RIYADH- Fears that an Iranian nuclear weapon might trigger an atomic
arms race across the Middle East are overplayed, a US security think
tank said on Tuesday, arguing that countries like Saudi Arabia face big
disincentives against getting the bomb.
Western powers believe
Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon under cover of a civilian
atomic electricity program, a charge Tehran denies.
Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter, is engaged in a fierce
rivalry with Shi'ite power Iran and is seen in Western countries as the
most likely Middle Eastern state to seek an atomic weapon if Iran did
Analysts have also said an Iranian nuclear weapons capability might persuade Egypt and Turkey to seek a bomb too.
which has never declared its atomic weapons capability, is thought to
be the Middle East's only nuclear-armed power now although Iran's
eastern neighbor Pakistan has atomic weapons.
In December 2011,
former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal said that if
Tehran did gain nuclear weapons capability, Saudi Arabia should consider
Riyadh has also announced plans to build 17
gigawatts of atomic energy by 2032 as it moves to reduce domestic oil
consumption, freeing up more crude for export.
However, a report
by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) says that although
there is some risk that Saudi Arabia would seek an atomic bomb, it would
more likely rely on its ally, the United States, to protect it.
"The conventional wisdom is probably wrong," the report said.
if Saudi Arabia wished to acquire a bomb, "significant disincentives
would weigh against a mad rush by Riyadh to develop nuclear weapons".
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