Saudi Arabia will work to build its own nuclear weapons if Iran acquires them, according to the kingdom’s heir apparent.
Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, popularly known as MBS, says his country would have no choice but to match Tehran’s nuclear capability.
“Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb, but without a doubt if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible,” MBS told CBS in an interview that will air on Sunday.
MBS’ interview, his first for American television, comes in advance of his much-hyped visit to Washington, D.C., next week. The crown prince has sought to strengthen Saudi Arabia’s already deep ties to Washington by backing the Trump administration’s hawkish approach to Iran, the kingdom’s historical Mideast rival.
Though MBS has been widely hailed in Western media as a “reformer” for liberalizing some policies on women’s rights, questions remain about his internal power plays and aggressive moves abroad. He has drawn international condemnation for Saudi Arabia’s war against Houthi rebels in neighboring Yemen, a conflict that has killed thousands of civilians and created one of the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophes.
Part of MBS’ reform program involves reducing oil-rich kingdom’s dependence on carbon energy by developing nuclear power capability. The U.S., South Korea, Russia, France and China are bidding on a multi-billion dollar proposal to build Saudi Arabia’s first nuclear reactors.
Saudi Arabia says it wants nuclear technology only for peaceful purposes, but some analysts worry the kingdom can easily enrich uranium to produce nuclear fuel for atomic weapons — the same process that drove concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.
Saudi Arabia’s cabinet approved Tuesday a national nuclear policy that restricts all nuclear activities to peaceful purposes, within the limits defined by international treaties, according to state media.
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