Nuclear Issues in the Middle East and North Africa

nuclear conference

Nuclear Issues in the Middle East and North Africa


International Conference at the University of Pennsylvania’s Middle East Center

April 27-29, 2023

This three-day, international conference, which developed from conversations about regional nonproliferation policy, takes a wide view of Nuclear Issues in the Middle East and North Africa. It examines nuclear energy alongside nuclear weapons, and investigates the conceptual and material processes that enforce this divide. It broadens the regional scope to connect the Maghreb, the Levant, and further East, while also expanding the disciplinary purview to consider possible futures and trace historical roots. It explores ongoing changes in great power attitudes toward the region and the role of nuclear technologies in these shifts. At the same time, it takes seriously the perspectives of smaller states and non-state actors, featuring not only regional experts but also experts from the region itself. The first conference aiming to consider all aspects of the atomic age in the Middle East and North Africa, it incorporates a wide range of historical, political, diplomatic, cultural, and technological approaches to the question — reflecting the insights of scholars, policymakers, and practitioners alike.


Schedule of Events

LOCATION: McNeil Building 150

1:15pm - 2:00pm
Registration & Coffee

2:00pm - 2:30pm Welcome, Harun Küçük
                               Introduction, Austin Cooper

2:30pm - 4:00pm The View From Iran

Ata Heshmati: Iran's Forgotten Denuclearization Period: Why Khomeini Abandoned the Shah's Nuclear Ambitions After 1979
Ali Fathollah-Nejad: Nuclear Diplomacy: Iran's "Nuclear Escalation" Strategy in the Face of Escalating Sanctions
Jacopo Scita: Bring Back the Agency of Sanctioned States: The Case of Iran's Nuclear program (2006-2015)

Moderated by John Ghazvinian

LOCATION: Perelman Center for Political Science and Economics

4:30pm - 6:00pm Keynote Address, Nabil Fahmy 
Foreign Minister of Egypt (2013-2014)
Ambassador of Egypt to the United States (1999-2008)

Moderated by John Ghazvinian

6:15pm - 7:15pm Reception

LOCATION: McNeil Building 150 (all day)

9:00am - 9:30am Registration & Breakfast

9:30am - 11:00am The Israel Exception

Isabella Ginor & Gideon Remez: Military Intervention to Prevent an Adversary's Attainment of Nuclear Weapons: The USSR's Misadventure Against Israel in 1967 and its Lessons in Respect of Iran
Ian Lustick: Absence is Presence: An Oxymoronic Analysis of Israel's Nuclear Arsenal
Ludovica Castelli: The 'Villa in the Jungle' Paradigm: An Analysis of Israel's Nuclear Orientalist Discourse

Moderated by James Ryan

11:00am - 11:15am Coffee Break

11:15am - 12:30pm Lecture: John Ghazvinian
Vicious Cycles: Iran, America, and the Bomb that No One Wanted

12:30pm - 2:00pm Lunch

2:00pm - 3:30pm Great Power Politics

Robin Brackett: Amimut: Paradoxically Pushing Iran to Pursue a Bomb They Do Not Want
Amir Mohammad Esmaeili: China, Middle Eastern Nuclear Strategy, and Iran's Nuclear Program
Philipp Bleek: Why No Nukes on the Nile? Lessons from Egypt's Response to Israeli Proliferation

Moderated by Joe Cirincione

3:30pm - 3:45pm Coffee Break

3:45pm - 5:00pm Lecture: Joe Cirincione
Life After the JCPOA: Lessons from Ten Years of Nuclear Negotiations with Iran

LOCATION: McNeil Building 150 (all day)

9:00am - 9:30am Breakfast & Registration

9:30am - 11:00am Globalizing the Cold War

Giordana Pulcini & Leopoldo Nuti: Playing with (Nuclear) Fire? Italian-Iraqi Nuclear Relations (1973-1981)
Sertac Sec: Nuclear Occidentalism and the Cold War in Turkish Thrace
Austin Cooper: Underground Negotiations: French Weapons Testing After Algerian Independence and Ahmed Ben Bella's Nuclear Policy

Moderated by Robert Vitalis

11:00am - 11:15pm Coffee Break

11:15pm - 12:30pm Lecture: Farah Jan
Saudi Arabia's Nuclear Ambitions and U.S. Policy

12:30pm - 2:00pm Lunch

2:00pm - 3:45pm Atoms for Peace?

Li-Chen Sim & Mohamed Al Mansoori: Nuclear Energy in the United Arab Emirates: An Assessment of the Policy Process, Norm Adoption, and Stakeholders
Elizabeth Bishop: "Atoms for Peace" in Hashemite Iraq (1953-1958)
Heba Taha: The Beginning of a New Life: Reactors, Borders, and US Nuclear Diplomacy in the Arab-Israeli Conflict
Sarah DeMott: Atomic Solidarities and Nuclear Reparations: France's Nuclear Laboratories in North Africa and the South Pacific, c. 1960-Present

Moderated by Susan Lindee

3:45pm - 4:00pm Concluding Remarks, Austin Cooper & Ibrahim Bakri

Program Committee:

John Ghazvinian (Chair), Harun Küçük, Austin Cooper, Ibrahim Bakri, Tomisha Bino, Joe Cirincione, Hassan Elbahtimy, Giordana Pulcini, Heba Taha


Penn Global; Christopher H. Browne Center for International Politics; Kleinman Center for Energy Policy; International Relations Program; Andrea Mitchell Center for the Study of Democracy; Department of History; Department of History and Sociology of Science