x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Nuclear deal 'model' for Arab states

The first congressional hearing on the the US-UAE nuclear accord yesterday offered praise for the agreement as a "model" for Arab states with nuclear ambitions, but also raised concerns.

WASHINGTON // The first congressional hearing on the the US-UAE nuclear accord yesterday offered praise for the agreement as a "model" for Arab states with nuclear ambitions, but also raised concerns by some lawmakers regarding export controls and fears that nuclear materials could find their way to Iran.

Ellen Tauscher, the recently sworn-in under-secretary for arms control and international security, sought to assuage many of the legislators' concerns. She noted the United States and the UAE "share a common vision for a secure a stable and prosperous Middle East". Ms Tauscher called the 123 agreement - named after a section in the US Atomic Energy Act - a "significant non-proliferation achievement".

"The UAE's expressed commitment not to pursue enrichment or reprocessing capabilities represents a marked contrast to Iran," she said, citing "considerable progress in enforcing an export-control law". "The UAE has decided at the highest levels not to be a source of proliferation in the future," she said. The accord was negotiated under the Bush administration and approved by the Obama administration. Congress has until Oct 17 to amend the agreement or try to block it. Ed Markey, a Democratic congressman from Massachusetts, introduced a measure in May disapproving of the agreement which could potentially block it. It appears unlikely, however, that enough opposition exists in the House and the Senate to do so.

Howard Berman, a Democratic congressman from California and chairman of the committee, said he thought the language and strict non-proliferation provisions of the agreement were strong, particularly a "take back" clause that would allow the US to demand the return of all equipment, material, and facilities if the UAE violates any provisions. He said the deal "inevitably raises questions about the broader implications of civil nuclear power in that volatile region". Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, the top Republican on the committee, has introduced legislation calling on the White House to certify to Congress - before the agreement enters into force - that the UAE is taking "effective actions" to prevent the transfer of sensitive material to Iran and fully implementing UN Security Council sanctions against the Islamic republic. The UAE's civilian nuclear programme is not dependent on the US-UAE deal. It has signed similar agreements with other countries, including South Korea, France and the United Kingdom. sstanek@thenational.ae