Iran is not alone: The state of nuclear weapons in the Middle East

Published June 29th, 2015 - 23:14 GMT

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Worried countries in the Middle East are responding to Iran’s nuclear deal with a defensive line: If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

In response to fears that Tehran’s nuclear program isn’t as benign as the Islamic Republic claims it is, several nations in the past few years have jumpstarted their own nuclear programs, or discussed the possibility.

Despite calls by the International Atomic Energy Agency and the UN, nuclear power is still something that remains widely coveted, especially by those in a region wrought with instability and conflict. Iran’s nuclear program has its Gulf rivals worried about the consequences — and seeking a backup plan. Continue reading below »

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IRAN: The Islamic Republic began enriching its own uranium in the ’80s. Its nuclear program was established in 2003 and became the crux for the perceived nuclear race in the Middle East. The US wants to freeze any sensitive nuclear developments in Iran with the deal, the deadline for which is Tuesday. (AFP/File)
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Image 1 of 10:  1 / 10IRAN: The Islamic Republic began enriching its own uranium in the ’80s. Its nuclear program was established in 2003 and became the crux for the perceived nuclear race in the Middle East. The US wants to freeze any sensitive nuclear developments in Iran with the deal, the deadline for which is Tuesday. (AFP/File)

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SAUDI ARABIA: This kingdom is one of the fortunate few who could finance major nuclear projects. While Saudi Arabia has long advocated for a nuclear-free Middle East, the country is getting antsy about its rival, Iran. A tenuous relationship would be enough of a motivator to match its powers. (AFP/File)
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Image 2 of 10:  2 / 10SAUDI ARABIA: This kingdom is one of the fortunate few who could finance major nuclear projects. While Saudi Arabia has long advocated for a nuclear-free Middle East, the country is getting antsy about its rival, Iran. A tenuous relationship would be enough of a motivator to match its powers. (AFP/File)

Enlarge
UAE: After years of advocating for a nuclear-free Middle East, the Emirates began building a nuclear reactor in July 2012, to be completed in 2017. The UAE is one of six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which is commissioning a study on the peaceful use of nuclear energy with the help of France. (AFP/File)
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Image 3 of 10:  3 / 10UAE: After years of advocating for a nuclear-free Middle East, the Emirates began building a nuclear reactor in July 2012, to be completed in 2017. The UAE is one of six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which is commissioning a study on the peaceful use of nuclear energy with the help of France. (AFP/File)

Enlarge
JORDAN: King Abdullah in March signed an agreement with Russia to build Jordan’s first nuclear power plant with a framework for depositing the resulting nuclear waste in the Eurasian country. In the $10 billion project, the two countries will be building two nuclear reactors said to be a source of electricity. (AFP/File)
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Image 4 of 10:  4 / 10JORDAN: King Abdullah in March signed an agreement with Russia to build Jordan’s first nuclear power plant with a framework for depositing the resulting nuclear waste in the Eurasian country. In the $10 billion project, the two countries will be building two nuclear reactors said to be a source of electricity. (AFP/File)

Enlarge
EGYPT: Two years ago Egypt announced plans to restart its nuclear program in el-Dabaa, and in February Abdel Fattah al-Sisi signed an agreement with Russia to build the country’s first nuclear power plant. Radioactive material has been stolen from el-Dabaa several times, raising concerns for the security of its nuclear facilities. (AFP/File)
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Image 5 of 10:  5 / 10EGYPT: Two years ago Egypt announced plans to restart its nuclear program in el-Dabaa, and in February Abdel Fattah al-Sisi signed an agreement with Russia to build the country’s first nuclear power plant. Radioactive material has been stolen from el-Dabaa several times, raising concerns for the security of its nuclear facilities. (AFP/File)

Enlarge
IRAQ: Iraq pursued nuclear weapons under Saddam Hussein, but the program was dismantled in 1994. The US invaded before the Iraq Survey Group said it found no evidence of WMDs. Post-Hussein Iraq has been cooperative in nonproliferation initiatives, but the latest conflict has organizations concerned for security of former nuclear sites. (AFP/File)
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Image 6 of 10:  6 / 10IRAQ: Iraq pursued nuclear weapons under Saddam Hussein, but the program was dismantled in 1994. The US invaded before the Iraq Survey Group said it found no evidence of WMDs. Post-Hussein Iraq has been cooperative in nonproliferation initiatives, but the latest conflict has organizations concerned for security of former nuclear sites. (AFP/File)

