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Signs of a Policy Failure
Israeli Op-Ed: Help the Saudis Get a Nuke

Is this a sign of the world gone mad, or a sign of a sane response to a mad world? Israeli thinkers are contemplating the unimaginable—helping Saudi Arabia get the bomb if Iran goes nuclear. Amir Oren, a senior correspondent for the paper, writes in an op-ed in Ha’aretz:

If Iran violates the deal taking shape with the world powers and insists on obtaining nuclear weapons, Israel’s response must be the opposite of its traditional line. Israel shouldn’t keep threatening to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities; this would produce short-term gains. Instead, it should warn that it will obstruct an Iranian nuclear monopoly in the Persian Gulf by helping Saudi Arabia obtain a nuclear capability.

This runs contrary to the traditional approach, in which Israel fears a chain reaction of a nuclear Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia once Iran gets the bomb. It’s a nightmare for strategic planners in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv (and Washington).

A different tack would aim to convince the Iranians that it’s better to forgo the bomb. Incentives so far have centered around economic sanctions (and the lifting of them). The Israeli and American threat of military action remains in place, but its operational and political credibility is a problem.

Ha’aretz is essentially the Israeli New York Times—the voice of the respectable, center-left elite. To find this kind of thinking—America has screwed up so badly we might want to slip the Saudis a nuke—in its pages is a sign of how drastically things have changed in the Middle East.

It’s almost superfluous to point out that until recently, the Saudis have been dedicated wholeheartedly to Israel’s destruction, and foremost amongst her enemies. Even given their recent rapprochement, Saudi Arabia is not exactly philo-Semitic. Until yesterday, almost, anyone in Israel would have regarded this suggestion as insane; apparently, not any longer.

We’ve noted before that the most likely path to a Saudi nuke would be through fellow Sunni, and nuclear, Pakistan, whom the Saudis have subsidized generously. But a story like this should illustrate just what a Pandora’s box will be opened in the Middle East if the other regional powers do not believe Iran is being credibly restrained.

Nothing will be certain in such a scenario, or liable to linear prediction. Managing such a mess would be challenging even to the most gifted statesmen. As we move toward an endgame, our friends and partners are trying to let us know just how high they believe the stakes to be. Are we listening?

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  • Dan Greene

    Yeah, go ahead, Israel and give the Saudis nuclear weapons. You’ll end up as the biggest loser. Oren probably realizes that in the wake of Pakistan’s refusal to be dragged into Yemen, and with China investing huge amounts of money over the long term in Pakistan, the Saudis certainly can’t count for sure on the Paks for a nuclear arsenal of their own.

    If Iran goes ahead and acquires nuclear weapons and Israel wants to continue its history of proliferating weapons of mass destruction, then go for it. It’s all academic anyway. The likelihood of Iran triggering such as move–at least as long as it remains an Islamic state–is of a very low order. So, sure, let’s go with Oren’s plan. Now, to return to something more important, let’s conclude the agreement with Iran

    • GS

      A couple years ago there was a presentation by retired US General Barry McCaffrey, he is now in the security consulting business. According to his analysis at the time, the only realistic Israeli option re iranian nuclear program was a pre-emptive nuclear attack. Taking that program down by the conventional means would require a prolonged (he estimated several months of air attacks) campaign for which Israel is simply not equipped and does not have the logistical train.

      • Dan Greene

        Show me your evidence that there even IS an Iranian nuclear weapons program. What was McCaffrey’s?

        • GS

          Matthew 13:15: “…and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears…”
          If there is no such program, why go to the great lengths [and risk a lot, including the risk to one’s people on the ground] in trying to sabotage it and to kill its key personnel?

          • Dan Greene

            So that’s your argument? Why would Israel assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists if there weren’t a nuclear weapons program?

            Great logic! And no answer at all. All that Israel’s support for the MeK and Jundallah terrorists indicates is simply that Israel is a vicious and paranoid rogue state. Israeli paranoia does not constitute proof of Iranian actions or goals.

            I’ll reiterate my question: What is your evidence that there is an Iranian nuclear weapons program? (And Israel’s murderous paranoia is NOT proof of any kind.)

        • Fred

          Good thinking Dan. A country floating on f***ing oil obviously needs nuclear power to meet its energy needs. What color is the sky in your world, Dan? As for most conspiracy nuts, I’m guessing black.

          • Dan Greene

            Your intellectual incompetence is unsurpassed, Fred.

            Iran is NOT “floating on oil.” It has a lot, but its production peaked in 1974 and is in decline. In any case, oil needs to be husbanded for transportation fuels and for export. Oil and petroleum condensates account for over 3/4 of Iranian exports.

