Aide Tells Clinton: Saudi Arabia Already Has The Bomb

In 2010 memo, a Clinton confidant recounts claims from German official on Saudi Arabia's nuclear ambitions

Sep 01, 2015 at 12:45 PM ET

As far back as 2010, Hillary Clinton received word that Saudi Arabia, in a long-standing battle with Iran for regional dominance, already had access to nuclear weapons. The revelation comes from newly-released emails from Clinton’s private account during her time as Secretary of State.

Dated February 2010, a memo from longtime confidant Sidney Blumenthal to Clinton, reads much like a conversation that could have taken place this year as the controversial P5+1 nuclear talks with Iran were held.

Blumenthal was relaying to Clinton the details of his dinner conversation with Joschka Fischer, the former German Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor from 1998-2005.  At the time Fischer was director of the Nabucco natural gas pipeline project, which would bring gas from Middle Eastern and Caspian fields across Turkey’s Anatolian plateau, and north into Europe.

According to Blumenthal: “Fischer points out that if Iran develops nuclear weaponry the Saudis already have their own bomb. The Saudis invested in Pakistan’s nuclear weaponry partly for this eventuality; that’s their bomb in reserve.”

One of the key arguments against the Iran nuclear agreement has been the fear that it will spark an atomic arms race in the Middle East, with much of the speculation centering on Riyadh. In May, former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki bin Faisal threatened to match Iranian enrichment capabilities: “Whatever the Iranians have, we will have too.”

In addition to his commentary on Saudi Arabia, Blumenthal related Fischer’s ‘intelligence’ on the political climate in Iran towards nuclear negotiations around the same time period, in February 2010. Nuclear negotiations were generally perceived to have been re-initiated in 2013 following the election Hassan Rouhani, considered a reformer and moderate within the Iranian regime.

Since the nuclear accord was signed earlier this year, it was revealed by Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei that negotiations pre-dated Rouhani’s election, and that a secret diplomatic channel was opened and bilateral talks held in Oman as early as in March 2013. “Our negotiations with the Americans are, in fact, different from our negotiations with the P5+1. The Americans themselves asked for these negotiations and their proposals date back to the time of the tenth [Mahmoud Ahmadinejad] administration,” Khamenei declared.

Blumenthal says Fischer intimated that such overtures for negotiations may have happened as the Iranian government was still recovering from a wave of protests against the 2009 Iranian presidential election results and President Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election.

These negotiations may have had a surprising champion in Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was largely perceived as an obstacle because of his conservative hardline stance towards the West. However Blumenthal told Clinton that “according to Fischer’s intelligence, Ahmadinejad wished some negotiated settlement but was blocked. The regime has splits at the top.”