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The Iranian pursuit of nuclear power (at the least) has spurred interest across Southwest Asia in keeping up with the Persians. Der Spiegel reports that other states in the region that had spurned interest in nuclear research have now openly debated its value:
As Iran tries to buy time in its dispute with the international community over its nuclear program, the Arab world's interest in atomic energy is apparently growing.
The secretary general of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Abdul Rahman al Attiyah, recently called on the "Arab nation" to work "together on a nuclear program," to prevent being left behind as others in the region -- namely Iran, which is Persian and sometimes at odds with its neighbors -- pushed ahead with atomic research.
Attiyah's call points to a shift in policy. Arab governments in the past have criticized both Iran's nuclear ambitions and Israel's (officially nonexistent) atomic program, while arguing for a nuclear-free Middle East and swearing off plans to pursue the bomb.
The Arabs have had little need for civilian power outside of the abundant oil reserves on which they sit. In that manner, they are in the same position as the Iranians. Their pursuit of the nuclear cycle at least has some explanation in their lack of refining capacity, which forces Iran to import its gasoline and them subsidize it to keep the prices down for their people. This very problem makes them particularly susceptible to economic sanctions, if the global community could ever unite long enough to impose them.
That does not apply to the rest of the Arabian states, and a new rush to the nuclear cycle has less likelihood of an innocent explanation, as unlikely as it is with the Iranians. One has to recognize that this destabilizing influence did not come from the Israelis, although Der Spiegel mentions it as a potential cause. While the Israelis have long been rumored to have nuclear weapons, the Arabs -- apart from Saddam Hussein and Moammar Gaddafi -- never seemed all that interested in them. They preferred to do business with the West, and part of that trade meant eschewing nuclear weapons.
Now that dynamic has changed, and it's changed because of Iran and not Israel. This seems a tacit admission that the true threat to Arab nations doesn't come from the Israelis after all. The Sunni Arabs that mostly control the petrostates in the region understand the existential threat of a nuclear-armed Shi'ite Iran. They abided a nuclear Jewish state for at least two decades, if not more. They comprehend the Iranian threat better than the West, and if we do not stop Iran, they will take steps to make sure Iran stays put.Sphere It View blog reactions
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