Nuclear Energy and Nuclear Weapons in the Middle East
Benchmarks and Learning Objectives
The Middle East is important to both global security and global economy. In the 2010-2011 Critical Issues Forum (CIF), as students you will investigate nuclear nonproliferation in the Middle East. You will look at the growth of peaceful nuclear energy programs in the region. You will investigate efforts to establish a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone (NWFZ) in the Middle East.
In all of your work, you will address your objectives through the CIF Domains: science & environment; society & culture; economics; politics & geopolitics.Â You will see how these domains influence the conflicts in the region. You will also see how the domains create possibilities for positive change.
You will give special attention to Israel, Iran, and Syria, but you will also consider other leading countries in the region such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Â You will investigate how outside powers, including the United States, the European Union, Russia, and China can promote or obstruct solutions to the nuclear problems.
Benchmark I – Background
The Middle East is one of the most unstable regions in the world. Disagreements over territory, religion, culture, oil, water, and other issues often lead to conflict. Many countries in the region are exploring the use of nuclear power to meet their energy needs. Several countries with worries about security and other countries with political ambitions have turned to nuclear weapons. However, there is also new international momentum for controlling the spread of nuclear weapons. There are even efforts for banning these weapons from the Middle East altogether.
In Benchmark I, your task is to demonstrate clearly, in a carefully constructed project, a comprehensive understanding of nuclear energy in the Middle East today. First, you will learn about the history of the Middle East, including the roles of colonialism, nationalism and the changes after two World Wars. Next, you will learn about the nuclear fuel cycle and will gain knowledge about the dual use nuclear energy. The project must be your own original work, with clear and correct citations for any work you borrow from others. If the work is not your own, including photos, graphics, multimedia, charts, and graphs you must credit it both within the text and in a bibliography.
Objectives for Benchmark I
One: Many historians date â€œModern Historyâ€ in the Middle East from the end of World War I. The first objective is to gain knowledge of major trends and events in the Middle East. This knowledge will help you understand the national, cultural, and other motivations driving the countries in the Middle East today. In this objective, you will explore topics such as the two World Wars, colonialism, nationalism, oil, and the conflict of religion ideologies. You will begin to see the similarities and differences among the countries of the Middle East. You will see how these similarities and differences have become sources of conflict in the region.
Suggested Topics for Research
- The countries that make up the Middle East
- World War I, the end of the Ottoman Empire, and The Treaty of Versailles
- The roles of Britain, France, and Italy; The Sykes-Picot agreement, The Balfour Declaration, The McMahon Correspondences
- Independence Movements before and after World War II; the end of colonialism
- The State of Israel and the series of Arab-Israeli Wars
- The United Arab Republics, Nasser, and the Suez Canal
- United Nations actions and resolutions
- The Iranian Revolution and the war with Iraq
- The Two Iraqi conflicts
- Palestine and Terrorism
- Arab-Palestinian-Israeli Peace Talks
- Nuclear energy, nuclear weapons, nuclear â€œwannabesâ€ in the area
Two: The second objective is to be able to understand the phases of the nuclear fuel cycle, paying particular attention to the dual use nature of this cycle. You will investigate the design of nuclear reactors. You will begin to learn about international monitoring and the control of nuclear activities. This knowledge will help you to explain how Middle Eastern countries can approach nuclear energy for domestic purposes or divert this energy to weapons.
Suggested Topics for Research
- The stages of the nuclear fuel cycle; the possibility of proliferation
- Types and classifications of nuclear reactors; safety and security; advantages and disadvantages
- Nuclear fuel â€“ enrichment and reprocessing; levels of enrichment for different purposes
- Dual use technology in the nuclear industry
- International monitoring and control of nuclear activities in the Middle East; or lack thereof
Benchmark II – Nuclear Activity in the Middle East
Israelâ€™s nuclear arsenal is called â€œthe worldâ€™s worst-kept secret.â€ Iran says it is not developing nuclear weapons, but the United States, the European Union, and many of Iranâ€™s neighbors are not convinced. Syria has some nuclear technology, but refuses to provide further information. Iran has a power reactor and Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are planning nuclear power. Today, no country in the Middle East uses nuclear power. However, more countries in the region want to establish nuclear energy programs. There are countries and companies that could supply nuclear technology to the region. They insist that their activities will be under IAEA safeguards. All of these issues raise the possibility that more countries could seek to develop nuclear weapons.
