A proposal to provide reactors to the United Arab Emirates could be the prototype of a deal between the U.S. and Tehran.
Should the United States sell advanced civilian nuclear reactors to a Middle East country that doesn't seem to need them? A country that can keep pumping oil for the next 100 years, that has a pipeline to a vast natural gas field next door and enough desert for a solar panel array of biblical proportions?
No, it's not Iran. It's the United Arab Emirates, that federation of seven states, proposing the efficient and safest nuclear-generating program money can buy. It intends to purchase third-generation nuclear reactors from France, the United States, South Korea or Japan to power and air-condition its glittering desert cities and use the surplus heat to desalinate its drinking water at the same time. And it's in the U.S. national interest to help the UAE do it, as counterintuitive as that may seem to the American right wing, the green wing or nonproliferation hawks.
Why? First, because the U.S. cannot stop the emirates from proceeding, even if we wanted to. The UAE has joined the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and an alphabet soup of other international covenants aimed at stopping proliferation and trafficking. All Congress could stop is U.S. companies from competing for the lucrative contracts.