Gulf Arab leaders are considering a joint civilian nuclear programme, a move that could heighten proliferation concerns in the oil-rich region.
reports the Financial Times.
The decision to order a study, announced at the end of a two-day summit in Riyadh attended by leaders from the Gulf Co-operation Council, comes at a time of mounting Arab concern over Iran’s nuclear ambitions and its growing regional power.
Abdul-Rahman al-Attiya, the secretary-general of the GCC, which includes Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, stressed that Gulf countries had the right to nuclear energy technology for peaceful purposes.
To which my response is: who are they trying to kid? The GCC is a robust enough forum for agreeing on some matters, such as visa free travel for its citizens and the like, but unfortunately the rulers and citizens of the Gulf States usually have egos which match their hydrocarbon reserves for size, thus reducing cooperation on anything substantial to petty squabbling and endless bickering. One of the more tedious aspects of developing business along the whole length of the Gulf was being told in each country that our regional head office should be located in the country I was currently in, as to be based out of another was a snub which displeased them.
Take by way of a more serious example the fact that the UAE and Saudi Arabia can’t even agree on where their borders lie, a disupute which has led Saudi to block the route of a pipeline between Qatar and the UAE. And witness the withdrawal of Qatar and then Abu Dhabi from Gulf Air, the two throwing cooperation to the wind and instead going it alone as soon as the oil price rose to sufficiently fill the government coffers, leaving poorer Oman and Bahrain to run the airline by themselves. Unless the subject of the day is denouncing Israel the level of cooperation between the Gulf states is woeful, and headlines are more often made by one or other of them announcing some mega–project which threatens to be whiter and more elephant-like than Dubai’s Palm Islands than anything which describes a genuine breakthrough in cooperation.
And now we’re expected to believe that the GCC are going to cooperate in the building of a joint nuclear programme? If they ever properly agree which nationality is going to be the chairman, I’ll eat my hat. If an atom ever gets split, I’ll eat my whole outfit which, sitting watching the blizzard outside, is pretty substantial.
Besides, let’s assume a nuclear reactor does get built in one of the Gulf States. Is it going to be run along the same lines as the region’s oil and gas facilities, the characteristics of which are corruption, non-accountability, cronyism, political interference, and terrible safety records? Let’s just say that if I will find myself a few years down the track being reminded of this post and subsequently munching my way through my North Face down jacket, I’ll at least be glad that I am doing so from the very remote location of Sakhalin Island.