Enlarge
TURKEY: Turkey has made nuclear power a priority due to its heavy reliance on imports. The World Nuclear Association said 98 percent of its gas and 92 percent of its oil are imported to produce energy. Turkey’s interest in “going nuclear” mostly lies in its need to reduce its dependence on Iran and Russian resources. (AFP/File)
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Image 7 of 10:  7 / 10TURKEY: Turkey has made nuclear power a priority due to its heavy reliance on imports. The World Nuclear Association said 98 percent of its gas and 92 percent of its oil are imported to produce energy. Turkey’s interest in “going nuclear” mostly lies in its need to reduce its dependence on Iran and Russian resources. (AFP/File)

Enlarge
ISRAEL: With a long history of “nuclear opacity,” Israel has said it would never “introduce” nuclear weapons to the Middle East. The global belief, however, is that the country has possessed nukes as early as the '60s, earning Israel the distinction as one of four nuclear-armed countries not recognized as a Nuclear Weapons State. (AFP/File)
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Image 8 of 10:  8 / 10ISRAEL: With a long history of “nuclear opacity,” Israel has said it would never “introduce” nuclear weapons to the Middle East. The global belief, however, is that the country has possessed nukes as early as the '60s, earning Israel the distinction as one of four nuclear-armed countries not recognized as a Nuclear Weapons State. (AFP/File)

Enlarge
KUWAIT: This country’s due for four nuclear reactors by 2022, and Kuwait remains relatively transparent about its program by providing the IAEA open access to its facilities. A nuclear analyst told Bloomberg that Kuwait’s need for nuclear power is greater than other Arab states due to common electricity shortages in the summer. (Shutterstock)
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Image 9 of 10:  9 / 10KUWAIT: This country’s due for four nuclear reactors by 2022, and Kuwait remains relatively transparent about its program by providing the IAEA open access to its facilities. A nuclear analyst told Bloomberg that Kuwait’s need for nuclear power is greater than other Arab states due to common electricity shortages in the summer. (Shutterstock)

Enlarge
SYRIA: The war has already shed light on President Bashar al-Assad’s stockpiles of chemical weapons. But in January media reported the government may be building a nuclear bomb with help from Russia and Iran. It wouldn’t be the first time; the IAEA said a plant destroyed by Israel in 2007 was “very likely” a nuclear reactor. (AFP/File)
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Image 10 of 10:  10 / 10SYRIA: The war has already shed light on President Bashar al-Assad’s stockpiles of chemical weapons. But in January media reported the government may be building a nuclear bomb with help from Russia and Iran. It wouldn’t be the first time; the IAEA said a plant destroyed by Israel in 2007 was “very likely” a nuclear reactor. (AFP/File)

Enlarge

1

IRAN: The Islamic Republic began enriching its own uranium in the ’80s. Its nuclear program was established in 2003 and became the crux for the perceived nuclear race in the Middle East. The US wants to freeze any sensitive nuclear developments in Iran with the deal, the deadline for which is Tuesday. (AFP/File)

Image 1 of 10IRAN: The Islamic Republic began enriching its own uranium in the ’80s. Its nuclear program was established in 2003 and became the crux for the perceived nuclear race in the Middle East. The US wants to freeze any sensitive nuclear developments in Iran with the deal, the deadline for which is Tuesday. (AFP/File)

2

SAUDI ARABIA: This kingdom is one of the fortunate few who could finance major nuclear projects. While Saudi Arabia has long advocated for a nuclear-free Middle East, the country is getting antsy about its rival, Iran. A tenuous relationship would be enough of a motivator to match its powers. (AFP/File)

Image 2 of 10SAUDI ARABIA: This kingdom is one of the fortunate few who could finance major nuclear projects. While Saudi Arabia has long advocated for a nuclear-free Middle East, the country is getting antsy about its rival, Iran. A tenuous relationship would be enough of a motivator to match its powers. (AFP/File)

3

UAE: After years of advocating for a nuclear-free Middle East, the Emirates began building a nuclear reactor in July 2012, to be completed in 2017. The UAE is one of six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which is commissioning a study on the peaceful use of nuclear energy with the help of France. (AFP/File)

Image 3 of 10UAE: After years of advocating for a nuclear-free Middle East, the Emirates began building a nuclear reactor in July 2012, to be completed in 2017. The UAE is one of six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which is commissioning a study on the peaceful use of nuclear energy with the help of France. (AFP/File)

4

JORDAN: King Abdullah in March signed an agreement with Russia to build Jordan’s first nuclear power plant with a framework for depositing the resulting nuclear waste in the Eurasian country. In the $10 billion project, the two countries will be building two nuclear reactors said to be a source of electricity. (AFP/File)

