Gulf states mull shared nuclear plan

Israel shows surprising magnanimity to prospect of nuclear development in Gulf.

saudi king 298  (photo credit: AP)
saudi king 298
(photo credit: AP)
The Gulf States announcement of an interest in a shared nuclear program could actually galvanize international action on Iran, Israeli sources said Sunday, showing a surprising magnanimity to the prospect of nuclear development in the Persian Gulf. At the end of the two-day Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Riyadh, the GCC issued a statement that read, "The (leaders) commissioned a study by members of the Gulf Cooperation Council to set up a common program in the area of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, according to international standards and systems." The statement read by Abdul Rahman al-Attiyah, the secretary general of the political and economic alliance, did not elaborate on the plan by the GCC, which is comprised of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman. Sources in Jerusalem said that this move was widely expected as the Sunni countries in the Persian Gulf are looking for a hedge against Shi'ite Iran that is pushing forward with its nuclear program. The officials said they viewed "positively" pressure building on Iran from the Gulf States, and that this announcement was a manifestation of that pressure. "In the past these states only talked about the Iranian nuclear issue using code words, but now they are coming out of the closet in a big way, and this is an example," the sources said. The officials said these messages were especially important for Russia, which has been hesitant about leveling significant sanctions against Iran. They said that there was increasing contact between Russia and the Gulf States on this issue. "We've talked about the domino effect for a while, and this announcement is a necessary first step," sources in Jerusalem said. "But it is a very long-term process." "This move is directed against Iran," the officials said. "You have a situation where these countries see Iran going full-steam ahead without any external interference, and want to hedge their bets, explore the options." The officials said this sends a clear message to the "major countries" that "more needs to be done." The officials interpreted the move as a message by the GSS that shows they are very concerned either that the international community "doesn't get it" regarding Iran, or that it doesn't have the gumption to deal with the situation. The sources said there was a growing sense among these countries that "they will need to fend for themselves." And this concern, Israeli officials have been saying for months, is not limited to the Gulf States, but also shared by countries like Egypt and Jordan. The officials stressed that the prospect of a nuclearized Persian Gulf was "really far off, very far down the track." Iran's first reactor in Bushehr, just across the Gulf waters from Kuwait and the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia, is projected to go on line in late 2007. Officials in the Sunni-led Gulf nations have previously focused on safety issues involving the program, but they also are concerned about the fallout of possible military strike by the US or Israel. The Gulf Countries with US military bases, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar, fear Iran could retaliate against them. The Gulf leaders reiterated their public position on Sunday that the standoff with Iran should be "resolved peacefully." AP contributed to this report