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Charting a Smarter Course for a U.S.-Jordan Nuclear Deal

Author: Jonathan Pearl, Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow, 2010-2011
October 25, 2010
Bulletin of Atomic Scientists

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If the Obama administration wants to set a new, strengthened standard for nuclear cooperation agreements, it must take a counterintuitive decision: relax demands that Jordan forgo uranium enrichment in order to secure a nuclear partnership with Washington.

In December 2009, the United States finalized a nuclear deal PDF with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that has come to be seen by many in Washington as the "gold standard" on which other agreements should be modeled. In that deal, the UAE pledged to forgo uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing on its own soil in exchange for nuclear assistance. By volunteering to abstain from the pursuit of sensitive nuclear facilities, the UAE not only demonstrated its commitment to nonproliferation and lack of interest in nuclear weapons, but also secured a powerful ally for its nuclear energy plans.

But Washington cannot expect every country to make this sacrifice for a US partnership. Jordan, for example, has been in nuclear talks with Washington since the two states signed a memorandum of understanding on nuclear cooperation in 2007, and it has become clear that Amman is unwilling to follow the UAE's singular example. If Washington wants to avoid potentially driving Amman to seek political and economic support elsewhere, the Obama administration should settle its internal disputes and relax its demand that Amman relinquish its right to enrich uranium in order to secure an energy deal with the United States.

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