The recent diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear program has sparked considerable debate in the international community regarding the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Under the current mandate of the diplomatic solution, the Iranian nuclear deal will only allow for the use of nuclear resources to produce power, but tensions remain regarding Iran’s ambitions to produce nuclear weapons from the fuel utilized in the program. Should Iran develop a nuclear weapon, it will be one of nine other nations to possess nuclear weapon capabilities, and the third within the greater Middle East. With the Iranian pursuit of nuclear technology, neighboring countries to the Islamic regime may pursue their own nuclear ambitions to stave off future threats of Iranian nuclear dominance.
Currently Pakistan and Israel have nuclear weapon capabilities. While Israel has not publically acknowledged the existence of the weapons, it remains an open secret within the international community. Pakistan’s current capabilities are land and air-based, whereas for the Israelis it is suspected they possess the nuclear triad of land, air, and sea-based weapon systems. Outside of the two nuclear-capable states, Turkey shares facilities with NATO for the deployment of nuclear weapons. Despite the slowing of nuclear energy production in the west, nuclear power is becoming a significant energy source for the nations of the Middle East.
In 2009, nine countries across North Africa and the Middle East were in pursuit of nuclear power as an energy source. With the disruption of the Arab Spring in 2010, many of those nuclear plans have been placed on hold. Turkey and the United Arab Emirates have continued their nuclear energy ambitions, with the production of five nuclear power plants between the two nations being constructed currently. The economic superpower of the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, has stated they are interested in pursuing nuclear energy resources in the future, and with the threat of Iranian nuclear weapons may pursue their own nuclear weapon ambitions to counter the Shiite threat.
The Iran deal will determine the future of nuclear ambitions in the Middle East. Should a weapon eventually be developed, expect Iranian neighbors especially Saudi Arabia, to begin production of their own nuclear stockpile. With the continued dysfunctionality of the Middle East, adding nuclear weapons to the fold only increases the likelihood of disaster.