Western and Middle Eastern sources have told this magazine that, if and when it is clear that Iran has the bomb (or is close to it), the Saudis will respond by buying one from Pakistan, a fellow Sunni state. They would also likely purchase Pakistani ballistic missiles to replace the Chinese ones they bought in the 1980s. Everything is already in place for this to happen.
When it comes to nuclear weapons, the Saudi-Pakistan connection has been close for some time. Western intelligence services are now convinced that Saudi Arabia played a large role in financing Pakistan’s nuclear bomb project. Riyadh’s aim was to guarantee it immediate access to a nuclear arsenal to counter the emergence of a nuclear-armed Iran. The Business has learnt that British Intelligence (MI6) already regards Saudi Arabia as a surrogate nuclear power, able to join the club whenever it chooses.
Riyadh’s long-standing links with the Pakistani bomb are only now being scrutinised. A senior Saudi who defected to America in the 1990s warned Washington that Riyadh was financially supporting the nuclear ambitions of Islamabad to ensure access to nuclear weapons of its own in the future. The Pakistani nuclear scientist and leader of the world’s biggest nuclear proliferation ring, AQ Khan, was invited to Saudi Arabia by its Defence Minister, who toured Pakistan’s nuclear facilities in 1999 and 2002 (the 1999 visit prompting a diplomatic complaint from Washington). A Saudi Prince was a guest of honour at a 2002 Pakistani missile test. Pakistan was given almost $2bn-worth of Saudi oil after the international community initiated sanctions against Islamabad following its 1998 nuclear test.
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