The Mideast’s newest nuclear power plant is being built in the United Arab Emirates, just a few hundred miles from Iran. U.A.E. officials promise that the plant will be open to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency and other international watchdogs. U.S. and European officials describe it a model project which stands in direct contrast to Iran’s secret nuclear push.
Dig beyond the public statements, however, and U.S. officials acknowledge real concerns about the plant. The U.A.E., like other Persian Gulf states, sees Iran as a direct threat. In cables released by WikiLeaks, the Saudi and Kuwaiti governments said they would launch nuclear programs of their own if Iran obtained a bomb. Both countries, however, would be starting nuclear programs from scratch. The U.A.E., which hopes to have its first nuclear plant online by 2014, will be the only regional country capable of keeping pace with Iran. If Iran develops nuclear weapons, it will almost certainly set off a domino effect as Gulf countries try to build – or buy – nuclear weapons of their own. The tiny U.A.E., often an afterthought in public discussions about the region, could be the first to actually construct one.
This project will explore the U.A.E.’s nuclear program and the growing prospect of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Washington has long turned a blind-eye to Israel’s nuclear program while working to prevent Arab nations from developing their own. But U.S. officials believe Iran’s ongoing progress towards a nuclear weapon is pushing Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt and Turkey to follow suit. Yochi Dreazen's reporting takes readers inside the U.A.E.’s nuclear push and detail the systems Gulf states are installing to defend against Iran – and the nuclear programs the U.A.E. and other Arab states could launch in response.