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Saudi Arabia Could Obtain Nuclear Arms from Pakistan at Any Time: Sources

Then-Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf (right) and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal shown in February 2006 after signing a scientific-cooperation accord. The BBC News reports Pakistan is prepared to provide Saudi Arabia with nuclear weapons if asked (Farooq Naeem/AFP/Getty Images). Then-Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf (right) and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal shown in February 2006 after signing a scientific-cooperation accord. The BBC News reports Pakistan is prepared to provide Saudi Arabia with nuclear weapons if asked (Farooq Naeem/AFP/Getty Images).

Saudi Arabia could quickly acquire nuclear warheads from Pakistan in return for its years of financial investment in the South Asian state, BBC News reported on Wednesday, citing a number of well-placed sources.

Riyadh is very concerned Iran could acquire the capability to manufacture nuclear weapons. However, if Tehran is ever perceived to be rushing to build a weapon, the kingdom could acquire a nuclear deterrent first by importing a ready-made one from Pakistan, according to the report.

Should Tehran acquire a warhead, "the Saudis will not wait one month," ex-Israeli military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin said at an October forum in Sweden. "They already paid for the bomb, they will go to Pakistan and bring what they need to bring."

Saudi Arabia is known to be a major financial supporter of Pakistan's defense industry. That monetary assistance could include support of the country's missile and nuclear projects, according to some Western observers.

"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, who until March served as the White House point-man on weapons of mass destruction.

Beginning around 2003, there was an uptick in the amount of talk taking place through diplomatic channels about a possible Islamabad-Riyadh atomic agreement, according to U.S. State Department records disclosed by WikiLeaks. Things became more public in 2009 when senior Saudi officials began dropping hints their country could acquire a strategic deterrent should Tehran pass the nuclear breakout point.

An anonymous ex-Pakistani intelligence officer said it was his opinion that "the Pakistanis certainly maintain a certain number of warheads on the basis that if the Saudis were to ask for them at any given time, they would immediately be transferred."

Samore said he believes rather than simply handing nuclear arms over to Riyadh, it is more likely Islamabad would deploy "its own troops armed with nuclear weapons and with delivery systems" into Saudi Arabia.

NTI Analysis