Saudi FM says ‘all bets are off’ if Iran makes a nuclear weapon

‘We are in a very dangerous space in the region,’ Al-Saud says, adding that Riyadh ‘skeptical’ about prospect of reviving 2015 nuclear deal

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal Bin Farhan Al Saud speaks during a press conference after the end of Security and Development Summit in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, July 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal Bin Farhan Al Saud speaks during a press conference after the end of Security and Development Summit in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, July 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud said Sunday that the Islamic Republic’s Gulf neighbors will not sit by if Tehran produces nuclear weapons.

“If Iran gets an operational nuclear weapon, all bets are off,” Al Saud told reporters at the World Policy Conference in Abu Dhabi, according to Reuters.

“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,” he added, without elaborating on what that could entail.

The remarks come as Iran remains at odds with the West over its nuclear program and with talks for a revival of a 2015 deal frozen.

Iran said last month that it had moved ahead on uranium enrichment that Western governments worry is part of a covert nuclear weapons program.

Speaking at a press conference in Rome, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency Rafael Grossi warned that the Iranians “were tripling, not doubling, tripling their capacity to enrich uranium at 60%.”

Uranium enriched to 60 percent purity is a short technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90%.

The Saudi prince said Riyadh remained “skeptical” about the prospect of a deal with Iran but said his country would support a return to the negotiations table if reviving the original 2015 pact was seen as a “starting point, not an end point” for a better agreement.

This satellite image from Planet Labs PBC shows Iran’s underground Natanz nuclear site, as well as ongoing construction to expand the facility in a nearby mountain south of Natanz. Iran, May 9, 2022. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)

Negotiations to revive the deal — formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA — between Iran and world powers have been stalled since September over what the West says are unreasonable demands by Iran.

The United States unilaterally pulled out of the nuclear deal in 2018, under then-President Donald Trump, reimposing sanctions on Iran, prompting Tehran to start backing away from the deal’s terms.

Under the terms of the 2015 agreement, which gave Tehran sanctions relief in return for curbs on its nuclear program to prevent the production of a weapon, Iran was only permitted to enrich uranium to 3.67% purity.

“The signs right now are not very positive, unfortunately,” Al Saud said.

“We hear from the Iranians that they have no interest in a nuclear weapons program, it would be very comforting to be able to believe that. We need more assurance on that level,” he added.

Tehran has maintained that its nuclear program is intended solely for civil purposes and has justified its recent increased enrichment efforts as being a to an IAEA resolution criticizing its lack of cooperation with the nuclear watchdog.

Rafael Grossi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, speaks to journalists after the IAEA’s board of governors meeting at the agency’s headquarters in Vienna, Austria, on November 16, 2022. (Joe Klamar/AFP)

Saudi Arabia and Iran have been on opposite sides of a years-long proxy war in Yemen. As a Sunni-ruled Gulf state, Saudi Arabia is considered a regional foe of Shiite Iran.

Saudi Arabia has also expressed concerns over Iran’s advanced drones and missile programs, which it regularly uses to benefit its proxies in the region and more recently its ally in Moscow during the war in Ukraine.

On Friday, the Biden administration accused Russia of moving to provide advanced military assistance to Iran, including air defense systems, helicopters and fighter jets, as the two nations deepen their cooperation.

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