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Iran nuke deal fuels arms race, helps Russia, officials say

THE IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL and the negotiations leading up to it already are fueling an all-but-declared nuclear arms race in the Middle East, according to current and former government officials who say the situation also creates an opening for Russia to exert more influence in the region.

“We have given Iran the path it has been seeking for almost 35 years. The other states in the region are not going to sit idly by, which is why in effect the nuclear arms race is already underway,” former U.N. Ambassador and Fox News contributor John Bolton said, adding that Iran and other nations have used civilian nuclear energy programs as cover for covert enrichment programs.

But in the last six months, Russia has struck three significant nuclear deals with long-time U.S. Middle East allies, effectively capitalizing on regional distrust of Iran.

In February, a deal was sealed with the Egyptian government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to help Cairo build and operate its first nuclear reactor. A month later, in March, Jordan signed a $10 billion deal with Russia to build the kingdom’s first nuclear power plant, with two 1,000-megawatt reactors in the country’s north. And in June, Saudi Arabia and Russia agreed to a deal, the terms of which are not public. But unnamed sources told the Al Arabiya TV network that the kingdom planned to build 16 nuclear reactors that Russia would play a significant role in operating.

“Every Sunni Arab nation is going to see [a nuclear Iran] as an inevitable outcome,” Republican presidential candidate and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said. “The worst possible outcome of the deal would be to create a nuclear arms race in the Mideast where Sunni Arabs feel threatened.”

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