Over at SUSRIS, the Saudi-US Relations Information Service, veteran scholar on Saudi affairs Thomas Lippman updates his earlier 2008 paper on Saudi Arabia’s nuclear ambitions. He notes that Saudi Arabia has a domestic energy problem, one that can be partially fixed by nuclear. He also argues that despite concern that a program might lead to the desire to enrich uranium for weapons, it is “highly unlikely, however, that Saudi Arabia would wish to acquire its own nuclear arsenal or that it is capable of doing so.
“Money is not an issue — if destitute North Korea can develop nuclear weapons, Saudi Arabia surely has the resources to pursue such a program. With oil prices above $90 a barrel, Riyadh is flush with cash. But the acquisition or development of nuclear weapons would be provocative, destabilizing, controversial and extremely difficult for Saudi Arabia, and ultimately would be more likely to weaken the kingdom than strengthen it. The kingdom has committed itself to an industrialization and economic development program that depends on open access to global markets and materials; becoming a nuclear outlaw would be fatal to those plans.”
This is an important essay that touches on some key issues from one of the field’s foremost scholars. It’s worth a read in its entirety, and we thank SUSRIS for sharing it.