Although Saudi Arabia has officially denied it has a nuclear weapons program and has publicly stated it opposes nuclear weapons in the Middle East, it has funded a military nuclear program and received scientific assistance from the United States and Pakistan.
Despite this cooperation, US Secretary of State John Kerry told the Saudis in January there would be “all kinds of NPT consequences” if Riyadh received a nuclear weapon from Pakistan.
The Saudis began financing Pakistan’s atomic weapons project in 1974. “Our achievements are yours,” the Pakistani president, General Zia-ul-Haq, told the Saudis in the 1980s.
In the late 1980s the Saudis secretly bought dozens of CSS-2 ballistic missiles from China. The CSS-2, also known as the Dong Feng, is based on the Russian 9K720 Iskander missile. The intercontinental ballistic missile is designed to carry a 3 megaton nuclear warhead to a distance up to 12,000 kilometers.
“I do think that the Saudis believe that they have some understanding with Pakistan that, in extremis, they would have claim to acquire nuclear weapons from Pakistan,” said Gary Samore, Obama’s former counter-proliferation adviser.
In 2013 a senior NATO spokesman told the BBC nuclear weapons made in Pakistan on behalf of Saudi Arabia are ready to be delivered. In 2009 King Abdullah warned visiting US special envoy to the Middle East Dennis Ross Saudi Arabia “will get nuclear weapons” if Iran pursued a nuclear weapons program.
Following the P5+1 nuclear deal with Iran, the Saudis reasserted their desire to obtain a nuclear weapon.
“I think Saudi Arabia would seriously try to get the bomb if Iran did. It’s just like India and Pakistan. The Pakistanis said for years they didn’t want one, but when India got it, so did they,”said Jamal Khashoggi, the head of a Saudi news channel owned by the Saudi royal family.