RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, May 8 (UPI) -- Saudi Arabia, considering Iran's potential 10-year limitation on nuclear weapons development, is looking into a nuclear weapons program of its own, officials say.
Although a nuclear-free Middle East has long been a part of Saudi policy, its leaders are convinced Iran will eventually become a nuclear power, and there are calls within Saudi Arabia to start a development program to match Iran's potential nuclear capability. Saudi Arabia's King Salman, after a summit meeting this week of Gulf nations, warned that the proposed deal between Iran and the United States, which limits Iranian nuclear development but assigns ban expiry date of ten years, risks "plunging the region into an arms race."
Saudi Arabia, with its Sunni Muslim majority, is already battling largely Shiite Iran in proxy wars across the region, including in Syria and Yemen.
Saudi fears of an increase in Iranian influence is worsened by the potential of lifting economic sanctions against Iran by the West, freeing over $100 billion in frozen overseas assets.
"Our allies aren't listening to us, and this is what is making us extremely nervous," said Prince Faisal bin Saud bin Abdulmohsen of Riyadh's King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies. "If I am basing my judgment on the track record and our experience with Iran, I will say they will do anything in their power to get a nuclear weapon. A delay of 10 years is not going to satiate anything."
While Iran has ties to Russia, Saudi Arabia, which has already begun a civilian nuclear program, can gain nuclear knowledge from France, which has become a close ally.
Pakistan, a fellow Sunni-majority Muslim country, already has nuclear weapons capability, and another ally, Jordan, has available uranium, the Wall Street Journal noted Friday.
The U.S. deal with Iran, if it slows Iran's quest for the nuclear weapons it denied seeking, could prove to be the highlight of U.S. President Barack Obama's nuclear non-proliferation legacy. It could also set off an arms race in the Middle East.