Prior to this, official Saudi policy had involved getting the international community to put pressure on Iran to not develop nuclear weapons, but it is clear that this has not worked because Donald Trump is stating that Iran has violated the 2015 nuclear deal and it is now highly likely that the US will pull out of the deal.
Thus, Saudi policy had to change and so Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced this on CBS shortly before his meeting with Trump. This has divided lawmakers around the world, who do not want Saudi Arabia or Iran to have nuclear weapons, but especially do not want a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.
Lawmakers like Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who said: “The Saudi crown prince has emphasized what many have long suspected, that nuclear power in Saudi Arabia is more than electric power, it’s geopolitical power … And the US should not waive the requirements of non-enrichment in any 123 agreement it may reach.”
The 123 agreement refers to section 123 of the 1954 US Atomic Energy Act, which establishes a cooperation agreement for nuclear deals between the US and any other nation.
But this shocking reveal was most likely intended to warn politicians in Europe, the US, and Iran that Saudi Arabia would not be standing down in the face of a nuclear Iran and so the lawmakers should not remain silent on Iran’s nuclear capabilities.
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed, the former general manager of Al Arabiya news channel, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, wrote on Al Arabiya: “Opponents of the crown prince’s stance have two options; either work hard to prevent Iran obtaining nuclear weapons [allowing Saudi Arabia to rest easy that there is no nuclear threat], or accept that Saudi Arabia has the right to do so in self-defence.”
He said that Iran, which is headed by an “extremist fascist and theocratic regime”, would not hesitate to use nuclear weapons to “eliminate” its enemies or “blackmail” other countries in order to “achieve its expansionist goals”.
Of course, it is worth noting that Iran will never give up its pursuit of nuclear weapons, no matter what deal is in place. The only way to see a non-nuclear Iran is to support the Iranian people’s call for regime change.