultan, favored a tougher stance against Iran in the belief that eventually direct Western military intervention action would probably be necessary to derail Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.
Saudis, Gulf states on war alert for early US-Iran clash
The armies of Saudi Arabia and fellow Gulf Cooperation Council states stood ready Thursday Jan. 5, for Washington to stand up to Iranian threats and send an aircraft carrier or several warships through the Strait of Hormuz into the Persian Gulf. Riyadh has been leaning hard on the Obama administration not to let Tehran get away with its warning to react with “full force” if the USS Stennis aircraft carrier tried to reenter the Gulf or Iran’s pretensions to control the traffic transiting the world’s most important oil route.
Wednesday night, the Iranian parliament began drafting a bill prohibiting foreign warships from entering the Gulf without Tehran’s permission.
DEBKAfile’s Washington sources report that Saudi Arabia has warned the Obama administration that Iranian leaders mean what they say; their leaders are bent on provoking a military clash with the United States at a time and place of their choosing, rather than leaving the initiative to Washington. To this end, Iranian officials are ratcheting up their belligerence day after day.
Notwithstanding their military inferiority, the Iranians believe they can snatch a measure of success from a military confrontation, just as the Lebanese Hizballah did in the 2006 war against Israel. In any case, they expect any clash to be limited – at least at first. The two sides will begin by feeling for the opposite side’s weaknesses while endeavoring to hold the line against a full-blown war. America’s failure to rise to Iran’s challenge will confirm its rulers in the conviction that the US is a paper tiger and encourage them to press their advantage for new gains.
The assessment of British military experts Thursday, Jan. 5, was that the question now is: Who will blink first? Will the US follow through on the Pentagon’s assertion that the deployment of US military assets in the Persian Gulf will continue as it has for decades? Or will Iran act on its warnings and block those waters to the entry of American warships?
President Barack Obama can’t afford to cave in to Iran, especially while campaigning for reelection in Nov. 2012; Tehran, for its part, has made too many threats to easily back down. The entire region is now on tenterhooks for the next move, with US, Iranian and Gulf armies on the highest war alert. American and Iranian war planners both accept that their advantage lies in surprising the enemy – without, however, catapulting the Persian Gulf into a full-dress war.
US Navy publications as of Wednesday, Jan. 4 showed a sign of the times: One ran a series of photos of F-18 Super Hornet fighter-bombers standing on the runways of the USS Stennis aircraft carrier ready for takeoff at any moment. Another depicted for the first time ever row upon row of huge bombs in the carrier’s hold to show the Iranians what they are taking on.
In the view of DEBKAfile’s military sources, the fact that the US has deployed only one large aircraft carrier in the region does not signify any reluctance on Washington’s part to preserve the freedom of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf. There is no longer a need to rush more carriers to a flashpoint in these strategic waters. The US maintains five huge air bases in the Gulf region – two, the Ali Al Salem and Ahmed Al Jaber bases, in Kuwait; the Al Dhafra base in the UAE; and the largest air bases outside the US – Al Adid in Qatar and the Thumrait in Oman. The concentration of aircraft carriers at any given location is no longer treated as the marker of an imminent US military operation.