Iran will not be the last Middle Eastern nation to get atomic weapons after President Obama formalizes the collapse of Western resistance to nuclear proliferation. Also, they probably won’t be the first.
Israel National News quotes Emily B. Landau of the Institute of National Security Studies, speculating that the Saudis are already nuke shopping in Pakistan and might well be able to purchase nuclear weapons before Iran can build them.
Saudi Arabia is the #1 contender to get nuclear weapons because there is a perceived relationship there with Pakistan. Saudi Arabia has financed Pakistan’s ballistic missile program and there might be some arrangement already in place on nuclear capability. Saudi Arabia might be able to buy a bomb from Pakistan.
Landau also thought Egypt and Turkey would quickly declare themselves uncomfortable with an Iranian nuclear edge, especially since Turkey “wants to have a more assertive role in the Middle East.”
It has been observed that fiery Muslim rhetoric against a supposedly warmongering Israel is strongly at variance with relaxed attitudes about Israel’s nuclear arsenal, which everyone knows they would never use aggressively. No such guarantees exist with nations like Iran or Saudi Arabia. “Israel is an assumed nuclear state but is defensive in the nuclear realm,” said Landau. “I don’t think this will be the case with Iran. Iran has hegemonic ambition and would like nuclear weapons to serve its interests in expanding those ambitions throughout the region.”
She went on to explain that even if Iran does not execute its nuclear capabilities immediately, they will be able to perpetrate all sorts of mischief that would currently draw a response from Saudi Arabia and its allies, like the action we are currently seeing in Yemen. (At the time of the Israel National News interview, the bombs had not started falling in Yemen yet, so Landau discusses Saudi military operations against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels as a theoretical possibility.) Such pushback will be off the table if a nuclear Iran decides to do something like conquer the island of Bahrain.
If the apocalyptic rhetoric of the mullahs is taken seriously, Israel has good reason to worry about Iran using nuclear weapons against them. If not, the Saudis have the most reason to fear Iran will carry out an aggressive regional strategy beneath its nuclear umbrella. If the Saudis buy themselves a nuclear umbrella first, would they be comparably aggressive against Iran—and wouldn’t that give Iran even more incentives to cheat on whatever “nuclear deal” they eventually agree to with the U.S. and its allies? Does everyone back down when everyone has a nuclear umbrella, or do the odds of a conflict escalating to the unthinkable increase?