Saudi Arabia is ready to build nuclear weapons if Iran restarts its programme, the kingdom’s foreign minister said on Wednesday.
In an interview with CNN, Adel Jubeir said Saudi Arabia would “do whatever it takes” to protect its people following US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the from the Iran nuclear accord the previous day.
“We have made it very clear that if Iran acquires a nuclear capability we will do everything we can to do the same,” he said, clarifying that the kingdom would work to acquire its own nuclear capability.
The foreign minister’s comments echoed those of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who issued a similar warning in an interview with CBS in March.
“Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb, but without a doubt if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible,” the heir to the throne said.
Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies Bahrain and the UAE were among the voices of support for Trump’s decision on Tuesday having encouraged Washington to take a tougher stance on Iran’s ballistic missile programme and support for militant groups including Yemen’s Houthis.
As a reminder of the threat, Saudi air defences intercepted ballistic missiles fired from Yemen over Riyadh and the southern city of Jizan Wednesday. Two other projectiles fell short of their targets and crashed in the kingdom’s desert.
“We believe the nuclear deal was flawed,” Jubeir said. “We believe the deal does not deal with Iran’s ballistic missile programme nor does it deal with Iran’s support for terrorism.”
Saudi Arabia is hoping to enlist US support for a domestic nuclear energy programme. The kingdom plans to sign its first joint venture with a developer in 2019, with the eventual goal of building 17.6GW of nuclear capacity by 2032.
The oil-rich kingdom may be one of the key beneficiaries of Trump’s exit from the Iran deal as it is expected to step in with increased oil production to off-set restrictions on crude sales by Iran.