Riyadh Fears Fallout from an Attack on Iran – But Not an Iranian Bomb

The Saudis are more afraid of radioactive contamination than a nuclear bomb – to the point that, for the first time in 60 years of a highly problematical alliance with America, they are demanding that the United States remove its nuclear carriers and submarines from Persian Gulf waters – and away from their shores.

A Saudi radio journalist Samar Fatany disclosed this in an article under the title “Radioactive Contamination a Current Threat?” on the Saudi Internet site Arab News of April 4.

The demand was part of the scary picture she painted of what the Saudis expect to fall on their heads should the US and Israel embark on a military clash with Iran.

(As disclosed in a separate article in this issue, some of the younger Saudi princes would prefer the kingdom to strike a neutral posture in the nuclear controversy. They appear to have overcome their fear of an Iranian bomb dropping on their country.)

DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Gulf sources affirm that every word run by Arab News – certainly on foreign relations and national security – is closely vetted at the highest level of the Saudi court. This article is therefore a solid pointer to royal thinking in Riyadh.

“Saudi Arabia celebrates Earth Day on April 22 amid concerns of radioactive contamination that threatens the region due to nuclear-powered warships and submarines entering Gulf waters,” Fatany writes.

“The US Consulate in Jeddah should commemorate Earth Day by conveying Saudi concerns about the potential for radioactive contamination if a nuclear-powered American warship is attacked. It would be an attack threatening innocent women and children living all around the Gulf. If Iran’s nuclear program were halted by air strikes, the potential for radioactive contamination again would be a serious possibility.”


A mysterious Iranian reactor uncovered


What comes out of this complaint is the knowledge in Riyadh that Iran is secretly operating nuclear reactors, above and beyond the Russian-built facility in Bushehr which is not yet online. DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence sources report this has not been revealed before and is likely to figure at the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs session on April 17 which is to discuss nuclear proliferation by North Korea and its contribution to Tehran’s program.

They will likely hear confirmation that Pyongyang’s sale of a plutonium reactor to Syria, uncovered by Israel’s Sept. 6, 2007, raid, was preceded by the consignment of a similar reactor to Iran some years previously.

The Arab News article goes on to call for “Arab opinion leaders to draw world attention to a looming nuclear arms race fueled by military conflicts that surround us. The people of this region should demand that radiation levels in the Gulf be monitored – both for water and air. If it is determined that these vessels pose a threat, there should be a call to remove the nuclear-powered warships from Gulf waters immediately.

“…this potentially lethal situation gets more serious with each new escalation of tension in the region. Just as the United States expects North Korea to disclose its nuclear arsenal, so should it have the same expectation of Israel.”

The article points at American warships and Israel as potential sources of dangerous pollution but, as DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources point out, whereas an attack on Iran is mentioned as a potential radiation menace – an attack by Iran is not.


Does the Saudi nuclear program aim at a balance of terror?


These sources have no explanation for this omission. But because no comma appears in Arab News without the say-so of the king’s immediate advisers, the omission may attest to some sort of guaranteed protection which Riyadh is counting on to counter an Iranian nuclear attack. It could come from Pakistan or from a new balance of terror achieved by the Saudis in the form of their own nuclear device.

“It has been reported recently,” Fatany goes on to write, “that the King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology has prepared a proposal to confront possible radioactive fallout in case of an attack against [editorial italics] Iran; however, there were no details to assure the public of safety measures in place.”

Even the best informed sources are not privy to the secret defense pacts Saudi may have signed or be preparing to sign with foreign powers. Even more shrouded is the scope of work encompassed by the Saudi nuclear program at its top-secret site in the military city of Khamis Mushayt. This site is located south of Mecca near the Red Sea coast and less than a 100 km north of the Yemeni border. The work there may be far more advanced than suspected within the kingdom or by Western Intelligence agencies.

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