Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The Jordanian Nuclear Bomb | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Former Israeli Justice Minister, Yossi Beilin, wrote an interesting op-ed article for the New York Times [Let Jordan Enrich It’s Own Uranium] in which he defended the Jordanian nuclear project and criticized the Israeli government’s objection to this, as well as reproached the US government for indulging Israel’s request [to put pressure on Jordan’s nuclear project].

The Jordanians have not hidden their intention to build a series of nuclear power plants, and they had previously announced that they would be receiving international bids on construction of the first power plant. The sole purpose of this is to provide Jordan with electricity, and to later sell energy to neighboring countries. As for the secret behind Jordan’s unexpected interest in nuclear energy – despite its high costs –Jordan recently discovered large quantities of uranium under its soil, discovering what in fact turned out to be the eleventh largest deposit of uranium in the world. As long as Jordan possesses uranium it is more deserving than others to take the route of nuclear energy. However, the US government decided to put pressure on Jordan to force it purchase enriched uranium from the international market. It is strange that the US would be suspicious of Jordan in the first place, especially after 40 years of peaceful relations, and the question here is; is it rational for the Jordanians to spend such a huge amount of money to build a nuclear bomb when they do not allow a car-bomb that costs $3,000 to cross the bridge towards Israel?

Preventing Jordan from building nuclear plants – as Beilin himself said – would be equivalent to depriving the country of its rights which are guaranteed by international conventions, and this would also transform Jordan from a country that has always been supportive of peace to a country that feels as if it is like all the other rogue states. Jordan is not Iran or North Korea. Iran is being prevented from developing its nuclear program due to its extremely bad political record, and the Iranian government’s pretexts of developing nuclear energy is something that everybody knows is a cover to produce nuclear weapons. This is something that is supported by Tehran’s record of supporting chaos and terrorism, however despite this Iran has the right to use nuclear energy provided that it accepts complete oversight and gives up uranium enrichment.

These conditions and doubts have not been imposed upon a country such as Pakistan, despite the fact that it defied everybody to build its nuclear weapons; this is because the Pakistani regime’s peaceful political record has caused the rest of the world to tolerate it. The same should also apply to Jordan. If there is another country other than Iran that should be kept away from nuclear weapons, or even peaceful nuclear energy, due to its extremely bad record of resorting to force, its insistence of rejecting successive peace projects, and because it is the only country in the region that refuses to implement UN Security Council resolutions, then this is Israel. If Jordan is prevented from implementing its legitimate right of building a nuclear plant then the international community should offset the energy that the country needs for free. For Jordan does not possess any oil, or money, and cannot continue to be dependent upon the kindly assistance of Iraq and Saudi Arabia who provide the country with cheap oil. Oil remains the most expensive thing on the Jordanian government’s budget. However as long as Jordan sits upon a huge stockpile of uranium, it has the right not just to light the houses of its citizens with nuclear energy, but also to sell this nuclear energy to regional countries as an additional source of income to improve its economic situation. It is also not logical for the construction of nuclear power plants to be dependent – as it is in the case of Saudi Arabia and the UAE – upon the condition that enriched uranium is purchased from the domestic market, rather than uranium being enriched domestically. Jordan is in possession of its own stockpile of uranium, so why should it be forced to buy this from the international markets?

Yossi Beilin was right when he warned that imposing restrictions on Jordan, in order to appease Israel, will cause this peaceful country to change its political direction. We have already witnessed how Israel has succeeded in shattering moderate regimes. It put more pressure on the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah than it did its rival Hamas in Gaza, despite all the wailing that we hear. The US government must recognize the value of these moderate regimes and their supporters, and not follow the Israelis who want to destroy the region believing that this will grant them a larger international role.