Iranian nuclear program could lead to regional arms race


With an eye on Iran, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, Jordan, and Turkey look to build their own nuclear programs, raising concerns that the failure to halt Iran’s nuclear program could trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Today Egypt and Russia announced a plan to build Egypt’s first nuclear power plant with four reactors. Egypt’s move to acquire a domestic nuclear program underscores the position of some analysts that Iran’s program has already sparked such a race. Last July, Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claimed that giving Iran “any enrichment will trigger an arms race in the Middle East.”

In November 2013, the P5+1 global powers negotiated the Joint Plan of Action with Iran, which explicitly allows Iran to enrich uranium up to five percent. In response to Iran’s nuclear program, states in the region have threatened to acquire programs of their own in the interim. In 2009, the late Saudi King Abdullah reportedly told Ambassador Dennis Ross that “if they get nuclear weapons, we will get nuclear weapons.” The Daily Beast reported a conversation between Senator Lindsey Graham and former intelligence chief Saudi Prince Turki al Faisal. Graham asked the Prince, “If any final agreement that allowed Iran to maintain an enrichment capability would cause Saudi Arabia and other Arab states to invoke their own right to enrich uranium.” He responded, “I think we should insist on having equal rights for everybody, this is part of the (Non-Proliferation Treaty) arrangement.”

To gain access to U.S nuclear technology and equipment for its nuclear facilities, the UAE agreed not to enrich uranium. However, an agreement with Iran may lead the UAE to demand to renegotiate or abandon this agreement. Furthermore, last December Russia and Jordan signed an agreement to build the first nuclear power plant in Jordan. Turkey, a rival that competes with Iran for influence in the Middle East, may also acquire nuclear weapons. In January 2014, Turkey and Japan signed a nuclear agreement that included a clause that allows Turkey to enrich uranium and extract plutonium, raising concerns about nuclear weapons proliferation.  In 2009, a Turkish Foreign Ministry official claimed that if Iran acquires nuclear weapons, Turkey will do the same.


Syrian government troops, bolstered by Hezbollah militants and officers of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), launched an offensive on Sunday in southern Syria. The purpose of the offensive is reportedly to cut opposition fighters’ communications between a triangular area southwest of Damascus and Quneitra and Daraa. Opposition forces had been making inroads in the region, and on Tuesday the pro-regime forces had “taken a string of villages and hills” along the border of the Israeli Golan Heights. Al-Quds Al-Arabi, a London-based Arabic daily, reported that more than 4,500 Syrian soldiers, reinforced by hundreds of Hezbollah fighters and IRGC officers, were involved in the offensive. According to a source close to the Free Syrian Army, the Syrian military handed the offensive over to a joint Hezbollah-IRGC command. As Oliver Holmes of Reuters points out, “[t]he south is one of the last remaining areas where mainstream, non-jihadist rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad have a foothold. Just a short drive to Damascus, the area remains a risk to the Syrian leader, who has otherwise consolidated control over much of the west.” As-Safir, a pro-Hezbollah and pro-Assad Lebanese newspaper, called the offensive “statement number two,” as a prelude to a larger counter-attack on the southern front, with statement number one being the Hezbollah attack on Israeli troops on the Israel-Lebanon border that took place on January 28. Two Israeli soldiers, Captain Yohai Kalangel, 25, and Sergeant Dor Nini, 20, were killed in that attack. Iran and Hezbollah have provided firm support to the Assad regime during the Syrian civil war, which has claimed the lives of at least 200,000 people. Hezbollah has deployed thousands of fighters to Syria to fight alongside Bashar al-Assad. Hezbollah and Iranian support has been critical to the regime’s survival and was particularly evident in the seizure of Qusayr, a city in western Syria, from rebel control in June 2013. Analyst Jeffrey White of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy called Qusayr “a battle the regime must win,” because of the city’s strategic location between Homs and the Mediterranean coast and because “a victory would boost [the regime’s] resilience and affirm the commitment of its supporters."


UNICEF calls pneumonia “the forgotten killer of children.” This severe infection in the lungs causes more deaths in kids under five years old than AIDS, malaria and measles combined. Treatment is simple and effective, but in developing countries the problem is diagnosing it in the first place. Two Israeli startups with promising products to meet the acute need for diagnosing pneumonia recently won seed grants from Grand Challenges Israel, a program launched last year by MASHAV-Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation with the Office of the Chief Scientist at the Israeli Ministry of Economy and the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office. “The goal of this program is to steer Israeli entrepreneurs towards finding solutions for developing nations — those markets in which there’s a real need for urgent solutions — as well as opening up a huge, untapped business potential for Israeli entrepreneurs and industrialists.” RespiDX has designed the Respimometer, which looks like a cross between a pacifier and a digital oral thermometer. The mouth stop just under the child’s nose would be embedded with sensors to measure breathing. “We filed a patent and now we’re looking to use the grant to make a prototype and test it against existing means of measuring respiration rate to prove it’s good enough to be out in the market,” says Ian Solomon, a serial medical-device entrepreneur who is part of a group that founded RespiDX a couple of years ago with the encouragement of pediatric pulmonologist Dr. Israel Amirav of the University of Alberta in Canada. Solomon tells ISRAEL21c that the Respimometer could be integrated into a regular digital thermometer. “This is something people are familiar with, so while taking the child’s temperature the device could also detect pneumonia immediately.” (via Israel21c)

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