The problem of the nuclear race in the Middle East

The Flag of Iran at the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. (MICHAEL GRUBER/)

Regarding the Nuclear deal with Iran, the contradictory results of the present are not far from the moment in which his birth was announced. Subscribed and managed in the days of the ex-president’s administration Barack Obama and known as “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” (JCPOA for its acronym in English) continues to be subjected to different evaluations that do not find points of coincidence with its purpose; which inevitably shows that the expected results have not achieved the objectives outlined by its signatories.

Those who supported the Agreement maintain that the letter and the spirit of the Agreement nullify any option for the Islamic Republic to obtain a warhead that could lead to the assembly of a nuclear bomb. However, those who express themselves in opposition, affirm that the Agreement paves the way for Iran’s nuclear-military capability.

The fact is that according Iran itself the threshold for obtaining its weapon is close through the work of its own nuclear structure, the one that was constructed in a controversial way but guaranteed and decriminalized by the Agreement signed by President Obama. However, it must be considered that among the different affirmations favorable to the Agreement and the controversies raised by its detractors, there are positions that place it in a broader context regarding international arms control. For example, the former Representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica MogheriniWhenever he spoke of the Agreement, he referred to it as “a vital legal tool for global security and non-proliferation.”

Even so, after his term ended, Mogherini’s position showed several inconsistencies that have been criticized by the French president Emmanuel Macron and more sharply by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who declared to the international press of the danger and warned the Western leadership that in the terms that the JCPOA was originally drafted and agreed upon, it would be the starting point towards a dangerous regional nuclear race. . The argument used by Netayahu was classified as simplistic by several European Social Democratic leaders who disagreed that Tehran’s Sunni neighbors would request help from Western powers to achieve the same nuclear capabilities that the Agreement granted Iran for its weapons systems. .

Nevertheless, Neither Netanyahu nor President Trump were wrong when they warned that Tehran’s progress would fuel fear and the pursuit of nuclear capability by its regional Arab neighbors. The recent request for cooperation and the request for assistance from the Saudi Kingdom to Washington to begin the enrichment of uranium and other elements for the production of nuclear fuel is recent clear proof that “the nuclear arms race has begun in the Middle East” , as advanced in 2015 by the Israeli prime minister and ex-president Trump himself when annulling the Agreement during his administration.

The current dilemma is that a group of advisors to the president biden advised the head of the White House yes USA does not make a firm decision on the Agreement -which is given little chance of staying in force- and if Washington does not act quickly, the map of future regional conflicts that the United States perceives in the Middle East will inexorably have a nuclear component, which would constitute a serious threat for regional and international security.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi visits the Bushehr nuclear power plant, in Iran, October 8, 2021. Official website of the Presidency/Handout via REUTERS.  THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.  DO NOT RESOLVE.  NO FILES
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi visits the Bushehr nuclear power plant, in Iran, October 8, 2021. Official website of the Presidency/Handout via REUTERS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. DO NOT RESOLVE. NO ARCHIVES (OFFICIAL PRESIDENTIAL WEBSITE/)

Saudi Arabia’s position shows that its plans will not be easily stopped as a nuclear Iran poses a threat. specific to its own survival and that of its Sunni partners in the Gulf. Riyadh’s insistence on uranium enrichment is not for now, it began with the perfection and signing of the JCPOA and is intended to match Iran’s ability to produce and fire nuclear warheads assembled in its state-of-the-art missile systems.

The current problem that may affect relations between Washington and Riyadh It is that if the Saudis believe that they will not have US cooperation for their nuclear plans, they do not rule out continuing with the project that they began in August 2020 with the help of China to process enriched uranium. The construction project of the Saudi facilities with Chinese advice was publicly disclosed between November and December 2021 -almost a year after it began- and The Wall Street Journal did so by revealing that the Kingdom began to produce its own ballistic missiles with help from Beijing. When the post went public, the Biden administration had no choice but to acknowledge that it had credible intelligence reports that this was happening.

The question and the fears of the international community regarding the position of the US administration is whether President Biden, even without being his target, is not stimulating and incentivizing the potential regional nuclearization given his well-known thinking in minimizing the Iranian nuclear threat, while it is over-reducing its response to Tehran’s nuclear violations along with other provocations towards US allies in the region. On the other hand, some Saudi officials consider that they do not have a good relationship with President Biden or at least the relationship that they would like to have with Washington and base this belief on the fact that they have not received friendly and positive gestures from the tenant of the Oval Office at the time to express their security concerns in the face of the Iranian nuclear advance.

This scenario could change if Joe Biden publicly expressed his will to stop the nuclear arms race in the Middle East and this is not complex, it only demands aspects of a clear leadership from the United States that should take place within the framework of true control that limits progress. of Iran’s nuclear program; To this end, Washington should coordinate its work with its European partners, emphasizing compliance with the provisions of the JCPOA, something that is not happening today according to the vision of several Sunni Gulf chancelleries.

Gulf Arabs expect Washington to lead action combining economic, diplomatic and military pressures so that the obligations assumed by all parties in the Agreement are fulfilled. They also expect the administration to make a strong statement that the United States is willing, able, and fully committed to solving the problem posed by nuclear proliferation, including using force if necessary against those who violate the agreements signed. However, the path chosen by the Biden administration has been diplomatic dialogue and has been opposed to proposing other options, including the military option that is claimed by the Gulf countries, who consider that without concrete US military pressure, it will never be possible. possible a genuine diplomatic solution to the nuclear problem with Iran, which would inevitably generate a nuclear race between its regional neighbors.

There is no doubt that Washington and Riyadh have differences to settle. But there are no items showing as the president Biden plans to address them to resolve them without losing the Saudis to China as partners. The president could continue to appease Iran and ostracize the Saudis, but if he did so, he risks losing important allies in the Gulf, who for their own safety would line up behind Saudi decisions close to China. Hence the importance in which the first US president should involve and calm the well-founded concerns of Saudi Arabia and its neighbors with an unequivocally firm stance against the nuclear manipulation that Iran has been doing with the original Agreement. Thus, Biden would be showing a gesture of US commitment to the security and stability of the Middle East and that Washington is seeking a solution to the nuclear problem that resolves a problem inherited from former President Barack Obama. In the Saudi view, there is no other way to definitively control and limit the dangerous nuclear race that the JCPOA started in a region that, before it, was already a powder keg, but if it worsens it could be lethal for the rest of the international community.

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