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

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu 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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid