Middle East

Barreling Toward a Nuclear and Ballistic Missile Arms Race in the Middle East

US policy is not the only factor feeding the burgeoning nuclear and ballistic missile arms race in the Middle East. It is also being enabled by the inability or unwillingness of the other major powers – Europe, Russia, and China – to counter crippling US sanctions against Iran in ways that would ensure that Tehran maintains an interest in adhering to the 2015 international agreement that curbed its nuclear program despite last year’s US withdrawal from the deal.

With the Middle East teetering on the brink of a military confrontation, Iran has vowed to start breaching the agreement next month if the international community, and particularly Europe, fails to shield it from US sanctions.

Former International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) deputy director general Olli Heinonen, a hardliner when it comes to Iran, asserted recently during a visit to Israel that Iran would need six to eight months to enrich uranium in the quantity and quality required to produce a nuclear bomb.

US and Chinese willingness to lower safeguards in their nuclear dealings with Saudi Arabia further fuels Iranian doubts about the value of the nuclear agreement and potentially opens the door to a nuclear arms race.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently visited Saudi Arabia and the UAE before joining President Trump for visits to India and South Korea and talks with world leaders at a G20 summit in Japan.

“We’ll be talking with them about how to make sure that we are all strategically aligned, and how we can build out a global coalition, a coalition not only throughout the Gulf states, but in Asia and in Europe…to push back against the world’s largest state sponsor of terror,” Pompeo said as he departed Washington.

Trump detailed the prism through which he approaches the Middle East in a wide-ranging interview with NBC News. He deflected calls for an FBI investigation into last October’s murder by Saudi government agents of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.

Read more at The Begin-Sadat Center For Strategic Studies

About the author

Dr. James M. Dorsey

(Ph.D. University of Utrecht). Specializes in the Muslim world's political, social, and economic fault lines as well as Chinese policy towards the region with a focus on geopolitics, social movements, and political and militant Islam. James also focuses on the nexus of sports, politics, and society. Email: office@besacenter.org

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