Congressional report: Saudis fear Iran nuke threat

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Saudi Arabia has become increasingly concerned by the nuclear threat from Iran in the aftermath of the toppling of the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq.

A new congressional report asserted that the Saudi kingdom has not been assuaged by Iranian efforts to improve relations with Riyad and other Gulf Cooperation Council states. The Congressional Research Service said the Iranian threat has emerged as the Saudi kingdom has become increasingly vulnerable regarding its relations with the United States.

"Although relations with Iran have improved, the Saudi leadership remains wary of the Shi'ite Muslim clerical regime that has governed Iran since 1979 and concerned over Iran's pursuit of advanced conventional arms and weapons of mass destruction," the report, entitled "Saudi Arabia: Current Issues and U.S. Relations," said. "On the other hand, while welcoming a U.S. security umbrella, Saudi leaders have become increasingly vulnerable to domestic and regional criticism for appearing to side with the United States against fellow Arab and Muslim regimes."

Authored by analyst Alfred Prados, the report said Saudi Arabia and other GCC states have long been concerned over threats from Iran and Iraq. The report said the combined forces of the six GCC states have been outnumbered by Iran and Iraq.

Despite tension with Washington, the United States remains the leading weapons supplier to Saudi Arabia, with $4.6 billion in arms agreements from 1994 through 2001. The report said, however, that Riyad has decreased procurement since the mid-1990s amid increasingly difficult economic circumstances.

The report warns of difficulties of U.S. companies that do business in Saudi Arabia. Saudi clients were said to have failed to pay for U.S. services or "sought to expand terms of a contract without further reimbursement, and in some cases have taken reprisals against U.S. employees of the firms involved."

The report said despite a huge arms procurement program Saudi Arabia and the five other GCC states remain vulnerable to Iranian aggression. But the report said the United States has demonstrated a strong security commitment to Saudi Arabia.

"Although Saudi forces acquired experience during the Gulf war and are undergoing further upgrading through a large-scale program of arms procurement, both Saudi Arabia and its five smaller Gulf neighbors remain vulnerable to future external aggression," the report said. "On one hand, both the Iranian and Iraqi armed forces suffered major personnel and equipment losses during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war and Operation Desert Storm, respectively, and neither is in a position to offer an immediate threat to the Gulf Cooperation Council. On the other hand, the combined forces of Saudi Arabia and its GCC allies are outnumbered in important categories by those of Iran and Iraq [before its recent defeat in Operation Iraqi Freedom]."

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