21 Sep 2023 Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) said the kingdom will obtain a nuclear weapon if its rival Iran does so first, in a wide-ranging interview with Fox News on Wednesday (September 20), wherein he touched upon the normalisation of ties with Israel as well.
“If they (Iran) get one (nuclear weapon), we have to get one,” MBS could be heard saying in one of the video clips of the interview.
Speaking about the threats associated, MBS said the kingdom is “concerned” whenever any country acquires a nuclear weapon. However, he suggests that no one would use a nuclear weapon because this would mean starting a “war with the rest of the world”.
“Any country use a nuclear weapon that means they are having a war with the rest of the world. The world cannot see another Hiroshima. If the world sees 100,000 people dead that mean you are in a war with the rest of the world,” said MBS.
Ever since former US president Donald Trump reneged on the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and the Joe Biden administration refused to get back to it, Tehran has sped up its nuclear advances – threatening the stability of the region.
Notably, it was in 2016 that Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, announced its plan to build 16 nuclear reactors over the next two decades with a budget of $80 billion.
Two years later, the kingdom approved its national atomic energy policy which limits the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
However, some experts believe that Riyadh is trying to hedge its bets as arch-rival Iran continues to make waves with its nuclear weapons programme.
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud last year made statements, echoing the crown prince’s version, saying the kingdom will take steps to shore up its security if Tehran gets an ‘operational nuclear weapon’.
“If Iran gets an operational nuclear weapon, all bets are off. We are in a very dangerous space in the region…you can expect that regional states will certainly look towards how they can ensure their own security.”
In another part of the interview, MBS touched upon the peace deal with Israel and said progress was being made to realise normalisation in the ties.
“Every day we get closer, it seems it’s for the first time real one serious. We get to see how it goes,” said MBS, adding that the Palestinian issue in the context of normalisation with Israel remained significant.
“For us, the Palestinian issue is very important. We need to solve that part. We got to see where we go. We hope that will reach a place, that it will ease the life of the Palestinians, get Israel as a player in the Middle East,” he added.
The statement by the crown prince came hours after United States President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met on the sidelines of the UNGA and vowed to forge a historic peace deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia.