Can We Expect Nuclear Dominoes in the Gulf Region Soon?

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Fourteen countries in the Middle East and Asia expressed their need for nuclear power plants in 2007. This new demand for nuclear power plants was then met with little concern. In what follows, Western experts questioned the situation from the stand point of nuclear non-proliferation and did not hesitate to ask whether this was the beginning of a new nuclear cascade. They have ensured that the non-nuclear states of NPT should adopt strengthened non-proliferation measures so as to prevent any likelihood of a new tide of a nuclear proliferation. The Middle East and the world overall have since had to weather a series of challenging events like the 2008 financial crisis, the 2011 Arab Spring and the subsequent volatility caused by the failing and failed states in the MENA region, and the Iranian nuclear crisis and its resolution through the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Agreement in 2015. Especially after the Fukushima meltdown, the countries in the Middle East slowed down their construction of nuclear reactors as did other parts of the world. However, the drive and desire towards a nuclear power in some of the Middle Eastern countries have not withered and henceforward at least five MENA nations have made real progress in this regard.   

 

Since 2007, the main debate in the West has been concerned with an increase in the demand for nuclear reactors in the Middle East vis-à-vis nuclear proliferation potential. Until the finalization of the Iranian nuclear deal, the main priority of the West in general and US in particular was to curtail the ‘‘right to enrichment’’. According to the conditions set by Washington, in order for nuclear non-proliferation in the Middle East to be guaranteed, the states in the region, when seeking nuclear energy, were required to forego their right to enrich nuclear material. In fact, when the 123 Agreement was signed with the UAE, it was intended to be the role model for the other states in the Middle East in search of civil nuclear energy. This US demand has surely contradicted the NPT’s Article 4 that gives non-nuclear states the right for enrichment in their efforts to obtain civil use of nuclear energy. The ‘‘right to enrich’’ uranium has therefore proved to be one of the key sticking points in the Iran nuclear talks and finally Tehran has gained the legitimate right of enrichment at 3.67 per cent on condition that it will abide by the other conditions that were laid out in the Joint Comprehensive Action Plan and that it will be compliant with the conditions of the NPT and IAEA.

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