Is Egypt Pursuing a Nuclear Weapons Program?

By Tiffany Gabbay

As the Middle East rages out of control, great emphasis is placed on the Islamic Republic of Iran as it scrambles furiously to produce a nuclear warhead. A lesser known evil boiling beneath the surface, however, is that Egypt, now led by the Muslim Brotherhood via its newly elected President Mohamed Morsi, may indeed have nuclear weapons-ambitions of its own. During an exclusive panel discussion with Professor Raymond Stock, former visiting assistant professor of Arabic and Middle East Studies at Drew University, delved deeper into Egypt’s relationship with Iran and its plans to develop nuclear weapons.

Stock, a Guggenheim Fellow, lived in Cairo for 20 years until he was ultimately deported by the regime of former President Hosni Mubarak, citing a 2009 article by Stock criticizing then-Culture Minister Farouk Hosni’s bid to head UNESCO. The panel was hosted by the Center for Security Policy and the Middle East Endowment for Truth and was moderated by Congressman Fred Grandy.

Dr. Stock explained that the ousting of Hosni Mubarak “made us realize” that while not wholly democratic, Egypt was indeed “liberal” under his regime. Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood’s goal is “to restore the caliphate.”

Stock discussed the role the Brotherhood played in spawning support for the Arab Spring and ensuring that the masses would come out in support of various Middle East uprisings. He added that the current U.S. administration’s penchant for defining the people in the Middle East based on their religion and not their respective ethnicities and state boundaries is a “real tragedy” as it only feeds into the greater Islamist “supremacist idea.”

“This is the real tragedy of what we are doing.”

In terms of Egypt’s nuclear ambitions, which began in earnest in 1954 under then-President Nassar, the country’s first small research reactor was built by the Russians that year. Then, in the 1998 Argentina aided in the development of another reactor, also fueled by Russia.

Currently, the Egyptians can “produce 6 kilograms per year of plutonium,” according to Stock. “That is the amount needed to make one bomb annually.” Thus, since 1998, the professor concluded that while Egypt may use its plutonium for some peaceful purposes, it also has had the capability to produce 24 nuclear warheads.

“They have an ongoing fuel supply for it.”

He added that in terms of enrichment, Egypt is but a heartbeat away from its current medium-grade enrichment capabilities to the high-grade capacity. “Once you get to 20 kilograms, you have essentially mastered the enrichment process.”

The professor explained that Egypt has always been open about its nuclear ambitions, even if it was so under the guise of “civilian use” but that financial difficulties have precluded the country from moving a WMD-program along full-steam head.

Read more at The Blaze

Stock’s panel discussion was hosted by the Endowment for Middle East Truth in conjunction with the Center for Security Policy.

Egypt: The Muslim Brotherhood Bomb?

by Raymond Stock:

“We [Egyptians] are ready to starve in order to own a nuclear weapon that will represent a real deterrent and will be decisive in the Arab-Israeli conflict.” — Dr. Hamdi Hassan, Spokesman, Muslim Brotherhood Parliamentary Caucus, 2006

When Egypt’s first civilian, democratically elected dictator,[1] Mohamed Mursi became his country’s first head of state to visit Iran since its own Islamic revolution in 1979 for the annual meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) on August 30, the two leaders might have gone beyond the scheduled turnover of NAM’s leadership from Mursi to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran: they most probably discussed Egypt’s quietly reviving drive to acquire nuclear power — possibly including nuclear weapons — and how Iran might be of help.

Since taking office on June 30, Mursi has reportedly offered to renew diplomatic relations with Tehran, severed for more than three decades — but then repeatedly denied that he had planned to do so. His visit for the NAM conference, however, along with his sudden recent proposal to set up a committee of four nations including Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey to try to end the fighting in Syria, and Egypt’s refusal to inspect an Iranian ship passing through the Suez Canal en route to Syria, all indicate that Cairo’s relations with Tehran are improving dynamically. Meanwhile, in advance of Mursi’s arrival, Iran was said to have offered to assist Egypt in developing a nuclear program.

