Over the Horizon Proliferation Threats

By James J. Wirtz; Peter R. Lavoy | Go to book overview

4
Nuclear Proliferation and the
Middle East’s Security Dilemma:
The Case of Saudi Arabia

James A. Russell

Between the summer of 2006 and the spring of 2007, events confirmed the worst fears of many observers who have long warned about a cascade of new nuclear proliferation throughout the Persian Gulf and the Middle East. In a region racked with open warfare, persistent interstate rivalries, powerful nonstate actors, and ominous intrastate tensions, countries throughout the Persian Gulf and Middle East now seem united on at least one issue: the need to develop their own nuclear power programs. In regional capitals such as Rabat, Algiers, Cairo, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, Manama, Doha, Muscat, and Amman, political leaders announced their intention to start development of indigenous nuclear programs and have been beating a path to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) door, seeking information on creating a significant nuclear research program.

These regional developments come amid growing concern that efforts to control the spread of nuclear weapons have failed and that the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) is becoming irrelevant. Some believe that the international system today is perched on a nuclear “tipping point.” In other words, they are concerned that states might be on the verge of abandoning normative restraints against developing nuclear weapons, resulting in a “proliferation epidemic” and a world of many nuclear powers.1 Despite assurances by Middle Eastern leaders that their programs will represent “models” for other states seeking peaceful nuclear programs,”2 many fear that the objective of developing commercial nuclear power represents a thinly veiled effort to acquire their own fissile material—the essential building block of nuclear weapons. Because the NPT does not deny states parties in good standing the right to undertake

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