September 18, 2003
THE ARAB BOMB....Via Atrios, the Guardian is reporting that Saudi Arabia is considering the acquisition of nuclear weapons:
A strategy paper being considered at the highest levels in Riyadh sets out three options:
To acquire a nuclear capability as a deterrent;
To maintain or enter into an alliance with an existing nuclear power that would offer protection;
To try to reach a regional agreement on having a nuclear-free Middle East.
....United Nations officials and nuclear arms analysts
said the Saudi review reflected profound insecurities generated by the
volatility in the Middle East, Riyadh's estrangement with Washington and
the weakening of its reliance on the US nuclear umbrella.
....Arab countries yesterday urged the International Atomic Energy
Authority, the UN nuclear watchdog, to get tough with Israel to let
inspectors assess its nuclear programme in line with similar pressure on
Saudi Arabia may have sound reasons for
feeling that their relationship with the U.S. is on shaky ground, but
something tells me the final paragraph tells the real story here. After
all, the only likely sellers of nuclear warheads are Pakistan and
China, and it's hard to believe that either one would risk obliterating
their relationship with the U.S. by talking to the Saudis about this.
On the other hand, given the worsening of the Israeli/Palestinian war
in recent months, this leak may seem to the Saudis like a sensible way
of firing a shot across the bow about U.S. support for Ariel Sharon.
After all, the Arab states have always been annoyed that Washington
pressures them endlessly about WMDs while winking at Israel's well known
stock of nuclear weapons. Perhaps they've decided to become a little
more vocal about it.
Anyway, I'm in an optimistic mood this morning so that's what I think. Tomorrow might be another story. Stay tuned.
Posted by Kevin Drum at September 18, 2003 09:00 AM
might also want to check out today's WaPo:
"The Bush administration also reports a new Saudi willingness to curb
financial support for terrorism and to let the FBI operate in the
kingdom. But neither the experts nor Washington should get carried away.
There is still evidence that the Saudis will try to have it at least
both ways for as long as they can, even in the war on terror.
U.S. authorities in Baghdad have provided the Saudis with a list of
more than 12,000 religious extremists they would like prevented from
infiltrating Iraq, I am told by non-conference sources. They add that
the Saudis have done nothing about the list or about the continuing
steady flow of jihadis across the border. 'They talk up cooperation and wait for the Americans to go back to sleep,' says a U.S. source. "
not a good thing
Well the Pakistanis did give North Korea nuclear documents/weapons and didn't really suffer for it.
Recall also that Saudi Arabia has a significant number of Shiite
subjects in the northeast who are effectively second-class citizens and
are targets of Sunni Islamist invective and harrassment. Iranian-Saudi
relations are on a better footing than in Khomeini's day but the
relationship has never been very good, even when Iran was under the
Shah. Given their preference the house of Saud would probably prefer
that neither Iran nor Saudi Arabia " go nuclear" but a nuclear armed
Iran balanced only by Israel makes the Saudis very uneasy.
I agree that this is probably a deliberate leak to put pressure on
us. That the Saudis feel nervous enough to try this seems like good
a regional agreement on having a nuclear-free Middle East
That's clearly diplo-speak for blaming the Israelis. Of course, what
everyone knows but no one admits is that the reason the Israelis can be
trusted with nukes and the Saudis, Iranians, etc. can't is that WMD is
only a problem in the hands of tyrannical regimes; it's always the
regime itself that's the core of the problem.
Given the longstanding relationship between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan
in financing the madrassahs in Pakistan and the connections between the
Pakistani ISI and the Saudi princes allegedly financing Al-Qaeda, I
would find it quite possible that Saudi Arabia could get a bomb from
elements in Pakistan. It is my understanding that at least some of the
Pakistani nuclear scientists are very conservative islamists and tied to
the ISI. The help doesn't have to come from the Pakistani government
itself. Musharraf's hold is a little tenuous. OTOH, I think that this
has more to do with Israel. But I would not be so dismissive of the
Saudi intentions. If there is one thing we have learned, it is that
Saudis are not monolithic and there are many factions within the ruling
But are Americans willing to use the only lever we have with the Saudis -- by using less gasoline?
We're doomed. On a ride to hell in a Hummer.
I always kinda wondered why more hadn't been made of the Pakistan rumours, particularly given that:
- Saudi Arabia purchased a number of relatively long-range,
relatively innaccurate, and very expensive CSS2 missiles from China (
- These are pretty useless without nukes
- Pakistan has nukes but needs money
- SA needs nukes but has money
- SA has given billions and billions to Pakistan in aid.
I think it's quite likely they've already got a couple of shitty
uranium bombs or something, and this is just some kind of ambiguous
gesture to mirror the veiled threat posed by Israel's (not so) ambiguous
"...After all, the only likely sellers of nuclear warheads are Pakistan and China,..."
