Michael: The Saudi BombThe possible nuclear ambitions of Iran have been the source of a lot of sabre rattling in Washington of late, but Saudi Arabia looks to be the real threat for nuclear proliferation in the region. High level ties and exchanges between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, including secretive military purchases, suspect scientific exchanges, 1.2 billion in free oil to Pakistan every year for the past decade, and troubling connections between the Saudis and the A. Q. Khan network, may indicate that Saudi Arabia pursuing an "oil for nukes" program or has already secretly obtained a nuclear capability.
There are strong sympathies between the two governments, including the long-term funding by Saudis of the Pak Madrassas that produced the Taliban and even now are indoctrinating graduates against America. Both Pak ISI and many in the Saudi intelligence services and within the royal family are known to sponsor and sympathize with al Qaida. Given the ties to terrorists and unaswered questions regaring both Pakistani and Saudi Arabian connections to our enemies, this Administration's judgment seems impaired. The danger that a Pak or Saudi nuke could end up in terrorist hands is much greater than through almost any other vector.
Our own government's focus on Iran as an emerging threat in the Middle East is misguided. Our putative allies, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, pose a much greater danger to us than any of those whom the Bush Administration frame as threats, such as Iran or Syria, or non-state actors like Hezzbolah, Hammas, or the Palestinians. Iran, though its government is non-aligned and not pro-American, has a considerable resevior of good-will for American among its people. They very unlikely to overtly attack American interests, even through proxies. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, on the other hand are just the opposite; their ruling factions maintain an uneasy alliance with America that cannot be relied upon because within the government, and widespread in the populace, is religious radicalism and virulent anti-Americanism. While purporting to be allies, both governments must frequently bow to the strong radical Islamicist and anti-American factions in thier own ranks. These tensions cause them to frequently betray us, or to be perceived as betraying their own people, ultimately precipitating a radical coup.
Saudi Arabia is most likely to be the next Middle Eastern nation to join the nuclear club, and the 'axis of evil', as it were; they have the money, the will, and the expertise to acquire WMD, and the deep hostility required to use them. They are an inherently unstable regime and have the closest financial and sympathetic ties to al Qaida. Remember that bin Laden and 14 of the 9/11 suicide bombers were Saudi and had considerable support in their mission from Saudi Arabian sources, and it is bin Laden's ultimate goal for a revolutionary in his own tradition, if not him personally, to lead Saudi Arabia in a new jihad to free the Ullema from foreign domination. If Saudi Arabia gets the Bomb, the next attack by al Qaida on American soil may come in the form of a mushroom cloud.
We need to recongize who our real enemies are in the Middle East, and they are not those we are currently fighting or threatening.