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Join the dots up and you might get a mushroom cloud

A little background:

Some years ago a small country in the Middle East said ‘never again’ and probably started to develop nuclear weapons. The existence of these weapons has never been confirmed nor has any threat ever been made to use them should they actually exist. It is a reasonable bet that they do exist.

Other countries in the region have toyed with the idea of acquiring similar weapons, with mixed success. Very early on it was announced by Egypt that a clever chap had managed to knock-up a nuclear weapon in his garage workshop but I don’t think that that was taken seriously then or now. Saddam Hussein purchased a nuclear reactor from France in the late nineteen seventies. Israel destroyed it in 1981.

The notorious or famous and revered depending where you come from, AQ Khan of Pakistan, is widely regarded as the father of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program due to his persuading successive Pakistani Governments to use Uranium rather than Plutonium. Having fathered the ‘Islamic bomb’ he then went on to flog the production techniques to that Asian Islamic state, North Korea. They in turn passed on this knowledge out of the goodness of their hearts and for hard currency to Iran and Syria. Israel as yet has either attacked North Korea or Pakistan, unless you count destroying a Syrian nuclear facility supplied by the North Koreans using know-how supplied by AQ Khan and warning Iran that their development of nuclear weapons constitutes a red line. Unlike American red lines, Israeli red lines once crossed tend to produce an explosive reaction. In fairness America does attack it’s ally Pakistan on a regular basis using drones. Possibly it has also got the message across to North Korea that their nuclear weapons program is not in their best interests. Or could it be that North Korea continues to basically thumb its nose at Uncle Sam but has been listening to their only diplomatic friend, China?

Bashar al-Assad the well-loved Syrian dictator started discussions with Pyongyang, North Korea concerning nuclear WMD in about 2001. In 2004 there was a massive explosion on a North Korean freight train. Syrian officials on board the train were killed and the North Koreans sealed off the site of the explosion and the area was allegedly decontaminated. The bodies of the Syrians were flown back to Syria in sealed lead coffins. Nobody has seriously suggested that a certain small middle-eastern country had anything to do with this event but in 2007 Israel destroyed what they claimed to be a nuclear reactor in Syria. Internationally this event was greeted with a massive silence. In 2011 the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) confirmed that the Syrian site had indeed been a nuclear reactor. Iran had allegedly coughed up US$1 billion on the basis that they could also use the facility if their own nuclear processing plants happened to become non-operational for any reason. North Korea had supplied fissile material and allegedly some North Korean technicians were killed when the site was destroyed.

North Korean involvement with Syria:

North Korea has been helping Syria develop non-nuclear WMD for a number of years, in the guise of missiles and chemical weapons.On the face of it, it’s difficult to see what North Korea would get out of smuggling fissile material to Syria, apart from hard currency which always comes in handy when your country is faced with  extensive economic sanctions. Of course it did open the door to ‘assisting’ Iran with their nuclear arms development program and it’s worth noting that the fissile material shipped to Syria was unloaded at the port of Tartus, a Russian naval base in Syria.. Doubtless the Russians were completely unaware of the nature of the cargo that had just been delivered to their only remaining client state in the Middle East.

In 2013 there are reports that North Korean military personnel are present in Syria and even credible suggestions that some North Korean pilots are flying missions for the Syrian Air Force. Assad may not be losing the civil war but he may be finding it increasingly difficult to find reliable Syrian Sunni soldiers and airmen to undertake the offensive. hence the well-documented presence of Hezbollah fighters helping him out and the occasional death of an Iranian Revolutionary Guard or two. Iranian clerics know that if Iran loses Syria as a regional ally then they will face increasing problems in maintaining their iron grip on Iran. There is increasing evidence that Syria has tried to ship chemical weapons and delivery systems to Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon. Israel has destroyed several such shipments and  destroyed an alleged chemical weapons production plant as well. America of course has talked about taking military action and ‘outraged of Westminster’ wanted to join in the fun but couldn’t persuade the British Parliament that his chum Barack actually had any idea what he would do after he’d bombed bits of Syria..

Enter Saudi Arabia:

After years of dropping broad hints that they weren’t happy with the idea of nuclear weapons in the Middle East the BBC has finally got around to reporting it. Suffice it to say the Saudi concern doesn’t appear to be that Israel most likely has nuclear weapons but that Iran will acquire them. The Saudi response to the BBC report is interesting. It doesn’t mention Israel at all. A case of the elephant in the room or a tacit acknowledgement that Israel poses no nuclear threat to the Kingdom?

Israel as yet has not commented on the possibility of Saudi Arabia acquiring nuclear weapons. It is true that both countries have a vested interest in ensuring that Iran does not acquire them but there are few hints that Saudi and Israel are talking to each other…except the rumor that  surfaced a few months ago that Jordan and Israel had agreed to cooperate militarily if the Syrian civil war spread. If true this is not something that Jordan would either initiated or agreed to without a nod from neighbour Saudi Arabia. Mind you, there are more rumours than you can shake a stick at in the Middle East so it might not be true.

