Exceptional honors awaited Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf when his plane touched down in the Saudi capital Sunday, Jan. 21, after whipping round four Arab capitals. King Abdullah came forward in person to welcome him as he stepped off the plane. They were then driven to the palace where, before withdrawing for a two-hour tete-a-tete, Abdullah bestowed on the Pakistani ruler the highest Saudi royal honor, the King Abdul Aziz Award.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s intelligence sources in the Gulf reveal that the Saudi king had good reason for heaping honors on Musharraf.
Their conversation ended in accord on the conditions, manner and circumstances for Pakistan to dispatch to Saudi Arabia a consignment of nuclear weapons and missiles for their delivery, should the kingdom, the Gulf emirates, Egypt or Jordan face a nuclear emergency.
Pakistan has a substantial arsenal of nuclear warheads and high-quality nuclear-capable missiles.
Iran was not mentioned specifically in the conversation as the cause of such an emergency, but the two rulers knew who they were talking about.
Very little has come out about the subject-matter of the Saudi king’s private conversation with the Pakistani president. Abdullah later briefed only the highest-ranking princes holding key government positions, defense minister Crown Prince Sultan, foreign minister Prince Saud al Faisal, interior minister Prince Nayef and director of security services Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who also acts as the king’s national security adviser. Also brought into the picture was the head of Saudi intelligence Prince Moqrin Abdelaziz.
All the same, DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources have garnered some of the key points of the secret nuclear pact that was concluded.
Mating nuclear warheads to missiles
1. A team of Pakistani military experts and technicians trained in the operation of nuclear warheads and matching missiles for their delivery will be stationed in Saudi Arabia.
2. No Pakistani nuclear weapons will be sent to the kingdom as yet, but infrastructure will be positioned ready should the need arise for their swift delivery. A special Pakistani air force unit will stand by for executing the transfer.
3. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan will perform at least two joint military exercises a year to simulate the transport of nuclear weapons to Saudi Arabia.
4. A hot line will connect Abdullah’s palace and Musharraf’s residence in Rawalpindi. It will be operated by a Pakistani communications officer with the rank of colonel in Riyadh and a Saudi communications colonel in Rawalpindi.
5. Pakistan will deliver to Saudi Arabia before the end of the year medium- and short-range surface missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. The Ghauri 1 which has a range of 1,500 km and the Shaheen 1 which can reach targets at a distance of 750 km are believed to be the missiles promised.
6. It is not known if the conversation touched on the Shaheen 2 missile whose range is 2,500 km and which is designated to replace the CSS2 which Saudi Arabia purchased from China in 1988.
7. It was agreed that Riyadh would put up some of the capital for developing and building the long-range Pakistani Shaheen 3, designed for a range of 3,600 km and the Tippu Sultan, for a range of 4,000 km. Our sources were unable to discover if the Saudis intended purchasing these missiles.
Washington arm-twisting or a blind eye?
One result of the Musharraf-Abdullah deal is that, in theory, the Saudis will be able to beat Iran in the race for a nuclear weapon – except that, according to our sources, there are some obstacles in the way of the Saudi-Pakistan contract becoming operational.
The most critical is the question of where Washington stands.
Has the Bush administration been informed about the deal and given it the nod, or is Washington about to lean hard on both its allies to thwart their nuclear accord? And how would they respond to American arm-twisting?
The White House may take Iran’s stepped-up nuclear cooperation with North Korea into account and decide that turning a blind eye to the Saudi-Pakistani deal is the wiser course.
Saudi-Pakistani military ties go back decades. The Saudis have often been rumored to have bankrolled Pakistan’s nuclear program, in order to hold an accessible nuclear capability in reserve to be called up at need. Defense minister Sultan has paid more than one visit to Pakistan’s nuclear facilities.
It may be taken for granted that Riyadh did not consult the Gulf emirates, Jordan and Egypt before committing them to the protection of a Saudi-Pakistani nuclear shield. Since Princes Bandar and Moqrin have occupied top positions in the royal palace, Riyadh has conducted an aggressive, proactive policy in its relations with the rest of the Middle East and the Gulf. The pair have seized with relish the opportunities presented by Egypt’s decline as the pre-eminent Arab regional force. Because of president Hosni Mubarak‘s waning powers, Cairo has been edged out of an active role on the Arab stage – or even in the Palestinian arena in its back yard.
Wednesday, Jan 24, Prince Bandar climbed aboard a special Saudi plane and flew to Tehran. There, he was immediately closeted with Iran’s powerful national security adviser Ali Larijani. Lebanese sources report that the Saudi prince is angling hard for a role in the Lebanese crisis – even if it means negotiating with Tehran for a solution.