Almost completely overlooked in Mursi’s warp-speed takeover of total state power in Egypt since his election victory, was that on July 8, the Ministry of Electricity and Energy (MoEE) handed him a feasibility study for the creation of a nuclear power plant at El-Dabaa in the Delta[2] – possibly the first of four nuclear power plants around the country, the last of which would be brought online by 2025, according to a plan announced by MoEE in spring 2011. (Under the plan, El-Debaa would reach criticality—become operational–in 2019.) While Mursi has not yet announced his decision on whether to proceed with the projects, a number of international companies from Canada, China, France, Russia, South Korea and the U.S. have expressed interest in the bidding for them. In his trip to Beijing just prior to heading for Tehran, Mursi requested $3 billion for “power plants” from the Chinese, according to the geostrategic analysis firm Stratfor. Meanwhile, the website israelhayom.com reported on August 30 that the previous day Mursi had told a group of Egyptian expatriates living in China that he was considering the revival of Egypt’s nuclear power program.[3] Now comes the possibility that Iran will transfer its nuclear capabilities to Egypt. As Stephen Manual reported from Tehran on August 26 for the website allvoices.com:

“Mansour Haqiqatpour, a member [vice-chairman] of the country’s Committee on National Security and Foreign Policy, told the state-run television station, Press TV, that Iran also plans to invite heads of states to visit the country’s nuclear facilities on sidelines of NAM summit. The purpose of the visit is to counter the propaganda unleashed by Western countries that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. He said that Iran was ready to share experience and expertise on nuclear facilities with Egypt and there was no harm in it. One can easily infer from the statement of Haqiqatpour that Iran is indirectly urging Egypt to go for the nuclear technology.[4]

Iran later denied that it had invited any foreign heads of state to visit any of its nuclear sites during the NAM conference—but not, apparently, the offer to assist Egypt’s nuclear program.[5] Although in Tehran Mursi also renewed Egypt’s long-standing call for a Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zone in the Middle East, since at least 2006 the Muslim Brotherhood (MB, in which Mursi served as a major leader before his election) has called for Egypt to develop its own nuclear deterrent.[6] This view is so popular that in an interview on the Cairo channel ON-TV, on August 21, 2011, a retired Egyptian army general, Abdul-Hamid Umran said that it was “absolutely necessary” for the nation’s security to have “a nuclear program.” By this, he made clear, he did not mean a purely civilian program to produce electric power, to which Egypt is technically entitled as a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). He said, rather, that Egypt should declare the program’s peaceful purposes, and then systematically fool the international inspectors to achieve the needed levels of uranium enrichment to manufacture bombs — citing Iran as an example of how this can be done, and providing detailed steps to accomplish it.[7] In another interview (for Egypt’s Tahrir-TV) on August 6, 2012, Umran again demanded that Egypt develop its own nuclear weapons, stressing that if Israel finds itself in a “difficult situation,” it would use its own nuclear shield: in that instance, Egypt must also have one to defend itself. The unmistakable implication is that Egypt would need nuclear weapons against Israel’s expected atomic retaliation in the event that Egypt went to war against the Jewish State.[8]

Given the MB’s extreme hostility to Israel, its anti-Semitic and anti-Western ideology, and its recent, apparently complete takeover of the military and the rest of state power in Egypt, the possibilities raised are deeply unsettling. While none of this is conclusive, it definitely points to questions that have long been overlooked or too-easily dismissed in the debates about nuclear proliferation in a region that may soon explode in military conflict over Iran.

However it turns out, a review of the history and capabilities — past, present and future — of Egypt’s 58-year nuclear program will quickly reveal why approval of the El-Dabaa plant could signal the rise of a whole new level of danger in the already fraught Middle East, following the Islamist Spring.

Read more at Gatestone Institute