One of the great beneficiaries of the Iraq war has been Iran. It is emboldened in ways almost unimaginable before 2003. This news is therefore unsurprising:
As Iran races ahead with an illicit uranium enrichment effort, nearly a dozen other Middle East nations are moving forward on their own civilian nuclear programs. In the latest development, a team of eight U.N. experts on Friday ended a weeklong trip to Saudi Arabia to provide nuclear guidance to officials from six Persian Gulf countries.
Diplomats and analysts view the Saudi trip as the latest sign that Iran’s suspected weapons program has helped spark a chain reaction of nuclear interest among its Arab rivals, which some fear will lead to a scramble for atomic weapons in the world’s most volatile region.
The International Atomic Energy Agency sent the team of nuclear experts to Riyadh, the Saudi capital, to advise the Gulf Cooperation Council on building nuclear energy plants. Together, the council members — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the seven sheikdoms of the United Arab Emirates — control nearly half the world’s known oil reserves.
Other nations that have said they plan to construct civilian nuclear reactors or have sought technical assistance and advice from the IAEA, the Vienna-based United Nations nuclear watchdog agency, in the last year include Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Turkey and Yemen, as well as several North African nations.
Here in Egypt many people I’m meeting tell me that although they’re uncomfortable with Iran’s hardline regime and abuse of human rights, they’re happy that Iran seems to be one of the only countries in the world standing up to the US. It’s clear that if the US (or Israel) decides to bomb the Islamic republic, they should prepare for a serious regional crisis. Very few Arabs will support the US action, leaving Western interests in the region exposed like never before (let alone the Iranian people themselves.)