            Natural gas production, on the other hand, is rising. When Iran first started looking at nuclear power generation under the Shah, the use of natural gas for many energy needs was still quite limited. The main impetus for nuclear power was the expected decline in oil production–which has materialized–and the then infancy of natural gas technologies. Since then, three key developments have taken place: 1. Natural gas technologies for heating/cooling/transportation/electricity have taken off. 2. Iran’s natural gas reserves have more than doubled. 3. Iran’s quest for nuclear power has gone beyond energy needs and is now a symbol of Iranian sovereignty, mostly because the US and Israel have tried so hard to deny Iran its NPT rights to produce nuclear energy for itself. And, yes, they want other states to know that they have mastered the nuclear fuel cycle and COULD produce nuclear weapons IF they wanted to.

            In any case, although Iranian natural gas production and reserves are increasing substantially, gas will one day peak and decline. Even now, Iran doesn’t export that much more than it imports (mostly from Turkmenistan):

            “In 2009, Iran’s imports and exports of natural gas were roughly balanced. Iran is particularly dependent on imports during winter months, when residential space-heating demand peaks during colder weather . In 2011, Iran’s imports of natural gas grew to 1,024 MMcf/d, while its exports totaled 875 MMcf/d. Preliminary data for 2012 show that, on average, Iran exported more natural gas (850 MMcf/d) than it imported (513 MMcf/d).”

            So Iran is barely a net exporter of natgas. It doesn’t make sense for Iran to wait until a crisis to develop alternate energy capabilities. Why do Canada, the US and Russia have nuclear power plants given their huge hydrocarbon and hydroelectric production?

            Your problem, Fred, is that you are just too damn lazy to engage with the facts. Instead, you showcase your intellectual lassitude with each post you make.


          • JR

            Like I told GS, pretend that Dan Greene is a bum who bursts into a subway car reeking of week old urine and BO and starts ranting and raving about a cabal of Illuminati (in his case Zionists) that control EVERYTHING!!! Now read his comments with that image in mind. It is all making sense now, right?

  • FriendlyGoat

    Anybody can write anything in an Op-Ed. But there would be something really CRAZY going on if official Israel decided to give nuclear weapons to Saudi Arabia

    AS THOUGH the king there cannot be over-run by his own people who are nuttier than the king.

    AS THOUGH Israel might believe that Sunnis really hate Shiites more than they hate Jews and other infidels.

    AS THOUGH Israel would rather depend on Saudi Arabia to defend Israel by shooting a nuke than to depend on only itself to do any needed nuke shooting.

    AS THOUGH Israel might think it can purchase Saudi citizen loyalty from Islamists.

    AS THOUGH Israel, as a gazelle, might think that if one lion has big teeth, then two lions with big teeth would be better.

    I’m afraid I don’t “get it”.

  • Corlyss

    “this would produce short-term gains”

    When the “short term gain” is survival, if not making the final move too costly to contemplate, it is worth it.

    “and foremost amongst her enemies”

    Not while Iran run by crazy suicidal mullahs.

    “Are we listening?”
    You guys don’t still get it: Doofus don’t give a hoot. His and Val’s fantasy land is much more cozy and comfortable.

  • זאב ברנזון

    reading Ha’aretz is your mistake
    Ha’aretz represents the northern tel aviv intelligentsia and the hard left

    in no way shape or form is it respectable like the NYT
    or representative of mainstream Israel
    your ignorence of israel is stagering

    • GS

      Well, you made at least two mistakes. The first one was to say that the NYT is respectable. And then your ignorence extended so far as to misspell the word “ignorance”.

  • Really?

    If anything the op-ed illustrates the level of desperation in Israel at the imminent nuclear deal with Iran, but let’s face it: the logic is faulty.

    In no way will a nuclear-armed Saudi Arabia improve the security of Israel. No matter what the balance of power in the Gulf, Israel will still need to deter an Iranian first strike or ‘dirty bomb via proxy’ on its own. There is no conceivable scenario where Saudi Arabia intervenes on behalf of the jewish state in a confrontation with Iran. And anyway, Iran wants a bomb so it can push back against the U.S. in the region, and not because Saudi Arabia might get nuclear weapons.

    Notwithstanding any of the above, haaretz belongs on the loony left and has been losing touch with reality for more than decade.

  • Kevin

    This is the fruit of the moral and political insanity of academic Neo-Realism, which sees nuclear weapon proloiferation throughtout the Middle East as a positive development because no one would every rationally use them and as a force for stability. Ken Waltz, the originator of Neo -Realism, even applied this thinking to terrrorist groups acquiring nuclear weapons. This sort of thinking among academics has lead to international relations being either irrelevant or positively dangerous to American security policy for a generation.

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