Saudi FM: Riyadh Will Develop Nuclear Arms if Iran Does

A Saudi woman practices driving in Riyadh on April 29 ahead of the lifting of a ban in June. Yousef Doubisi  AFP

Ignoring pleas by allies, U.S. President Trump on Tuesday pulled out of a 2015 global deal with Iran and announced the "highest level" of sanctions against the OPEC member, making investors nervous about rising risks of conflict in the Middle East and about oil supplies in a tight market.

Saudi Arabia, a long-time rival of Iran, has struck a production deal with Russian Federation, an Iranian ally that is also being sanctioned by the U.S. The question now is whether Saudi Arabia and OPEC in its "Vienna Alliance" with Russian Federation will keep oil production targets the same or whether they adjust them to meet any loss of Iranian crude, with oil prices already high and rising.

Both the Houthi movement and Iran deny any military con nection-but are politically aligned in regional affairs. It is interfering in Syria, Yemen, Morocco.

This would make the United States the world's largest producer, ahead of both Russian Federation and Saudi Arabia.

Four blasts were heard in the central part of Riyadh, but there were no immediate reports of casualties or damage.

"However, [Iran] used it to continue its destabilizing activities in the region, especially through the development of ballistic missiles, and its support for terrorist groups in the region, including Hezbollah and the Houthi militia, which used the capabilities transferred by Iran to target civilians in the Kingdom and Yemen and repeated exposure worldwide shipping lanes, and in flagrant violation of the resolutions of the Security Council", the statement read.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed deep concern at "the recent and sharp escalation" in the conflict, citing coalition airstrikes Monday that hit a government building and the firing of ballistic missiles by the Houthis toward different targets in Saudi Arabia on Sunday and Wednesday, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Separately, South Korea said on Wednesday it would seek U.S. exemptions to buy Iranian oil, a path many big oil consumers are likely to follow in the wake of new USA sanctions on Tehran, which will tighten world oil markets and push up prices.

Trump has employed similar arguments, criticising the accord for failing to address Iran's ballistic missile program, its nuclear activities beyond 2025, or its role in regional wars.

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While the next months are likely to be characterised by uncertainty, it's likely the U.S. is going to find it considerably harder to make the rest of the world bend to its will this time, especially when the major financial beneficiaries are its own oil producers and the Saudi Arabians.

The South Asian country remained a big buyer of Iranian oil even during previous Western sanctions, though it had to cut purchases to win some waivers as the trade was mostly done in USA dollars. However, it provides a golden opportunity for the Trump administration to bolster nuclear negotiations with another Middle Eastern State, Saudi Arabia.

"It is in the interest of all parties to exercise restraint, wisdom and patience and to try to resolve differences through dialogue", its foreign ministry said. The interview was conducted before Trump said an announcement on Iran was imminent. This is where the White House is wrong...

The International Energy Agency said Wednesday that it was "ready to act" to alleviate any supply shortfall in the wake of the United States move.

Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told CBS News in March, "Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb, but without a doubt, if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible". "The Russians are opposed to the USA ending the deal, and on the other hand they don't really like high oil prices because the ruble is tied to the price of oil..."

The United States will likely re-impose sanctions against Iran after 180 days, unless some other agreement is reached.

"There is a real risk of escalation, especially between Iran and Israel".

"Europe and China will not fight against the USA sanctions. The consequences could be severe", said Joost Hiltermann, Program Director, Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group.

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