Um, North Korea?
Pay more attention to the third option: "To try to reach a regional
agreement on having a nuclear-free Middle East." This would mean that
the Israelis would come under pressure to give up the atomic bomb;
perhaps this is what this is really about.
The second option is to ally with Pakistan, Saudi Arabia's brother nation in trying to export Wahabi fanaticism.
First we got the bomb, and that was good
'Cause we love peace and motherhood
Then Russia got the bomb, but that's okay
'Cause the balance of power's maintained that way
France got the bomb, but don't you grieve
'Cause they're on our side, I believe
China got the bomb, but have no fears
They can't wipe us out for at least five years
Then Indonesia claimed that they
Were gonna get one any day
South Africa wants two, that's right
One for the black and one for the white
Egypt's gonna get one too
Just to use on you know who
So Israel's getting tense
Wants one in self defense
"The Lord's our shepherd," says the psalm
But just in case, we better get a bomb
Luxembourg is next to go
And, who knows, maybe Monaco
We'll try to stay serene and calm
When Alabama gets the bomb
Who's next, who's next, who's next, who's next
weakening of its reliance on the US nuclear umbrella
Is there some kind of defense treaty between the US and Saudi Arabia?
What mental midgets in our government thought Americans are willing to
risk global nuclear war to protect a corrupt, hateful monarchy?
It could be that the Saudi's are worried about Israel attacking them.
Or maybe they figure that once Iraq is (reasonably) settled down,
they're next. They just got a look at how fast and hard the US can hit
in conventional warfare, and in Saudia Arabia, the US only has to
occupy the oilfields, pipelines and ports.
The worse climate is actually better from the US point of view. It should be rougher on guerilla's.
I wouldn't be surprised if there are some well-developed plans to
blow the fields, pipelines, pumping stations and harbor facilities, but
that's tricky. If things are all ready, redundantly wired
and charged, then any whacko faction might blow things. If things are not in place, then the US might just blow in.
And it all depends on the US administration not being willing to
suffer the temporary loss of a chunk of Saudi production. And that
might be more thinkable after 9/11 and the conquest of Iraq than before.
Flory: there's bad, and then there's bad. I can at least conceive of
Saudi Arabia buying a bomb from Pakistan, but all hell would break
loose if they bought one from North Korea. I just don't see it.
And post-9/11, Pakistan and China would be nuts to do it too.
Pakistan got away with developing nukes in the first place (sort of) and
then playing footsie with North Korea, but they wouldn't again. Unless
someone has a change of heart (or change of regime) and simply doesn't
care anymore about a possible invasion by the U.S., they wouldn't sell a
nuke to Saudi Arabia. Because I think that's what they'd be risking.
Just my thoughts.
Of course, they wouldn't have to actually buy a nuke. As long as they fund the development, they're holding a gun.
Then there's the increasing neocon pressure on the Syrians
to give up their WMD. But, as many of you pointed out, how realistic is
it to expect Arab nations to unilaterally disarm when Israel has a
stockpile of chemical and nuclear weapons?
I think a WMD free zone in the Middle East is the way to go but I wouldn't hold my breath.
This makes the US position in Iraq even more meaningful. We can
intervene without asking permission. Our freedom of manuever, both
operationally and strategically is vastly increased. Bets part, when
Iraq finally gets on its feet we can rearm it, just like we did Germany,
and get a true alley in the region based on similar goals. Whoever
wins the '04 election will truly be in a stronger position since we
eliminated Saddam's dictatorship (something even the true nutcases
agreed was very evil and needed to go, just disagreed on the method...)
China has no worries about US invasion, but does want to continue its
economic growth that would be directly threatened if they got into a
trade war over giving nukes to SA - just doesn't look like a good move
regardless of how much $ they are offered. As for Pak - they may slip
one to the terrorists themselves but a public sell would lose the US as
an alley and shove us into India's arms. And India IS the threat to the
PAKs. NK may be insane, but I don't think handing the US/SK a cause
belli on a golden platter is in the future.
This is all about trying to disarm Israel and comes up every few
years. Israel will not give ups its nukes as they, more than anything
else, guarantee they will not be defeated in a direct invasion. This
will go away in less than one news cycle...
Risking invasion by the US with what troops? How big a country are we
talking about here? China? Get real. Pakistan? Same. This is one of
the unintended consequences of the Iraq war--we are tied down in that
country and have lost our military flexibility. This may be a good
thing because it limits Bush, but it doesn;t make us any safer.
Saudis already have a weapon. Oil. I'd say it's more powerful than a
nuke. If the Saudis stop pumping oil, it will be more devastating than a
dirty bomb in DC.
Yes, the Saudis have oil.
They also have huge debt against all the possible oil they will ever
extract. And, this means they've used their future to buy their current
They haven't invested in infrastructure.
