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The Iranian-Israeli Nuclear Race and Its Implications on the GCC/UAE Security Analytical Essay

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Updated: Jun 6th, 2019

The Nuclear race between Iran and Israel has been an ongoing conflict of low intensity for decades. It has been a long time since it became apparent that this strain will always fuel the instability in Middle East region, and remain a particular concern for the GCC states and especially UAE. It is obvious that the stability or the balance of powers can never be achieved as long as both states, Iran and Israel, continue to compete for victory in the arms race.

A distinct sense of insecurity keeps growing among the countries of the Gulf region, and such awareness will definitely have its implications on the neighbor countries. For some time already the UAE has been voicing its concerns about the region’s instability, although in the past few years it has moved from tolerant and patient rhetoric to a more apprehensive attitude and bold statements, along with the fellow countries of GCC.

The combination of these factors and the cited arguments allow to come to a definite conclusion regarding the need for UAE to reshape the programs of military security and place greater focus on foreign policy and relations between the countries, as well as turning attention to its own nuclear program, not for militarization or entering a new round of arms race, but merely for preserving the balance of power in the region and making explicit its intentions to resist any threats.

A thorough background research has shown that the nuclear programs of both countries have been influencing not only the Middle East Region but the political life and international relationships all over the world for at least three decades. It is well known that Israel has neither denied nor confirmed the fact that it has constructed or possessed the nuclear weapons.

However, the implications of possession of a nuclear arsenal and its estimated numbers have varied from year to year, with the last probable assessment of the Federation of American Scientists has been of 80 missiles by 2015, although Israel might have produced enough plutonium for 100-200 warheads (par. 4-18). The Israeli scientific nuclear program is based on the use of a nuclear reactor and reprocessing plant in Dimona, Israel.

The government of Israel has acknowledged the existence of plant site; however, it is not willing to disclose any details, and the information remains classified. Such policy has been also known as the so-called “nuclear ambiguity,” which Israel has maintained throughout its history. Another way of dealing with the tension in the region for Israel lies in applying significant efforts to prevent neighbor countries from acquiring the nuclear weapons or developing the nuclear programs.

Most of these efforts have been definitely aimed at Iran, as Israel has been warning that a nuclear Iran will become a threat not only to the Jews, but it would also threaten the safety of all the GCC countries and might provoke a new round of the arms race. The anxiety of the Israelis is easy to understand; however their strategies are unable to solve the threat of the nuclear dilemma, moreover, they may worsen it in some ways. Despite the deep Israel-US cooperation, according to a report on Israel policies by Haim Malka (2012),

The strategies… [of] deterrence, containment, and entente, as well as a military strike… [do not] solve the threat of a potentially nuclear threat. Every strategy poses complicated dilemmas for Israel and the United States, which means that managing Israeli expectations and actions will become more complex in the months and years ahead. (61)

The nuclear status of Iran is as indefinite as Israel’s, but it has always evoked greater interest and concern. According to a report on Iranian nuclear program, for scientific and nuclear energy purposes the country now possesses two uranium mines, uranium processing facilities that include at least three uranium enrichment plants, a research reactor and several research sites (Kerr 1-5). The same research also notes:

Although Iran claims that its nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes, the program has generated considerable concern that Tehran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program… [The IAEA] has concerns about the program, particularly evidence that Iran may have conducted procurement activities and research directly applicable to nuclear weapons development. (Kerr 1)

The abovementioned facts can be used to describe the roots of the problem in its entirety. The two advanced and covert nuclear programs create major regional instability and pose a severe security threat to the GCC states and the UAE in particular.

At the same time, the only thing opposed to the threat and used to maintain the delicate power balance in the region is the US liability to provide conventional weapons and a “nuclear umbrella” for Israel only, even while Israel itself believes that such deterrence system should, in fact, be extended to Gulf allies (Malka 57). This means that neither UAE nor any of the GCC states own a nuclear program for deterrence use and have no way to defend them or compete with the previously mentioned military programs of Iran and Israel.

