In an acerbic interview shortly before the Geneva interim deal was signed, a senior Saudi diplomat issued a rare direct threat to Iran, warning that “all options are available” should the international community fail to rein in Iran’s alleged drive to acquire nuclear weapons.
The statement from Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz, the Saudi ambassador to London, came as talks between Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers were in full swing in Geneva.
In his interview with the Times of London (paywall) on Friday, Prince Mohammad also voiced unusually abrasive criticism of the West for what he said was a too-soft approach to Iran, calling Washington’s “rush” to engage with Tehran “incomprehensible.”
Still, he was adamant in dispelling reports that common interests had driven Riyadh to ally itself with Israel.
“Appeasement hasn’t worked in the past, and I don’t think it will work in the 21st century,” he was quoted as saying. “That is why the frustration really is toward the main players within the United Nations Security Council, that’s their responsibility. And they will share also the blame, whatever deal comes out, they are responsible for it.”
The prince, a nephew of Saudi King Abdullah, invoked the prospect of a confrontation with Iran, saying, “We are not going to sit idly by and receive a threat there and not think seriously how we can best defend our country and our region.”
He would not deny a report to the effect that one of the West’s greatest fears – a regional nuclear arms race – is already in play, with Saudi Arabia inking a deal with Pakistan to acquire nuclear weapons, only saying, “Let’s just leave it there, all options are available.”
Prince Mohammad did, however, deny a recent report in the Sunday Times according to which his country had granted Israel leave to use its airspace, and would even provide Israel with tactical support, should the Jewish state decide to launch an airstrike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
“There was “absolutely no approval” for Israel to use Saudi airspace, he reportedly said, before affirming that his country demanded that Israel’s nuclear facilities be subjected to the same treatment as Iran’s.
“The whole region will suffer from producing these weapons,” he was quoted as saying. “It happens everyone is talking about Iran, but Israel also has to prove that their program is a peaceful program, as we are demanding from the Iranians.”