US May Offer Middle East Countries Nuclear Weapons Commitment
Take us to Derpcon 1. In what may be one of the dumbest ideas expressed out loud in US foreign policy history, the Los Angeles Times is reporting that Obama Administration officials are floating the idea of extending the US nuclear umbrella to Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Middle East. Such an agreement would obligate the US to take part in a nuclear conflict in the Middle East as well as make the US a legitimate target for nuclear weapons by future belligerents.
The nuclear commitment is being discussed as the US pledges more weapons and training to the Sunni Arab states some of which are using already obtained US weapons in Yemen against Shiite Houthis rebels. The US weapons sold to Saudi Arabia have been linked to a bombing campaign in Yemen that is killing numerous civilians.
The idea of extending the US nuclear umbrella comes amidst negotiations with Iran over ending the country’s nuclear weapons program. Iran’s adversaries in the region, particularly Saudi Arabia, are fretting over the negotiations and are unconvinced any deal would actually stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons. The Saudis reportedly even threatened to try and purchase a nuclear weapon from Pakistan.
Obama administration officials are promising a major strengthening of U.S. defense commitments to Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf allies, possibly including a nuclear commitment to their security, in an intensifying effort to win their support for the proposed nuclear deal with Iran.
Officials say they hope to reassure nervous gulf Arab states by providing more military aid and training to their defense forces, and by making more explicit commitments to help them repel external attacks. The administration is studying whether to make any nuclear assurances, though officials emphasize no decision has been made.
So much for Senator Corker’s theory on President Obama trying to get the US out of the Middle East. Not only is Obama not taking his chips off the table he is putting the US all in if such assurances are made – if the US is on the hook for a nuclear war the impetus to meddle in Middle Eastern politics is that much stronger.
The upside of such an agreement would, in theory, be that the US would have a robust existential commitment to nuclear non-proliferation in the region. Of course that commitment would make it difficult to support the only power in the region currently with active nuclear weapons, Israel.
What is the US getting out of these increasingly costly and dangerous relationships in the Middle East again?