Israel More Concerned About Stopping Saudi Support For Terror Than Possible Saudi Nuke Acquisition

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:14 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Israel is more concerned in the immediate future that Saudi Arabia halts its direct or indirect funding of terrorist organizations than it is over reports that Saudi Arabia may have forged a deal with Pakistan to purchase nuclear missiles, some experts believe.

Head of Israeli military Intelligence Maj.-Gen Aharon Ze'evi told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee this week that Saudi Arabia wanted to obtain nuclear warheads from Pakistan that would fit onto its land-based missiles.

Chairman of the Committee Dr. Yuval Shteinitz was quoted as saying that Washington believes Saudi Arabia financed Pakistan's nuclear reactor with the understanding that if Iran obtained nuclear weapons, Pakistan would provide nuclear warheads to Saudi Arabia.

Some experts say Iran could have nuclear capabilities within a few years. International experts had mixed thoughts about the Israeli Intelligence reports.

"This would not surprise me at all," said Hazhir Teimourian, renowned Middle East Commentator and expert with Jane's Defense.

"There is a great deal of corruption in the Pakistani government," Teimourian said in a telephone interview from Britain.

Western Intelligence services have been surprised in the past, he said, for instance when Pakistan suddenly performed five nuclear tests in one day and India followed shortly with its own nuclear tests.

Nevertheless, Teimourian said, he believes that Washington would eventually forbid or prevent the Saudis from obtaining nuclear missiles.

Duncan Lennox, British-based independent defense consultant and author of the Jane's yearbook Strategic Weapons Systems, said that on one hand the Israeli Intelligence reports are "hard to believe" but then again "nothing should surprise us."

One theory that Lennox says is hard to believe is that Pakistan would want Saudi Arabia to have nuclear missiles as backup in order to provide an additional deterrent to India if it would launch a nuclear attack first.

Lennox said that the reports might be partially true or based on incomplete information.

The Saudis and Pakistanis will both deny the reports, he said. Pakistan has vowed not to pass its nuclear technology on to another country in order to avoid that possibility that it could face U.S.-backed sanctions, he added.

As far as Saudi Arabia having funded the Pakistani nuclear program, there has "always been talk of an Islamic bomb where the funding probably came from the richer countries with oil but its never been proven," Lennox said.

Nevertheless, he added, "Any proliferation of nuclear weapons [in the region] would be of concern to Israel. It must concern Israel."

Israeli expert and author on Saudi Arabia, Dr. Dore Gold, said historically Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have had strategic ties but the most immediate threat to Israel from the Saudi Kingdom was its support of Palestinian terrorist organizations.

"According to published reports the head of Israeli military intelligence reported to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that there is nuclear cooperation going on between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan," said Gold.

"What we know historically is that Saudi Arabia has sought to acquire long-range missiles. The CSS-2 was bought from the Chinese in the 1980s, with a 2000-kilometer range far beyond the requirements for Saudi Arabia's immediate threat environment.

"And Pakistan and Saudi Arabia had close strategic cooperation going back more than 20 years," he said.

Nevertheless, Israel wants to see direct or indirect Saudi support for terror organizations come to a halt.

"The most important developments that could occur with respect to Saudi Arabia is that first Saudi Arabia halt all assistance, direct or indirect to terrorist organizations like Hamas," said Gold, author of Hatred''s Kingdom: How Saudi Arabia Supports the New Global Terrorism.

"A situation by which Saudi Arabia funds 60 to 70% of Hamas budget is simply intolerable and inconsistent with President Bush''s vision for peace in the Middle East," Gold said.

Israeli military sources recently estimated that 60 to 70 percent of Hamas'' operating budget came from Saudi Arabia. Gold said earlier that the trend was for more support from Saudi Arabia rather than less to be given to Hamas.

Hamas along with Islamic Jihad has perpetrated most of the deadly suicide bomb attacks plaguing Israel during the last three years.

A recent report by the Middle East Media Research Institute in Washington detailed some $4 billion donated by the Saudi royal family to Palestinian militants, wounded Palestinians and the families of suicide bombers. The information was gleaned from official Saudi sources.

"As we move from the dismantling of terrorist groups to a peaceful dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians, Saudi Arabia could be very supportive by beginning aspects of normalization with Israel," said Gold, who said Israel's strategic aim is peace.

"The issue of weapons in the region of course will be part of that dialogue down the road," he added. Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.