Saudi Arabia Goes Shopping for a Nuclear Deal

Mar 19, 2018 | 09:30 GMT

The Saudi kingdom had grown accustomed to relying on its domestic oil supplies to subsidize cheap electricity and water desalination during the hot summer months.

Riyadh might sit atop the world's largest cache of oil reserves, but Saudi Arabia has an energy problem.



  • Saudi Arabia will strive to develop a civilian nuclear energy program due to the need to diversify its energy mix away from oil.
  • But Saudi Arabia's push for ownership of the nuclear fuel cycle will open up the possibility that Riyadh will use its greater nuclear capabilities to satisfy its security imperatives, including defending itself from its biggest nemesis, Iran.
  • The United States will weigh its desire to maintain leverage over Saudi Arabia by helping it develop a peaceful civilian nuclear program against its concerns about Riyadh's security motives.
  • If an agreement is not reached, Saudi Arabia will look to other nuclear powers such as Russia, whose limits on enrichment ownership are weaker than those of the United States. 

Saudi Arabia's crown prince was not holding back any punches: “Without a doubt, if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.” Mohammed bin Salman's comments came in an interview with "60 Minutes" that aired just days after Saudi Arabia's Cabinet approved the country's nuclear energy policy, which clearly spells out Riyadh's intention to develop its own nuclear activities for peaceful purposes. It also comes amid the start of the crown prince's trip to the United States, as well as negotiations between Washington and Riyadh that the latter hopes will permit U.S. companies to assist the desert kingdom in fulfilling its nuclear energy ambitions....

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