US Nonproliferation Policy in a Changing Middle East

Greetings Presidential Fellows!

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading through your posts and am inspired by the work we’ve all undertaken. I look forward to hearing more about your projects this spring.

My research over the past year formed a substantial portion of my senior honors thesis, which broadly examined the status of nuclear development in a changing Middle East, and analyzed prospects for bilateral Nuclear 123 Agreements between the United States and Arab nations going forward. Within this framework, I assessed the following questions, emphasizing countries that experienced uprisings within their borders over the past year:

1) What are the intentions and motivations of Arab states that have announced their desire to pursue civilian nuclear energy?

2) Do said states possess or have the ability to indigenously develop the technological, financial and political capabilities to successfully create a functioning civil nuclear program?

3) What role does ongoing public dissidence play in these efforts?

4) Given both the bureaucratic framework involved in U.S. nuclear negotiations and unfolding events in the Middle East region, what are potential feasible, pragmatic policy options the Obama administration can pursue in order to enhance prospects for future nuclear 123 Agreements? These options should better ensure both the development of nuclear energy for stated peaceful means, and the security of Arab states in light of threats stemming from the Iranian government.

My research began by reviewing the primary events of the Arab uprisings, and the uncertain government changes that have followed as a result. It then examined the status of nuclear developments in the Middle East, focusing on the intentions and motives of states pursuing nuclear energy aims. Feasibility of a civil nuclear program was taken into account, culminating in a review of pragmatic steps the United States could take to successfully negotiate 123 Agreements that meet stated administration objectives, and better embrace President Obama’s nuclear security vision as announced in his 2009 Prague address.

Assessing the internal political situation of so many Arab states proved to be the biggest challenge, as there were often times more differences than similarities. Thus, each state had to be respected for its independent developments, while also cohesively incorporated into the broader trends sweeping the region. Perhaps the most rewarding part was having the privilege of interviewing so many experts over the course of the past year. At Stanford, Scott Sagan, Lynn Eden and Condoleezza Rice were particularly helpful, as was Matt Bunn at the Harvard Kennedy School. A host of government officials also took the time to speak with me, though most did so off-the-record or on the condition of anonymity. These diverse insights and experiences afforded me a more multifaceted viewpoint from both a domestic and international perspective, which was beneficial when weighing the practicality and feasibility of policy options and proliferation scenarios. Much work remains to be done in this field, as the impact of the uprisings on US nonproliferation policy will be felt for years to come. But taking an original approach to the issue will, I hope, prove useful to US and Arab policymakers who might venture to challenge the status quo in the pursuit of peace and a more tranquil bend toward democratic transitions.

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