Some analysts are claiming that Pakistan would only deliver nuclear weapons to Saudi Arabia if they retained control of them. The same analysts maintain that this is because Pakistan fears world-0reaction if they simply handed over the weapons which it appears that Saudi Arabia has paid for. This bit of logic ignores two bits of uncomfortable truth. The first is to do with the Saudi psyche. If they’ve paid for something they damn well want it and they want control of it. The second is that if the World Bank ‘got funny’ with Pakistan Saudi Arabia is well able to step into the breach, at least in the medium term and fund Pakistan’s various aid programs. Such as funding for the Taliban in Afghanistan by elements within ISI, the Pakistani military intelligence agency. Yes that’s right, Pakistan is in effect funding the Taliban to attack American forces in Afghanistan. That’s America, the supposed ally of Pakistan. Perhaps that explains why America regularly attacks Taliban forces based in Pakistan and ignores anguished Pakistani complaints. So would Saudi Arabia agree to indirectly fund attacks on American troops? Well they certainly did during the aftermath of the American-lead invasion of Iraq. You might recall that Saudi Arabia was desperate for American help when it appeared Saddam Hussein was going to attack them in 1990-1991. However ten years down the road it appeared to the Saudis that Saddam was effectively blocking Iranian expansion in the Gulf area and they were a bit miffed when the Americans removed him from power. All might have been well if America then went on to thump the regime in Iran as well but as we all know they didn’t. Saudi lost faith in America as an ally and ironically it’s now arch enemy Israel that is in effect a possible defender of Saudi Arabian interests in the region. Complicated isn’t it but stay with me.Oh and I should say that there has been a bloodless coup transfer of power in Qatar, which is now quietly dropping it;s support for the Muslim Brotherhood in general, the former MB government in Egypt in particular and Al-Qaeda affiliates operating in in Syria.

With all this going on and given the satellite photos of an alleged Saudi missile launch site which shows launch ramps orientated towards both Israel and Iran, why would Saudi Arabia want to acquire nuclear weapons? To briefly recap: Iraq tried it and Israel bombed the site. Syria tried it and Israel bombed the site. Iran is trying it and Israel has allegedly launched successful cyber attacks on Iran, allegedly assassinated Iranian nuclear scientists and generally let it be known that they take a dim view of Iran’s attempts to become a nuclear power. Experience shows that an Israeli dim view of something tends to result in a dramatic ‘situation-changer’. Why would Saudi Arabia risk it? Are they and Israel somehow in cahoots?

Iran’s diplomatic dance:

One possible answer is the latest Iranian diplomatic sideways shuffle. Now they (the Iranians) might be quietly confident that their mate Bashar is going to win the civil war in Syria but there are two countries they fear even if they don’t like to admit it. America could stop them in their tracks if Obama ever woke up and started reading his intelligence reports and Israel could leave them with a severe limp and an eclectic collection of large smoking craters. that were formerly revolutionary Guard naval bases, airfields and some nuclear processing plants. In the latter scenario the faint cheering in the background would be coming from the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia.

Both Israel and Saudi Arabia agree, or at least make the same assessment if not actually putting their heads together and talking about it, that the latest Iranian attempt to bamboozle the West about it’s nuclear ambitions is exactly that. They aren’t serious and are stalling for time and possibly a better deal. In order to be perceived as a warm and cuddly liberal, new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani even said when visiting the UN in New York a large city situated in ‘The Great Satan’ that he thought that the Holocaust was a crime against humanity. Previously Iran had denied that it ever took place and was simply Zionist propaganda. This was dismissed by Israel as a nice bit of window dressing as he went on to slightly contradict himself in an interview. However, despite the fact that rent-a-mob still gathers on the streets of Tehran and chants ‘death to America’ Rouhani has said that his government doesn’t support their view of the negotiations with America but it would cause too much internal dissent to put a stop to it. He could well be telling the truth as his boss, Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is one of those who support the street demonstrations.

Now here’s the thing. Just suppose that Iran has decided to step back from the nuclear brink? America would lead the way in easing if not dropping sanctions and Israel would have little further interest in Iran, apart from their support of Hezbollah.If, against all the odds, Iran stepped back from proxy confrontation with Israel and dropped it’s nuclear arms development program in return for Israel looking the other way whilst the Iranians expanded their interests in the Gulf region America probably wouldn’t be bothered by it, if they were on friendlier terms or at least talking to the Iranians. That would leave Saudi Arabia and their circle hung out to dry. Hence perhaps the attempt to acquire nuclear weapons.

It’s still not a good idea. Oh and Pakistani direct involvement would lead them into some sort of confrontation with Israel which they don’t have at the moment. Actually in some matters they quietly cooperate. On the other hand Israel and India are on reasonably friendly terms and militarily India is more powerful than Pakistan.No, it really wouldn’t be a good idea but that’s never stopped politicians before.



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