The U.S.-UAE Nuclear Deal

The first freelance article I wrote for WPR back in February of this year was on Nicolas Sarkozy’s zeal, upon taking office, in pursuing nuclear energy agreements with the Arab world. While the deals were commercially lucrative and made for some awkward moments (i.e. Muammar Qaddafi’s pitching his Bedouin tents in Paris), the strategic logic was compelling:

Sarkozy’s decision . . . reflects astrategic calculation designed to counter Iranian claims that the Westis unwilling to share civil nuclear energy with the Arab world.

Asa French official who agreed to speak with World Politics Review oncondition of anonymity put it, “It’s imperative in political terms toshow that there isn’t a double standard when it comes to civil nuclearprograms.” In order to maintain its credibility in opposing Iran’snuclear program (which he considers among the world’s gravest threats),Sarkozy has argued that the West must satisfy the legitimate andNPT-compliant aspirations of other Arab countries. As the Frenchofficial pointed out, the NPT’s purpose is not only to contain weaponsproliferation, but to promote civil nuclear programs as well. Toinsist, with regard to the Arab world, on the former while ignoring thelatter only serves to legitimize the Iranian rhetoric.

I think that logic applies to the 123 Agreement the U.S. just signed with the UAE, as well. There’s a case to be made against nuclear energy, period. But as long as it’s going to be pursued, it has to be made available to responsible states, like the UAE, that are willing to comply with their commitments under the NPT treaty.

Doing so also defangs the Iranian argument that the West is trying to prevent it from its legal right to enrich uranium. As a signatory to the NPT, Iran does not enjoy a right to enrich uranium, but a privilege to do so conditioned by compliance with its NPT commitments. The U.N. sanctions and IAEA inspections are not in reaction to Iran enriching uranium, but to its having begun its program clandestinely, and subsequently refusing to provide the necessary transparency required by the IAEA to verify that its program has peaceful intent.

I haven’t seen the UAE deal yet, but apparently there won’t be any uranium enrichment component to it. And if, as the UAE’s ambassador to the U.S. claims, “. . .the agreement highlightsthe transparency of the civilian nuclear energy programme the UAE isembarking on and should be lauded as the gold standard of nuclearcooperation agreements,” then there’s not a whole lot to nitpick.