US withdrawal from Iran nuclear deal welcomed by Israel, Saudi Arabia

World Today

It’s unclear if the U.S. pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal this week will cause the agreement to collapse. Donald Trump’s decision triggered global criticism.

But it was welcomed by Israel and Saudi Arabia. The former is already believed to be a nuclear power, while the latter may be looking to get there.

CGTN’s Roee Ruttenberg reports.

Israel has been Iran’s adversary for decades.

Its Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has been leading the charge against the agreement, signed between Tehran and major international players in 2015. Israel also maintains a policy of nuclear ambiguity. It neither confirms nor denies it has nuclear weapons, as a means of deterrence. It is the only country in the Middle East that’s hasn’t signed a global treaty to the prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

“No one really doubts that Israel is ready to use nuclear weapons,” George Szamuely, a Global Policy Institute analyst at London Metropolitan University said. “I don’t see that they gain anything by admitting that they are a nuclear power.”

Meanwhile, Riyadh has put out bids to build more than a dozen nuclear reactors in Saudi Arabia over the next several years. Officially, the project is intended to produce energy for domestic consumption. But with its archrival Iran having the potential to develop nuclear weapons, the Saudis may soon have a similar objective. “We will do whatever it takes to protect our people,” said Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir. “We have made it very clear that if Iran acquires a nuclear capability we will do everything we can to do the same.”

The White House has suggested a sale to Riyadh that would restrict its ability to enrich uranium to levels needed to make a weapon. The Saudis object, and may seek other less-stringent partners.

“I think maybe they’re just talking back in order to throw some uncertainty into the equation,” Szamuely said. “But, I really don’t think that the Saudi’s have any intentions of trying to buck with what the United States wants.”

If the Iran deal collapses, Tehran itself could act faster to acquire nuclear weapons. Some fear such weapons could find their way across the border to Syria, where the government of President Bashar al-Assad is largely propped-up by Iran.

Last month, Turkey started construction of its first nuclear power station in Mersin. It’s being built with Russian help. And Moscow is also building a nuclear power plant in Dabaa, Egypt. This week, officials in Cairo said they were concerned for the safety and stability of the region and its people.

Experts warn the more these materials move around, from state to state, the more likely they could fall into the hands of non-state players, like Hezbollah and ISIL. That, they said, could pose a threat far greater than any regional arms race.