Saudis fear Iran is after their oil, not Israel
Saudi Arabia has been making reassuring statements in public. But privately, Saudi leaders are skirting the edge of panic as they watch Iran's nuclear weapons program unfold.
Western intelligence sources said the kingdom fears it will be the first target of any Teheran retaliation against a U.S. strike on its nuclear facilities. The sources said the Saudi leaders believe Iran has placed Saudi Arabia at the top of the list of targets in an effort to deter any U.S. strike.
"The Saudis provide the difference between a stable and unstable energy market," one Western intelligence source said. "One Iranian missile toward a major Saudi oil facility and the market collapses."
The Saudis have not been assuaged by Iran's threats against Israel.
Indeed, Saudi leaders believe that Iran and Israel have been cooperating as part of an effort to establish Shi'ite dominance over Sunnis in the Middle East.
Here is the Saudi scenario: Iran takes over southern Iraq through its Shi'ite quislings and becomes owner of the huge oil reserves in the area. That would place Iran along the borders of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
At that point, Iran would send thousands of Arabic-speaking agents into Saudi Arabia's eastern province, where the kingdom's considerable Shi'ite minority live. These agents would be in striking distance of Saudi oil wells and refinery.
The Saudis have dismissed the prospect of an Iranian attack on Israel.
They assess that such a strike — whether nuclear or conventional — would kill many more Palestinians than Israelis. Israel has already protected much of its population through a missile defense system and bunkers. That leaves the Palestinians vulnerable — something Teheran wants to avoid.
"There's only one Iranian target seen by the Saudis and that's themselves," the source said. "The royal family believes that nobody would raise a finger to help the Saudis. There's too much oil to be divided."
The only ally the Saudis trust is Pakistan. Islamabad has been given billions of dollars by the Saudi kingdom, money that has certainly financed Pakistan's nuclear weapons program. Pakistan has similar fears of a nuclear Iran, and particularly one that would threaten oil-rich Saudi Arabia.
The sources expect Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to accelerate nuclear and missile cooperation over the next year. Another possible ally could be Russia, which has also offered to provide a response to an Iranian nuclear threat.