Does Saudi Arabia have a nuclear weapon?

Don't Panic!... Your war questions answered

Even in today’s harshly divided political and cultural climate, there are still things upon which pretty much every sane, lucid-thinking American can agree. For example, nearly everyone who isn’t allergic to peanuts can agree that chocolate and peanuts are two great tastes that taste great together.

Example No. 2: For manufacturing lucrative entertainment careers for not just one but two of his profoundly talentless daughters, Joe Simpson is the greatest showbiz impresario of the past 25 years. Any objections? I didn’t think so.

Example No. 3: Even a strong belief in the idea that “What happens in Las Vegas stays in Vegas” will not protect you from genital herpes. If you don’t believe me, then I suggest that you ask your doctor if Valtrex is right for you.

Example No. 4: When it comes to national security, I think we can all agree that the world would be safer if weapons of mass destruction did not fall into the hands of unstable, undemocratic countries that support international terrorism and fundamentalist Islam. That’s precisely the belief that got the American people and Congress to support the war in Iraq. It’s the same reason we’re inching toward a diplomatic and/or military showdown with Iran.

OK, so if we’re all in agreement that terror-friendly governments getting WMDs is a scary thing and that our government should be acting to prevent it from happening, then that raises the question, “What are we doing about Saudi Arabia?”

A recent report in the Asia Times newspaper suggests that Saudi Arabia might already have nuclear weapons. Here’s what we know and what we should be worried about:

Saudi Arabia is a corrupt, unstable, human rights-trampling monarchy. The kingdom’s ruling family and elements of the country’s security apparatus are infested with al-Qaeda sympathizers. Nobody except Saudi Arabia’s PR firms can argue with that.

We also know that last month, Saudi Arabia refused to grant the International Atomic Energy Agency the right to a full inspection of Saudi Arabia’s nuclear facilities. To the dismay of the IAEA, the country would only agree to smaller-scale, less thorough inspections.

We know that Saudi Arabia doesn’t have a home-grown nuclear weapons program, or even any power reactors that can be used to make nuclear fuel. What some Saudi watchers fear, however, is that Saudi Arabia has purchased or made arrangements to purchase nuclear warheads from Pakistan.

We know that top Saudi officials have visited Pakistan’s nuclear weapons lab. In turn, Pakistan’s nuclear godfather/salesman, Dr. A.Q. Khan, has visited military facilities in Saudi Arabia. We know that there are ongoing high-level exchanges and meetings between Saudi and Pakistani nuclear scientists. We know that Khan sold nuclear weapons materials to North Korea, Iran and Libya, and that he tried to sell them to Saddam Hussein (who actually turned him down). Considering the ongoing high-level contacts between the two countries’ nuclear scientists, I’m gonna go ahead and guess that Khan made similar offers to Saudi Arabia.

We know from a Saudi government defector that Saudi Arabia has wanted to acquire nukes for 30 years and that in the past it provided financial support to Pakistan in exchange for the promise that Pakistan would nuke anyone who nuked Saudi Arabia first. (The foreign enemies that Saudi Arabia fears are Iran and Israel, although even the most Jew-hating Saudi has to know that Israel wouldn’t nuke anyone who didn’t nuke, gas or germ-attack them first.)

Such an alliance also would be consistent with the fact that Saudi Arabia is increasingly uncomfortable relying on the United States for military support and nuclear deterrence. Saudi leaders know that 9/11 clued in a lot of Americans on the fact that even though Saudi Arabia keeps the world’s gas tanks full, it also funds terrorists and the religious schools around the world that indoctrinate people to hate the West.

Perhaps most ominously, we know that Saudi Arabia has long had nuclear-capable Chinese ballistics missiles. With a Pakistani-made nuclear warhead mounted on top, the kind that would easily fit inside one of the Saudi military transport planes witnessed jetting back and forth between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan between October 2003 and 2004, the Saudi missiles could easily hit Israel, Iran, or American forces in Iraq.

Would Saudi Arabia’s top leadership want to mount such an attack? Of course not. But the al-Qaeda agents and sympathizers trying to overthrow Saudi Arabia’s monarchy probably wouldn’t hesitate.

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