x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Saudi Arabia has right to become nuclear power if Iran becomes one

The international community must prevent a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, writes Abdul Rahman Al Rashed for Asharq Al Awsat. Other topics discuss Iran-Gulf relations and Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.

Saudi Arabia has the right to become a nuclear power if Iran is permitted to become one

Should the US allow Iran to build nuclear weapon, Saudi Arabia would have the right to seek them as well, argued Abdul Rahman Al Rashed in the Saudi-owned newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

This would ensure that the balance of power between Saudi and Iran, which have been at loggerheads for decades, is maintained.

There has been talk about the intention of Saudi Arabia to buy a nuclear bomb from Pakistan. But is this possible under international deals that prohibit the transfer of nuclear bombs and to which both Saudi and Pakistan are signatories? And would nuclear weaponry add any value to the Saudi defence system?

Saudi Arabia is already said to have bought nuclear-capable missiles from China; a defecting official at the Saudi Consulate in New York said that Saudi was building a nuclear bomb to support Iraq; and earlier a US intelligence agency analyst said that Saudi had spent $2 billion (Dh7.35 bn) in support of Pakistan’s nuclear programme.

Certainly, Saudi Arabia does not possess a nuclear bomb yet. But the question is: if the US allows Iran to have the bomb, will Saudi not be entitled to protect itself by getting it as well, as Pakistan did before to maintain military balance with nuclear-armed India?

The writer answered affirmatively, noting that the country would be obliged to shield itself from the Iranian regime, either through a nuclear weapon or through deals able to maintain the balance of power in the Arabian Gulf.

The answer is yes considering Iran’s long-time hostility towards neighbouring Saudi Arabia. Iran is still holding the alleged mastermind of the Riyadh bombings; moreover, it has been involved in hostile activities in Yemen, Iraq and Bahrain.

And despite the fact that Israel has been most agitated about the intentions of the Iranian leadership, there must be no doubt that Saudi is a possible target, according to the columnist.

The Iranian nuclear weaponry, when achieved, is not going to be a defensive one, because Saudi has never attacked Iran; rather it will be used to deter major powers from getting involved in Iran’s regional conflicts.

“Although failure to stop Iran from completing its nuclear arms is a highly risky business, I’m not in favour of entering an arms race in the region,” the writer said.

Since Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Tehran in 1979, Iran has created chaos in the region, causing the aircraft carriers and battleships of major powers to be dispatched to the Gulf region.

And despite the strong arguments from Saudi and the Gulf states for a nuclear balance with Iran, this could be a more dangerous path, politically, environmentally and economically.

Determination by the international community to prevent Iran from building its nuclear weapon is the best solution.

Rouhani’s policy on UAE is no different

The election of Hassan Rouhani as president of Iran provided hope that the country would end a legacy of arrogance towards the Gulf, including its occupation of the UAE islands. But Iran’s response on Friday to recent UAE claims over the islands showed that the new Iranian government is no different than its predecessors, editorialised the Sharjah-based newspaper Al Khaleej.

The UAE has been keen to keep the doors of dialogue open with Iran to find a peaceful solution to Iran’s occupation of the islands of Abu Musa and Greater and Lesser Tunb, to no avail, with the government of President Rouhani turning out to be as intransigent as its predecessors.

During a joint news conference with visiting German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on Wednesday, UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah Bin Zayed said he hoped for a fresh start under Mr Rouhani, citing the 42-year-old issue of the occupied islands.

But a response from Tehran came to confirm Iran’s long-time haughtiness. “The three Iranian islands have been and will remain part of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Iran’s historical ownership of the islands is an undeniable fact,” the Iranian Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

Curiously, Iran is seeking to solve its problems with the West by all peaceful means possible; meanwhile, it is still adamant on souring its relationships with neighbouring states.

Brotherhood influence is shrinking even more

Having lost most of the common people, the Muslim Brotherhood is starting to lose its influence within universities, Emad Eddine Hussein wrote in the Cairo-based newspaper Al Shorouk.

Universities have long been targeted by the Brotherhood. Their strong base of loyalists there had been augmented by some students who were angry with the government for this or that reason. But, along the way, fatal mistakes have been made.

Egypt’s former grand mufti Ali Gomaa was harassed by pro-Brotherhood students at Cairo University, a mistake that has given rivals the same excuse to assault any Brotherhood leader with a different opinion.

The raids on the offices of university presidents were also mistakes. Attempt to disrupt education at any cost has prompted students and parents to lose any sympathy for the Brotherhood.

The deadliest of mistakes was giving the security services the excuse to bring police forces back to universities after the now-famous verdict of the Supreme Administrative Court to remove police from university campuses in 2010.

Whether the Brotherhood sparked clashes with security forces or was trapped into them, the result is that more people are now willing to accept a greater crackdown to establish order.

* Digest compiled by Abdelhafid Ezzouitni

AEzzouitni@thenational.ae