Saudi Arabia reserves the right to arm itself with nuclear weapons if regional rival Iran cannot be stopped from making one, the kingdom’s minister of state for foreign affairs has said.
“It’s definitely an option,” Adel al-Jubeir told the DPA news agency in a recent interview. If Iran becomes a nuclear power, he said, more countries would follow suit.
“And Saudi Arabia has made it very clear, that it will do everything it can to protect its people and to protect its territories.”
Tehran has been working on the use of nuclear power for decades. In 2015, it signed a landmark nuclear deal with world powers to stop the development of a bomb in exchange for lifting sanctions.
But US President Donald Trump in 2018 unilaterally withdrew his country from the deal and brought it to the brink of failure.
Trump’s administration wants a more far-reaching programme and an end to Iran’s regional interference – a position supported by Saudi Arabia.
“We believe the Iranians have only responded to pressure,” said al-Jubeir.
Asked what changes he anticipates could come once President-elect Joe Biden takes charge in January, he said: “We will have to see.”
Biden has promised to return to the nuclear deal but has said he will seek to put pressure on Iran’s regional activities and missile programmes, among other things.
Last week, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud urged the world to take a “decisive stance” to address Iran’s efforts to develop its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.
In response, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh called on the kingdom to refrain from “baseless allegations and hate-mongering”.