Peaceful Civilian Nuclear Energy Means Monitoring and Money-Making

With or without a handshake between the U.S. and Iran, there is a "strategic advantage", satirized The Daily Show in this clip. All physical activity will be monitored, stressed President Obama in his remarks following the Iran deal. Why is Obama so confident about the monitoring clause? The U.S. is resorting to the classic neighborhood watch approach via proxy: supporting a peaceful nuclear program in an Arab Gulf nation (the United Arab Emirates). The U.S. is in a prime position to monitor Iran up close. Meanwhile, the UAE's business community is anticipating benefits beyond political monitoring.

Neighborhood Monitoring

Lately, the UAE, or financial hub of the Middle East North Africa region, has focused its energy to setting up its own nuclear public entity, the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC). Through ENEC, the UAE plans on expanding its "alternative" energy portfolio through controlled nuclear power. Since 2009, the UAE has received the U.S. greenlight to "own an ambitious nuclear power program with significant capacity being on line by 2020."

In 2009, the U.S. established the 123 Agreement for Peaceful Civilian Nuclear Energy Cooperation agreement with the UAE. Essentially, the "123 Agreement" allows the UAE to obtain US technical expertise, materials and equipment to pursue peaceful civilian nuclear energy use. In exchange, the UAE agrees to forgo enriching uranium at home and reprocessing. The UAE's pursuit of alternative energy, under the watchful eye of the U.S. and International Atomic Energy Agency, may plug in its other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members into the electricity grid. With the "123 Agreement", the U.S. has the physical capability for increasing its close range monitoring of Iran.

On that note GCC member, Saudi Arabia, is not too far behind with its own set of nuclear power plant plans: aiming for 16 sites by 2035. Before Iran's more hardline president, Ahmedinejad, there were constructive relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Given this, it is possible to return to a more constructive relationship as the Islamic State threat becomes a shared common top interest. "Interests trump ideologies," asserted Jean-Francois Seznec, Non-Resident Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council at a Wilson Center Energy Series panel.

Plus, there is an opportunity for American and other foreign contractors to facilitate the billion dollar operation. Specifically, the UAE accepted a $20 billion bid from a South Korean consortium to build four commercial nuclear power reactors at Barakah.

13 Billion Reasons for UAE to Buy Into Iran's Nuclear Framework

Iran believes that the nuclear framework agreement will bring about foreign investment in its oil and gas sector. Iran is not alone in its optimism because the nuclear framework agreement spells out ending economic sanctions. Ending economic sanctions means that even skeptical countries can profit legally. UAE trade with Iran spells out 13 billion reasons -- as in $13 billion USD -- for the UAE to reconsider its nuclear neighborhood. (Unlike Israel, Iran is now party to the Treaty on Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons, or NPT.) Earlier this week, an IMF paper projected that the UAE may benefit in a 1 percent real GDP growth yearly, until 2018.

Despite the political discomfort many Arab countries may have with Iran's nuclear framework, there is an element of economic discomfort among oil-rich, Arab countries because they will compete with Iran as the fourth largest oil reserve in the world. Aside from market competition, not all oil-rich, Arab countries will suffer economically. In fact, some welcome what the nuclear agreement means from a business standpoint: the easing of economic sanctions and opportunities for increased trade. Industrialists in the UAE are even more optimistic than the IMF figure listed above. They anticipate about $27 billion USD to be earned in trade between the Iran and the UAE--Iran's biggest non-oil trading partner. Between these two Middle Eastern oil economies, peaceful civilian nuclear energy means monitoring and money-making markets.