In Benchmark II, your task is to demonstrate clearly, in a carefully constructed project, a comprehensive understanding of nuclear activities, civilian or military in the Middle East today. In addition, you will investigate countries outside the region that do, or can, contribute to nuclear activities in the Middle East today. The project must be your own original work, with clear and correct citations for any work you borrow from others.Â If the work is not your own, including photos, graphics, multimedia, charts, and graphs you must credit it within your text and in a bibliography.
Objectives for Benchmark II
One: The first objective is to show your knowledge of the countries in the Middle East that have, or are interested in, nuclear activities. You must demonstrate the motivations for this interest, as well as knowledge of the capability of these countries to acquire and use nuclear energy.
Suggested Topics for Research
- Countries that have shown interest in developing nuclear energy, their motivations, capabilities
- Countries that have developed nuclear energy to some extent, their motivations, capabilities
- Countries identified with nuclear weapons, interest, suspicions; motivations, capabilities
- The capacity for nuclear activity in the Middle East, infrastructure, personnel, resources
- Motivations for particular countries
Two: The second objective is to be able to show knowledge of countries outside the Middle East and how and why these countries do, or can contribute to nuclear ambitions within the region.
Suggested Topics for Research
- Countries with a history of exporting nuclear technology
- The economics of nuclear technology on a company level, on a national level
- Nuclear â€œspheres of influenceâ€
- Nuclear technology as a â€œweaponâ€ in international politics
- Active or passive encouragement of nuclear proliferation or nonproliferation
Benchmark III: Nonproliferation Efforts in the Middle East
There are worries about nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and these worries have contributed to tensions in the region. However, there have also been several important efforts to ease these tensions. For example, in 1974, Iran and Egypt proposed a Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone in the Middle East. In 1991, Israel, Egypt, and other countries in the region agreed to talks on arms control and regional security. In 1995 and 2000, the NPT Review Conferences both expressed support for a NWFZ in the Middle East. With leadership from the United States and Egypt, the 2010 NPT Review Conference included an agreement to hold a conference on a Middle East NWFZ in 2012.
In Benchmarks I and II, using the CIF domains (science & environment; society & culture; economics; politics & geopolitics) you gained insight into the history of the Middle East. You learned about the nuclear fuel cycle, reactors, and the dual uses of these technologies. You also learned about nuclear activities in the Middle East today and what might happen in the future. Finally, you learned about other countries (and companies) that are interested in expanding their influence in the region by supporting the development of nuclear energy.
For Benchmark III you will synthesize, analyze, and evaluate what you have learned. You will do additional research to create your own meaning about events and concerns regarding nuclear activities in the Middle East today. When you put all of this research together, you will make, and be able to support, judgments about these activities.
Objective for Benchmark III
Your final task is to demonstrate clearly, in a carefully constructed project, a comprehensive understanding that addresses four different approaches to the proliferation problem in the Middle East: 1) safeguards, 2) sanctions, 3) a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone, and 4) a military option. Your project will address this topic through as many of the CIF domains as possible.
(NOTE: It is conceivable that some of the domains will not fit your work.) The project must be your own original work, with clear and correct citations for any work you borrow from others.Â If the work is not your own, including photos, graphics, multimedia, charts, and graphs you must credit it within your text and in a bibliography.
Suggested Topics for Additional Research
- Past and present steps toward nonproliferation in the Middle East
- The roles of the IAEA, the NPT and other organizations and treaties
- Nuclear Weapons Free Zones, history, establishment, processes, barriers
 Cohen, A. (1998). Israel and the bomb. New York: Columbia University Press.