Deal with Iran: Payback for Saudi Role on 9-11? (L’Orient Le Jour, Lebanon)
If senior officials of one of your closest allies played a role in the most devastating terrorist attacks ever to strike your country – it seems logical that one might look for alternatives. So – did the Saudi role in the September 11th attacks figure in the agreement on Iran’s nuclear program reached in Vienna last week? In this interview with Lebanon’s L’Orient Le Jour, Dr. Patrice Gourdin, Professor Emeritus at the French Air Force academy École de l’air, suggests as much, alluding to the 28 pages of the 9-11 Commission Report that remain classified, and which almost certainly relate to this subject. He also dispels fears that the Saudis might build their own nuclear program in response to the Iran deal, saying that Riyadh has neither the know-how, the industrial base nor the capacity to defy Washington that such a program would require.
Talking to L’Orient Le Jour, Patrice Gourdin answers a question in relation to whether Saudi Arabia might now launch a nuclear program to counter Iran’s:
L’Orient Le Jour: Could Saudi Arabia, a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, undertake to develop a military nuclear program?
Dr. Patrice Gourdin: Let us remember the adage that “proliferators aren’t those who want to, but those who can.” Obtaining a nuclear weapons capacity implies much more than financial means, which are necessary but insufficient. Scientific and technical competence is also required, as well as a specific kind of industrial base. Saudi Arabia has neither – and it would take it years to hope to acquire them. Let’s not forget that Iran’s nuclear program dates back over 40 years, and that after it was curtailed at the advent of the Islamic Republic (1979), it resumed following the Iraqi aggression of 1980 [Iran-Iraq War]. At the time, Riyadh hardly seemed capable of asserting itself as a regional power – and the difficulties it has encountered in Yemen would tend to attest to that. How, in this case, can it ignore the regional and international pressure against proliferation?
L’Orient Le Jour: Do the Americans have an interest in its Saudi ally arming itself with nuclear weapons?
Dr. Patrice Gourdin: The United States is opposed to any nuclear proliferation. The consistency with which it has worked against the Iranian program attests to that. Nothing suggests that eventual Saudi proliferation would be tolerated. The fact is that now, Riyadh has no capacity to free itself from the American alliance. The pact between the two counties agreed to aboard the [battle cruiser USS] Quincy in 1945 (American protection of the Saudi dynasty in return for oil supplies to the United States … and her Western allies) remains vital to the Saudi monarchy at a time when it confronts the menace of Daesh] and the regional assertion of Iranian power. The American guarantee is the principal – if not the sole – asset that allows it to hope to remain in power. On the other hand, with the diversification of sources of supply since to first oil shock (1973), shale gas exploitation has allowed the United States to free itself from dependence on Middle East oil. Also, they are less obliged to accept deviances from their partners in the region.
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