United Arab Emirates: The Middle East’s Nuclear “Golden Child”?

Post by Rachel Hoffman,  Research Intern at the International Centre for Security Analysis.

A Google search for the phrase ‘middle east nuclear program’ yields numerous articles and discussions on the nuclear programmes of Iran, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. Unsurprisingly, Iran is the most prominent search result given the current negotiations between the country and the P5+1 over its nuclear programme. Interest in Israel’s highly suspected but as yet unacknowledged nuclear weapons programme has risen recently. This followed a proposal at the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty Review Conference that would encourage steps to make the Middle East a nuclear weapon free zone, potentially compromising Israel’s strategic ambiguity. And recent comments by a handful of high-ranking officials suggesting Saudi Arabia may pursue nuclear weapons to combat Iran’s growing influence have captured international attention.

However, for those closely watching Middle Eastern nuclear programmes, one country seems conspicuously absent from these results – the United Arab Emirates (UAE). As of June 6th 2015, the one mention of the UAE’s rapidly developing nuclear energy programme in the first 32 pages of Google results is on page five, indicating how little attention the country’s nuclear ambitions have received within broader public discourse and popular media. The irony of this lack of attention is that the UAE is arguably pursuing the most transparent and well-documented Middle Eastern nuclear programme to date.

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