“Saudi Arabia isnâ€™t going to build a nuclear weapon. Saudi Arabia canâ€™t build a nuclear weapon. Saudi Arabia hasnâ€™t even built a car.”
See Why Saudi Arabia canâ€™t get a nuclear weaponFareed Zakaria is a very wise man but he makes a mistake asserting that Saudi Arabia can’t go nuclear. They already have gone nuclear. In the 1980s I worked there on the cyclotron at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh. They now have several similar accelerators. They had no problem recruiting technically competent people from elsewhere and training their own people to use nuclear technology. If they wanted to make a “dirty bomb” they could run a milliampere beam of protons into water-cooled copper for a few months, powder the result by electrolysis and disperse the product with bombs/shells/balloons/whatever. More production? They could build cyclotrons by the dozen per annum for as long as they needed. They already have a working model. Alpha-emitters? Just bombard something else… They have a bunch of nuclear reactors in the pipeline. Think about that… A delivery system? They have jet planes, pilots, rockets, robotics, artillery. Nothing holds them back. While Saudi Arabia may not have had the best educational system on Earth, they have for ages sent intelligent young people to learn all kinds of technologies. They don’t need millions of educated people to build big bombs, just a few and a lot of workers/robots. Money, material and energy are the real obstacles and the Saudis have them covered thanks to the world’s thirst for oil. The entire Manhatten project cost about $26billion in today’s money, a few weeks of oil production for Saudi Arabia.
Need more bang? Zakaria should be reminded that the Manhatten Project produced multiple bombs with a few thousand man-years of effort and a lot of energy and metal. There must be thousands of Saudis or foreigners working for them who could solve all the necessary problems and develop a plan within a few weeks using modern technology. In the 1940s folks did it with paper/pencil/chalk/slide-rules and a computer with the power of a pocket-calculator. The Saudis pump 10 million barrels of oil per day and generate gigawatts of electricity from natural gas. There’s no shortage of energy to run any enrichment programme. They have uranium. Everyone has it. It’s in the rock and it’s just a matter of mining and extracting to get it. They could have a nasty nuclear weapon within two years if they set their minds to it. They may have already started…
When I was in Saudi Arabia, I could feel the hatred of Iran. It was palpable. They hated the Iranians more than Israel. The only thing that has prevented them going nuclear years ago was promised support from USA. The Obama administration has cured them of that. Obama has not stood up to Assad or ISIL and is not standing up to Iran. As far as I know, no agreement will prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons sooner or later. It would be foolish for the Saudis not to head the Iranians off. MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction) worked for USA/Russia/China. Why would the Saudis not think it could work for them? Given the short distance and the religious/political/national polarization of the two countries MAD is the only likely successful means of securing the region. Then there is the matter of Israel. As long as Israel remains at war with local Arabs/muslims, Saudi Arabia, as “protector of the faith” will remain under pressure to do something about Israel and the USA is not helping one bit by propping Israel up. Saudi Arabia has every reason to go nuclear and more than enough means.
Wake up, Fareed!