Should Iran obtain nukes, Turkey, Egypt, Saudis could follow suit

Thursday, March 4, 2004

Turkey could quickly assemble atomic bombs should Iran achieve nuclear weapons capability.

Leading analysts said Turkey could be one of several Middle East states that could launch a crash nuclear weapons program if its Iranian neighbor achieves such capability. The other countries likely to turn nuclear after Iran include Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Turkey has been a NATO member for more than 50 years. But the analysts said NATO was not structured to defend Turkey from a nuclear Iran, Middle East Newsline reported.

"Were Turkey to decide that it had to proliferate to defend itself, it has good industrial and scientific infrastructures which it could draw upon to build nuclear weapons on its own," Patrick Clawson, director of research at the Washington Institute, wrote in an analysis. "It would be difficult to prevent a determined Turkey from building nuclear weapons in well under a decade."

Entitled "The Potential for Iran to Provoke Further Proliferation in the Middle East," Clawson's analysis envisions the consequences of Iranian nuclear weapons for the Middle East. The analysis forms part of a the book "Iran and its Neighbors: Diverging Views on a Strategic Region," published in 2003 by SWP German Institute for International and Security Affairs.

Clawson said Saudi Arabia is the most likely neighbor of Iran to launch a nuclear weapons program in wake of Teheran's indigenous weapons capability. Riyad's preferred option is an alliance with Pakistan, which would store nuclear warheads for Saudi Arabia's arsenal of intermediate-range CSS-2 missiles in an arrangement that would not violate the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

"Pakistan might have developed nuclear warheads for missiles," Clawson said. "Pakistan and Saudi Arabia could follow the example set by the United States and Germany during the Cold War with dual-key missiles, that is Pakistan could store in Saudi Arabia nuclear warheads designed to fit on to the Saudi-controlled missiles. That would be consistent under Saudi Arabia's obligations under the NTP."

Clawson said Egypt would seek to turn nuclear should Saudi Arabia accelerate its nuclear weapons program. But he said Syria would not turn nuclear in fear of Israeli reaction. Instead, Damascus would maintain its chemical weapons arsenal.

"Syria is quite aware of how severely Israel would react to nuclear acquisition," the analysis said.

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