Yesterday the UAE announced that it would begin exploring the prospects for a civilian nuclear program, after signing a deal with French President Sarkozy on nuclear cooperation in January. Today, the United States announced an agreement with Bahrain to support a civilian nuclear program. Qatar has been talking up nuclear power for years, and the GCC collectively has been talking of late of the need for a joint nuclear energy agenda. This all makes great sense. These large, energy-poor countries clearly need nuclear energy programs to meet the power needs of their vast populations and energy-dependent manufacturing economies. Where else could they find reliable supplies of energy? And from a security perspective, there really doesn't seem to be any better place to locate nuclear power plants than in small, weak states in the Persian Gulf, where would-be nuclear terrorists would have no chance of getting close and the plants themselves couldn't possibly become military targets.
Of course, what Gulf watchers really want to know is whether Dubai's peaceful nuclear energy program will be taller, shinier and more expensive than Qatar's.
Seriously, does anyone else find the GCC's rush to acquire "peaceful nuclear energy programs" and the West's seeming enthusiasm for the prospect a bit odd?
UPDATE: it isn't just the GCC, of course. Gamal Mubarak made some waves during the NDP's 2006 conference by declaring Egypt's intentions to pursue "peaceful nuclear energy program," and as Judah Grunstein points out, Hosni Mubarak just signed some ink in Moscow towards that goal. So has Jordan and even Yemen (Yemen!). I'm sure there are more that I missed. Commenters here and over email have offered various theories, beyond the face value economic explanation. But both the "status" and the "poking Iran" explanations are odd, though, in that as far as I know it isn't "peaceful nuclear energy programs" which generally produce such status or pokes... it's the kind that goes boom. Or is that just so 2006 of me?