Saudi Arabia and its GCC allies are threatening to match Iran’s nuclear progress step-by-step, raising the specter of nuclear escalation in the Middle East. Unnamed GCC officials have told the New York Times’ David Sanger that President Obama would get an earful at Wednesday’s dinner last night at the White House, ahead of the Camp David summit which is to take place today:
“We can’t sit back and be nowhere as Iran is allowed to retain much of its capability and amass its research,” one of the Arab leaders preparing to meet Mr. Obama said on Monday, declining to be named until he made his case directly to the president. Prince Turki bin Faisal, the 70-year-old former Saudi intelligence chief, has been touring the world with the same message.
“Whatever the Iranians have, we will have, too,” he said at a recent conference in Seoul, South Korea.
If we are to take Prince Turki’s remarks to stand in for Riyadh’s general feelings (as the well-plugged-in Sanger apparently does), the Camp David summit should be a tense affair:
Prince Turki, while in Seoul, went further. “He did go behind the backs of the traditional allies of the U.S. to strike the deal,” he said of Mr. Obama during a presentation to the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, a South Korean research organization.
Although “the small print of the deal is still unknown,” he added, it “opens the door to nuclear proliferation, not closes it, as was the initial intention.”
President Obama’s push for the nuclear deal with Iran was supposed to prevent just this kind of situation. Many suspect Saudi Arabia’s financing of Pakistan’s nuclear program gives it a turnkey solution to catching up to Iran should it choose to do so. Turkey and Egypt would be likely to follow suit, leading to an unstable multipolar nuclear standoff between relatively weak and poorly institutionalized states—a nightmare scenario.