Saudi Arabia would immediately push to acquire nuclear weapons should Iran carry out a successfully nuclear test, according to a report in The Times.
Quoting an unnamed Saudi source, the newspapers said that Riyadh would launch a “twin-track nuclear weapons programme” should Tehran finally achieve their long-standing ambition of becoming a nuclear-armed power.
Since the Iranian revolution of 1979, Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia has suffered an uneasy relationship with their Shia neighbour, with religious, cultural and ideological divisions stretching back centuries.
Should Iran "go nuclear", the move would be seen by Riyadh as too great a threat, triggering an arms race in the Middle East.
Speaking to The Times, a senior Saudi source said: "There is no intention currently to pursue a unilateral military nuclear programme but the dynamics will chance immediately if the Iranians their own nuclear capability. Politically, it would be completely unacceptable to have Iran with a nuclear capability and not the Kingdom. ”
The ‘twin-track’ approach would see the Saudi state purchase warheads straightaway, probably from Pakistan, while beefing up its own production capabilities through uranium enrichment for long-term production.
Iran has been at loggerheads with the West over the regime's determination to develop a nuclear capability, with an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report last November stating that the regime had already carried out test “specific to the development of a nuclear device”.
Despite a raft of sanctions imposed by the West – British restrictions on Iranian banks led to the storming of the British Embassy and the expulsion of the British ambassador in November – it is widely believed that Tehran has continued with its development programme.
The situation in the Middle East could deteriorate rapidly should Israel carry out its mooted bombing raid on the Iranian facility suspected of enriching uranium. Earlier this week, the BBC reported that an Israeli attack is likely to come before the US Elections, thus guaranteeing American support from both the incumbent and the Republican candidate, wary of ostracising the powerful Jewish lobby before the November poll.
This is not the first time the Saudis have raised the spectre of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.
In June last year, former Saudi intelligence chief and ambassador to Washington Prince Turki al-Faisal warned senior Nato military officials that an Iranian nuclear device "would compel Saudi Arabia... to pursue policies which could lead to untold and possibly dramatic consequences".