And, right now, because they're personally a group (10,000 strong, or
more), of dimwitted clowns, everything they 'want' they have to buy.
My guess is that the Chinese and the Pakistanis, with my money on the Chinese, are gonna be the ones who 'own the oil.'
The Saudis will bankrupt themselves in debt.
They'll buy technology they don't know how to use.
And, right now, even though you think there's Homeland Security,
there isn't much cooperation. Just talking heads with money from the
government to set up offices. And, pay for medals that the head honchos
glue onto the chests of the likes of Wesley Clark. Those who were 'first
in their classes.'
Oh, yeah? Why do statistics show that the kids who did best in school, rarely do well in the real world?
I pick on Clark. But, it could be anybody. Colin Powell, too, is an artist at getting a decorated chest.
Doesn't amount to a hill of beans in the real world.
Oh. And, I don't think local authorities trust the FBI. In places
like Boston, where Logan was used to set off the highjackers who took
out the WTC, and the Pentagon on 9/11. And, who were thrown to earth in
Pennsylvania by courageous passengers; I think the rules have changed.
I think on a local level more people take security seriously than ever before.
And, if we get hit with a bio/terrorist attack I'd sooner blame Bush
in the White House, than anyone else. This boychick is desperate for an
Sometimes, nature, herself, provides the limiting factors we need,
when we get real doozies leading us into troubled waters. If the
government didn't stop the song, we'd all be whistling's Woody Guthrie's
BIG MUDDY about now.
Arash - That would hurt them more than anyone else. They just have a
lot of the world's oil, not all of it; but oil exports are just about
all of their economy. They're not suicidal.
Furthermore, there are a lot of unused reserves in the world which
are not in production because they can't compete with Arabia on cost. If
Arabia stops producing, oil prices rise, bringing those reserves into
Squiddy - in the long run. In the short run, they have the power to
really wreck havoc with the world economy. Their worries are (1) can
they keep their own society from revolting during the troubles, and (2)
would the US invade in such a crisis?
Buffpilot - what Gulf War II has shown is that:
(1) The US military is extremely dominant on a conventional battlefield. Quelle surprise, but the magnitude was impressive.
(2) The ability and presumed willingness to inflict harm on the US or its allies is a good deterrent (see Korea, North).
(3) That the ability of the US to occupy and control a contry is
much more limited than straight-up battlefield domination. The RPG and
the mine are really good weapons, still.
(4) Controlling a country once the major battles have been won is
still very difficult. The situation in Iraq has drastically *reduced*
the ability of the US to conduct ground operations. Air operations are
presumably only somewhat degraded, similarly for naval operations (I'd
guess). The US has *reduced* freedom of maneuver, both operationally
and strategically - both from the occupation, and from the diplomatic
What the Saudi's fear in that respect is (1) how things will go
several years down the road (i.e., will Iraq become a secure US base)
and (2) will the administration feel that a second war, to seize Saudi
oil, be worth it, considering the present situation.
squiddy--The Saudis (or a plane with terrorists at its control) can
bring the United States, along with the rest of the world's oil addicted
economies, to their knees. They can crash into Abqaqi's stabilizing
towers. Or Ras Tanura's Platform 4. Or the East-West pipeline's Pupm
Station One. Doesn't really matter.
Those who think that Alaskan, Canadian, or South-American oil can
save us are just appeasing the enemy. Yes, we only import 8 to 10% of
Saudi oil. What is overlooked is that the House of Sa'ud sits on 25% of
the world's (cheapest extractable) oil. More importantly, the Saudis own
half the world's surplus production capacity, which is around 2 or 3
million barrels a day. Take out Tanura's Platform 4 and the U.S. is on
an economy going down a roller coaster facedown without any breaks. They
saved us in 1973, 179-80, 9/12/01 and this past April.
Fact: five extended, disfunctional families own 60% of the world's
oil reserves. They don't need nukes. For example, if they (loosely using
that word of course) unleash a dirty bomb, we will probably unleash
something devestating. Gone House of Sa'ud plus everybody in the Arab
Another example, al-Qaeda hijacks a plane, crashes into Tanura's Platform 4. Goodbye House of Sa'ud. Oh, and America.
One more thing: they are not suicidal? What? Half of the al-Saud
family has donated money to al-Qaeda, knowing that it would stike either
today or tomorrow inside the Kingdom. If you think that the House of
Sa'ud is one nice, united, sane family you're wrong. One half-cousin
hates his own half-brother. King Fahd shits in his own pool in front of
his family. They are suicidal, even more than the 19 men on those 4
Kevin notes: Pakistan and China would be nuts to do it too.
