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The Egyptian Nuclear Bomb - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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This month’s big surprise was Cairo’s announcement that it intends to resort to nuclear power by way of not one, but three nuclear power plants. Naturally, this announcement has elicited varied reactions.

The Egyptian opposition considers it merely a PR campaign orchestrated by the incumbent government in a bid to boost its popularity.

A number of Egyptian scientists consider it a necessity while reminding all people that Egypt was among the first world countries to attempt to make use of nuclear energy in 1956.

Others consider it a natural right, especially since the man who is currently the United Nations nuclear watchdog chief is Egyptian Mohamed ElBaradei, therefore, how is it that his country does not possess a single nuclear plant?

Yet others claim that the issue is not one intended for of peaceful means, but rather a secret plan to build the first Egyptian nuclear bomb in response to the Israeli and Iranian threat.

Whether the announcement falls within the (ruling) party’s propaganda or whether there is a secret plan, talk about the magical nuclear solution will increase the appetite of many who demand nuclear “enlightenment,” which is the proud symbol of scientific advancement that is only matched by the spaceship launching pad in Houston. The question is: Is it a sound option for Egypt?

So as not to discuss the Egyptian nuclear military choice for long, we will sum up the issue by saying that it is almost impossible in light of the current military balance. This is because Israel would turn it into rubble in minutes, just as it did to Saddam Hussein’s Tammuz reactor. There remains talk about the establishment of a peaceful nuclear reactor that could be transformed into a military one in the future. This will render the Egyptian announcement a contentious issue in the future. The Iranian nuclear weapon today is the result of its peaceful nuclear energy program, which was launched by the shah before he was deposed. This is also the case with the Pakistani, Korean, and Indian nuclear weapons. They were all produced secretly in civil furnaces.

Politically, no one casts doubt on the reasonableness of President Hosni Mubarak’s administration. This compels some people to wonder: Why then are doubts being cast on his government’s intentions, while apostate states are allowed to possess nuclear energy?

Here, other calculations are being taken into consideration. Everyone agrees on the present, but the political future in Egypt is uncertain. Despite the current obstacles, the Muslim Brotherhood could achieve power, as happened in Palestine where Hamas won (the elections). Perhaps Hamas’s bad administration and its clear positions after assuming power have strengthened the position of many people who caution against allowing the Brotherhood to win. Egypt’s size and influence is much greater and more dangerous in comparison to Jordan or Palestine. It cannot be handed over to the Brotherhood peacefully. However, in light of the United States’ insistence on the principle of elections and the failure of the current system to produce competitors who are attractive to the Egyptian people, the Brotherhood’s attainment (of power) is not impossible.

Regardless of the future authority, the nuclear ambition in the region is being cited by one party as a symbol of power, without informing the people of the facts that it entails, such as the cancers (it causes), its military dangers, and its exorbitant costs. The cost of disposing of nuclear waste in Britain has exceeded $130 billion; imagine what could happen in our region where there is a lack of proper management, maintenance, safety, and accountability.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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