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

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

4:15pm - 5:15pm Reception

5:30pm - 7:00pm Keynote Address (TBD)
Moderated by John Ghazvinian

7:15pm - 9:15pm Dinner for Conference Participants

8:30am - 9:00am Registration & Breakfast

9:00am - 10:45am 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
Philipp Bleek: Why No Nukes on the Nile? Lessons from Egypt's Response to Israeli Proliferation

Moderated by Tomisha Bino

10:45am - 11:00am Coffee Break

11:00am - 12:15pm Lecture: Farah Jan

12:15pm - 1:15pm Lunch

1:15pm - 2:45pm Great Power Politics

Roland Popp: Imaginative Suggestions: The United States and the Nuclear Defense of Middle Eastern Allies During the Cold War
Amir Mohammad Esmaeili: China, Middle Eastern Nuclear Strategy, and Iran's Nuclear Program
Shruti Punia: Shifting Geopolitics in MENA and Threats to US Status Quo

Moderated by Joe Cirincione

2:45pm - 3:00pm Coffee Break

3:00pm - 4:30pm Fallout in North Africa

Austin Cooper: Underground Negotiations: French Weapons Testing After Algerian Independence and Ahmed Ben Bella's Nuclear Policy
Sarah Demott: Atomic Solidarities and Nuclear Reparations: France's Nuclear Laboratories in North Africa and the South Pacific, c. 1960-Present
Brahim El Guabli: Saharan Gothic: Nuclear Experiments and Desert Necrofiction

Moderated by Megan Brown

5:00pm - 6:15pm Lecture: Joe Cirincione

6:30pm - 9:00pm Participant Excursion and Dinner

8:30am - 9:00am Breakfast & Registration

9:00am - 10:30am 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
Hassan Elbahtimy: Nasser's Nuclear Politics

Moderated by Robert Vitalis

10:30am - 10:45am Coffee Break

10:45am - 12:00pm Lecture: Tomisha Bino

12:00pm - 1:00pm Lunch

1:00pm - 2:30pm 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

Moderated by Susan Lindee

2:30pm - 2:45pm Coffee Break

2:45pm - 4:00pm Lecture: John Ghazvinian

4:00pm - 4:15pm 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


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