The analysis of the current situation shows that the Iranian – Israeli nuclear holocaust is not much likely to happen given the fact that modern Iran is not prone to taking significant risks, and it does not want to enter international isolation again as its economy and international relations have just started evolving after long years of boycott and deteriorating relations between Iran and the Western Countries in particular.

Yet the Iranian official speeches do not hesitate to express aggressive strategies and the government shows its willingness to use its weapons against any threats posed by Israel, both real and speculative.

Iran struggles to be introduced to the world as the only Muslim country who can give Israel a fitting reply, and therefore it will be able to act as major power in the Middle East region and to play the role of the guardian for GCC states, which may serve their expansionist ambitions in compliance with their religious and cultural Shiite doctrine. A policy paper on Iranian doctrine states the following:

Iranian centrality has created a vision for Tehran’s regional role that does not follow the known rules of the international order; instead, it is based on transnational doctrinal discourse and policies to “create a Shiite nation” with Iran as its center and political term of reference. Thus, Iran resembles Israel only, which also sees itself as a state for world Jews. (Emirates Policy Center 65)

Thus, it is obvious that Iran can become a source of greater instability than Israel now, meaning that the UAE and GCC should contain the Iranian role in the Gulf region for the sake of maintaining the balance of power.

While according to a research conducted by Alireza Nader, the Iranian attempts to undermine the stability of the UAE socio-political system have been unsuccessful, and the domestic intelligence has deterred the attempts to do so, the Iranian threat to the GCC countries should not be completely dismissed; while the acquisition of the nuclear weapons will not change the equation dramatically, the balance will be disrupted (14-16).

The recommended policies for dealing with an acute topic of nuclear safety in the Middle East region should include at least a few different options to address every aspect of the problem. First of all, it is important to establish a distinct foreign policy concerning the relations with Iran and Israel, which should not be threatening but rather warning and showing the calm and confident strength and determination.

The GCC countries must turn away from the accusation discourse and seek rapprochement with both Israel and Iran, under a condition that such policies will be reciprocated. Another recommendation might involve UAE taking advantage of its already established nuclear program. The information provided in a report by Karim Sadjadpour and Ali Vaez shows that “the UAE signed a landmark contract with a Korean-led consortium … to construct four nuclear reactors…

The UAE has sought to become a nonproliferation model by … ratifying the Additional Protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement … [and] renouncing … to enrich uranium or reprocess spent fuel” (22). For purposes of maintaining a secure nuclear program that could be used in the future if there is any need to develop a deterrence weapon, the UAE should gain the International community support to her nuclear program and subsequently invest in nuclear technology for safety.

Works Cited

Emirates Policy Center. The Doctrinal Foundations of Iran’s Geopolitical Project. Abu-Dhabi, UAE: Emirates Policy Center (EPC) Iranian Studies Unit, 2014. Print.

Federation of American Scientists. “Status of World Nuclear Forces.” 2015. Web. <>

Kerr, Paul K. “Iran’s Nuclear Program: Status. Congressional Research Service Report for Congress.” 2012. PDF File. 04 Dec. 2015. <>

Malka, Haim. “Israel.” Gulf Kaleidoscope: reflections on the Iranian challenge. Ed. Jon. B. Alterman. Washington, DC: Center for Strategic & International Studies, 2012. 49-61. Print.

Nader, Alireza. Iran After the Bomb: How Would a Nuclear-Armed Tehran Behave? Santa-Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2013. Print.

Sadjadpour, Karim, and A. Vaez. Iran’s Nuclear Odyssey. Costs and Risks. Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2013. Print.

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IvyPanda. "The Iranian-Israeli Nuclear Race and Its Implications on the GCC/UAE Security." June 6, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-iranian-israeli-nuclear-race-and-its-implications-on-the-gcc-uae-security/.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "The Iranian-Israeli Nuclear Race and Its Implications on the GCC/UAE Security." June 6, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-iranian-israeli-nuclear-race-and-its-implications-on-the-gcc-uae-security/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'The Iranian-Israeli Nuclear Race and Its Implications on the GCC/UAE Security'. 6 June.

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