Image 4 of 10JORDAN: King Abdullah in March signed an agreement with Russia to build Jordan’s first nuclear power plant with a framework for depositing the resulting nuclear waste in the Eurasian country. In the $10 billion project, the two countries will be building two nuclear reactors said to be a source of electricity. (AFP/File)

5

EGYPT: Two years ago Egypt announced plans to restart its nuclear program in el-Dabaa, and in February Abdel Fattah al-Sisi signed an agreement with Russia to build the country’s first nuclear power plant. Radioactive material has been stolen from el-Dabaa several times, raising concerns for the security of its nuclear facilities. (AFP/File)

Image 5 of 10EGYPT: Two years ago Egypt announced plans to restart its nuclear program in el-Dabaa, and in February Abdel Fattah al-Sisi signed an agreement with Russia to build the country’s first nuclear power plant. Radioactive material has been stolen from el-Dabaa several times, raising concerns for the security of its nuclear facilities. (AFP/File)

6

IRAQ: Iraq pursued nuclear weapons under Saddam Hussein, but the program was dismantled in 1994. The US invaded before the Iraq Survey Group said it found no evidence of WMDs. Post-Hussein Iraq has been cooperative in nonproliferation initiatives, but the latest conflict has organizations concerned for security of former nuclear sites. (AFP/File)

Image 6 of 10IRAQ: Iraq pursued nuclear weapons under Saddam Hussein, but the program was dismantled in 1994. The US invaded before the Iraq Survey Group said it found no evidence of WMDs. Post-Hussein Iraq has been cooperative in nonproliferation initiatives, but the latest conflict has organizations concerned for security of former nuclear sites. (AFP/File)

7

TURKEY: Turkey has made nuclear power a priority due to its heavy reliance on imports. The World Nuclear Association said 98 percent of its gas and 92 percent of its oil are imported to produce energy. Turkey’s interest in “going nuclear” mostly lies in its need to reduce its dependence on Iran and Russian resources. (AFP/File)

Image 7 of 10TURKEY: Turkey has made nuclear power a priority due to its heavy reliance on imports. The World Nuclear Association said 98 percent of its gas and 92 percent of its oil are imported to produce energy. Turkey’s interest in “going nuclear” mostly lies in its need to reduce its dependence on Iran and Russian resources. (AFP/File)

8

ISRAEL: With a long history of “nuclear opacity,” Israel has said it would never “introduce” nuclear weapons to the Middle East. The global belief, however, is that the country has possessed nukes as early as the '60s, earning Israel the distinction as one of four nuclear-armed countries not recognized as a Nuclear Weapons State. (AFP/File)

Image 8 of 10ISRAEL: With a long history of “nuclear opacity,” Israel has said it would never “introduce” nuclear weapons to the Middle East. The global belief, however, is that the country has possessed nukes as early as the '60s, earning Israel the distinction as one of four nuclear-armed countries not recognized as a Nuclear Weapons State. (AFP/File)

9

KUWAIT: This country’s due for four nuclear reactors by 2022, and Kuwait remains relatively transparent about its program by providing the IAEA open access to its facilities. A nuclear analyst told Bloomberg that Kuwait’s need for nuclear power is greater than other Arab states due to common electricity shortages in the summer. (Shutterstock)

Image 9 of 10KUWAIT: This country’s due for four nuclear reactors by 2022, and Kuwait remains relatively transparent about its program by providing the IAEA open access to its facilities. A nuclear analyst told Bloomberg that Kuwait’s need for nuclear power is greater than other Arab states due to common electricity shortages in the summer. (Shutterstock)

10

SYRIA: The war has already shed light on President Bashar al-Assad’s stockpiles of chemical weapons. But in January media reported the government may be building a nuclear bomb with help from Russia and Iran. It wouldn’t be the first time; the IAEA said a plant destroyed by Israel in 2007 was “very likely” a nuclear reactor. (AFP/File)

Image 10 of 10SYRIA: The war has already shed light on President Bashar al-Assad’s stockpiles of chemical weapons. But in January media reported the government may be building a nuclear bomb with help from Russia and Iran. It wouldn’t be the first time; the IAEA said a plant destroyed by Israel in 2007 was “very likely” a nuclear reactor. (AFP/File)

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The potential nuclear deal with the US has done little to belay concerns, shown by the Gulf Cooperation Council’s refusal to attend a Camp David meeting with US President Barack Obama to discuss it. Instead, the proposed deal is creating anxiety among Arab leaders about its lack of policing on Iran in a post-sanctions world.

The race to go nuclear continues. Here’s a rundown of the state of nuclear weapons in the Middle East.

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