Yep. China sees the 21st century as theirs. They've owned a couple of
centuries in the past couple millenia and see themselves as capable of
owning this one: 1.5 billion people who are increasingly educated,
assertive, and dynamic in an economy that works increasingly well (all
glory to the party, yadda-yadda) should become a, if not the, superpower
on the earth.
No way they're going to blow it now by doing something so
monumentally stupid as to give a nuke to the House of Saud. The Sauds
were peasants until 50 years ago and (in Chinese terms) are merely a
drop in the ocean. The Chinese play and think for the long-term.
The Pakistanis won't -- while a fair proportion of their citizens
would qualify (by western clinical standards) as completely nuts, the
risk they run is that the Indians would end up owning the subcontinent.
And that would never do. Perv is a smart man, and while he doesn't
control the ISI completely, I don't see a nuke slipping away.
I recall a news report from before the Iraq liberation to the effect
that one of the things done very quietly in the US/Pakistani deal that
allowed us to use Pakistan to get to Afghanistan is that we agreed to
help Perv with his nuclear security -- aka, some very quiet special
forces help. I don't have a URL, regretably, but perhaps someone knows
more about this.
I hate to disagree with someone who loves baseball, and especially the Red Sox, but I'm not sure about this one:
WMD is only a problem in the hands of tyrannical regimes; it's always the regime itself that's the core of the problem
Why do you think that? That's not a rhetorical question, I'm
genuinely curious. I mean, let's look at the history, with regard to
nuclear weapons, which is what we're concerned with here:
1) The U.S. (non-tyranny) has used nuclear weapons.
2) The U.S.S.R. (tyranny) never used them.
3) The apartheid regime in South Africa (tyranny) had nukes that they
didn't use. When they were replaced by an ANC regime (non-tyranny, but
disparaged as terrorists before they took power), S.A. dismantled its
4) India (non-tyranny) has implicitly refused to rule out going nuclear
in a potential conflict with Pakistan (sometimes tyranny).
5) France (not a tyranny, but cheese-eating surrender monkeys) has
weapons which they're always testing in the South Pacific, and annoyed
the hell out of their allies because the force de frappe couldn't hit
anything beyond Germany.
I don't see a pattern here.
After all, the only likely sellers of nuclear warheads are
Pakistan and China, and it's hard to believe that either one would risk
obliterating their relationship with the U.S. by talking to the Saudis
North Korea might well sell a small number of warheads, or provide assistance. Then again,
I wouldn't be surprised if Pakistan did --
after all, Pakistan, North Korea, and Iran
have cooperated on nuclear weapons and ballistic
missile technology in various combinations, Pakistan is an established proliferator.
OKay. The largest oil reserve system in the world isn't enough for
the Saudis. Now, they want to own the radioactive stuff, too.
Only thing is they've never built schools. The Muslims don't get
useful books. And, whatever they buy may not work. Whose to say? The
reason you see testing is that it's got to overcome large engineering
problems to function. Not Saudi's strong suit.
Meanwhile, an interesting book, Adventure Capitalism, by Jim Rogers,
had this wonderful businessman spend three years traveling the globe,
and talking about what he saw. He had a visa into Saudi Arabia; and this
is what he saw:
They're in debt, folks. They've gambled that oil prices will always
go higher to pay off their current bebt load. They've already spent
their future. And, are near collapse. (Sure, if the world wars, it's
possible the price of energy will climb); but no one really knows what's
The Saudi's are over-populated among their princes. The benefits of
being born one of them once ran high. Not any more. Right now there are
1.5 million Saudi girls of child-bearing age, unable to marry, because
in their society marriages are arranged. And, there's no room, now, for
such moves. (Love is not an option.)
That these sand fleas make an impression in America has more to do
with scam/aid and what the Dulles boys dropped on us in the State
Department; without elected officials, and with money to burn. Huge sums
of money. No accounting necessary.
ENRON was the tip of the dishonest iceberg. But until ACCOUNTABILITY
comes back into fashion I'm not so sure a nuke is what will do us all
A president who gets all flustered, however, when provoked by sand
fleas, well that's a problem right now. How long can this problem last?
Even dumb republicans see life stirring among the democrats. Imagine
if the democrats attract the moderates? What will the country club
fellas have left?
Well, what's in gonna be? How ugly can Rehnquist get? Can the Supreme-O's cancel 2004?
When the Recall here in California gets counted, just which side will have wished the 9th prevailed?
Half a million people have already voted absentee. This election may
be the blowout that local elections never have enjoyed before. So, it
should be interesting to watch the People speak.
Hard to get honest information from the presstitutes, by the way. In
Sweden they couldn't call the blowout victory (56%) against the Euro.
And, people are not deciding what to do at the last minute! People
make up there minds long before they cast their votes. You didn't know
You have a pretty nice blog. English is not my native language but it
was please to read your site. From Russia with love :)Sincerely yours..
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