News / Middle East

Analysts Say Egypt Must Remain Free of Nuclear Weapons

Egyptians celebrate the news of the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak, Feb 11, 2011
Egyptians celebrate the news of the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak, Feb 11, 2011

Multimedia

Audio

In this report from Washington, Senior Correspondent André de Nesnera looks at Egypt's nuclear program and its stance on chemical weapons.  With Egypt's political future still in limbo, analysts question whether Cairo's policy of not seeking nuclear weapons will remain in place.

Egypt's Nuclear Legacy

Egypt has two nuclear research reactors located at Inshas, near Cairo.  They are used for peaceful purposes, such as medical research and nuclear engineering experiments.

But analysts agree that Egypt sought to acquire a nuclear weapons capability back in the 1960s.  Former Defense Department official James Russell, who is now with the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California says interest in building a nuclear capability or developing an indigenous peaceful nuclear program ended during the presidency of Gamal Abdel Nasser.

"Nasser realized the deep financial costs that are going to be required and he also realized the political costs that would accrue from an Egypt developing a nuclear program," said Russell.  "And so all these projects were canceled after the [Six Day] 1967 war.  And then in 1968, Egypt signs the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty [NPT].  And since then the Sadat government ratifies the NPT in February 1981.  And in 1982, they have a safeguards agreement, a comprehensive safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA]."

Analyst Mark Fitzpatrick, from London's International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), says Egypt does not have the most modern technologies that could be used to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons.

"The issue is, though, that Egypt conducted some experiments in plutonium separation that they did not notify the IAEA in accordance with their safeguards agreement and it later came out and the IAEA did an investigation," noted Fitzpatrick.  "And most of that was cleared up, but there are some remaining questions.  And most recently, some highly-enriched uranium particles were discovered by the IAEA and I think they are still investigating the source of that.  That all has not yet come out in IAEA reporting, so there is some small cloud hanging over Egypt's nuclear program.  I am not saying they are going for nuclear weapons, but they did some things that were not fully in accordance with the rules."

Fitzpatrick says the plutonium experiments were conducted during the past couple of decades and came to light about six or seven years ago.  And the evidence concerning the highly-enriched uranium particles was disclosed in the media within the last two years.

Egypt, Iraq and WMDs

On another issue, some analysts, including James Russell, say there have been reports of Egyptians in the 1980s helping Iraq with its chemical weapons research.

"There were also rumors of the Egyptians being involved in building a chemical plant that could possibly have made items that were used for chemical munitions," added Russell.  "But again, I don't think that there is any assessment out there today that suggests that the Egyptians are engaged in research or really have any interest in developing chemical weapons."

And Russell says Egypt does not have the necessary industrial base in the chemical sector to build chemical weapons.

"The truth of the matter is that almost all countries around the world - the United States and Russia included - everyone has come to the conclusion that these are not just terribly militarily useful weapons, or that it is a technology which really has limited use in the military arena," Russell explained.

Post Mubarak Concerns

Some experts have questioned whether a government replacing President Hosni Mubarak might reconsider some of Cairo's policies on weapons of mass destruction.

"In the chemical and nuclear arenas, the costs to the Egyptians of attempting such programs are significant," added Russell.  "And it just seems to me that any political leadership in Egypt, whatever its character, is going to have to look at these costs.  And they are a strong discouragement to them moving down this path to sort of reconsidering the decisions which have been looked at by previous political leadership.  I just do not see it."

Analysts say given Cairo's leadership in the Middle East, it is essential that Egypt remains free of weapons of mass destruction to guarantee stability in that part of the world.

You May Like

Pundits Split Over Long-Term US Role in Afghanistan

Security pact remains condition for American presence beyond 2014; deadline criticized More

US Eyes Islamic State Threat

Officials warn that IS could pose a threat to US homeland More

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Moscow says Russian troops crossed into Ukrainian territory by mistake More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocksi
X
George Putic
August 25, 2014 4:00 PM
How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that was eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports on how one band is bringing Yiddish tango to Los Angeles.
Video

Video Peace Returns to Ferguson as Community Tries to Heal

Thousands of people nationwide are expected to attend funeral services Monday in the U.S. Midwestern city of St. Louis, Missouri, for Michael Brown, the unarmed African-American teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer August 9 in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. The shooting touched off days of violent demonstrations there, resulting in more than 100 arrests. VOA's Chris Simkins reports from Ferguson where the community is trying to move on after weeks of racial tension.
Video

Video Meeting in Minsk May Hinge on Putin Story

The presidents of Russia and Ukraine are expected to meet face-to-face Tuesday in Minsk, along with European leaders, for talks on the situation in Ukraine. Political analysts say the much welcomed dialogue could help bring an end to months of deadly clashes between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian forces in the country's southeast. But much depends on the actions of one man, Russian President Vladimir Putin. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Russia in July enacted a law threatening fines for publicly displayed profanity in media, films, literature, music and theater. The restriction, the toughest since the Soviet era, aims to protect the Russian language and culture and has been welcomed by those who say cursing is getting out of control. But many artists reject the move as a patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video British Fighters on Frontline of ISIS Information War

Security services are racing to identify the Islamic State militant who beheaded U.S. journalist James Foley in Syria. The murderer spoke English on camera with a British accent. It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for the Islamic State, also called ISIL or ISIS, alongside thousands of other foreign jihadists. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from the center of the investigation in London.

AppleAndroid