A National Security and Energy Strategy for the Middle East Based on Stability — Not Conflict

by Gen. (ret.) John M. “Jack” Keane, Gen. (ret.) Keith Alexander & 
Robert “Bud” McFarlane

In 1945, President Roosevelt and King Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia forged a partnership under which the United States provided security for the Kingdom to assure the flow of oil to global markets. While the United States has never wavered from this commitment through 13 Presidents and 6 Saudi monarchs, the core themes of arms and oil alone no longer cover the full scope of our countries’ goals and mutual interests.

The fact that this partnership has endured for more than seven decades is testament to the strategic benefits that have inured to the U.S. and our allies in the Middle East as well as Europe and Asia, and confirms that the security and stability of this region is a vital interest of the United States. Today, our country is focused on updating its strategy toward the Middle East to address emerging challenges and opportunities that we and our allies must face.

Senator John McCain in his 25 October New York Times Op-Ed said it best when he challenged our country to develop a new strategy for the Middle East.

Any new U.S. strategy for the Middle East will fail unless we move beyond fighting terrorism or reacting to the influence of evolving regional encroachment from Russia and Iran. The United States must approach the Middle East in ways that promote diversified, strong economies. We need a strategy that doesn’t rely solely on resourcing conflict with weapons sales, arms agreements, or new deployments of U.S. military forces, but one of empowerment through the intellectual capital and industrial might of our nation’s private sector. We must better enable the stabilizing visions of our GCC partners, Egypt, Israel, and Jordan as part of a reimagined Middle East economy.

Several countries in this region are moving forward in earnest to develop robust renewable and nuclear energy programs. Many also have plans to transform their economies and societies by promoting social and education reforms, encouraging market competition, deepening collaboration with diverse international partners, and other measures. Again, these countries are already old friends and partners with the United States.

The needs of this region are clear — and they are urgent. The people of the Middle East and North Africa need clean, reliable electricity. They need water. They need more career opportunities, and jobs that do not rely on fossil fuel exports alone. They have bold ambitions for a more prosperous future and more inclusive societies. As countries such as Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt move forward with nuclear energy programs, it is very much in the U.S. interest that they benefit from the cutting-edge technologies, operational processes, and partnerships that the U.S. can best offer to keep those systems secure, safe, and proliferation-resistant.

The global nuclear energy suppliers market is on the verge of narrowing to two suppliers: Russia and China. As a recent report from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace notes, both countries “receive significant state support for their ambitious technology export plans,” and “there is serious doubt whether either country sufficiently prioritizes the development of safety and security best practices in its cooperation with client states.” In sum, the Russia/China led movement toward state-sponsored, state-subsidized, tariff-protected enterprises will make the global nuclear industry more risky and unsustainable.

The most concerning issue is Russia’s rapidly growing influence in the region. It has secured nuclear export agreements with Turkey, Jordan, and Egypt, and is working hard to do the same in Saudi Arabia. These proposals, coupled with its relationships with Syria and Iran, are the building blocks for Russian political dominance in the region.

International Peace, Power, and Prosperity

IP3 Corporation (derived from International Peace, Power, and Prosperity) is a diverse, politically bipartisan group of national security, foreign policy and energy experts that has teamed with our nation’s top industrial and service corporations to develop a plan that calls for the formation of public-private partnerships with the governments of the region to deliver clean, safe, and secure nuclear power and related infrastructure.

Key Drivers

In launching IP3, this much was clear: First, the United States is not truly contributing to regional security and transformation unless we enable growth in jobs, improvements in education and training, and instilling hope for future generations.

Second, we will need the public and private sectors to collaborate. Our commercial companies cannot effectively compete against nation states and our public sector cannot deliver the outcomes necessary to create stabilizing economic relationships. Neither sector can effectively advance U.S. interests in the Middle East alone. As described by the Global Nexus Initiative, governments, civil society, and businesses must work together to strengthen international nuclear governance, bolster public confidence in nuclear energy, and compete successfully, especially against nation state offerings from Russia and China.

IP3 is transparently expending much effort with the relevant parties in Congress and the Administration to share our views and discuss how the public and private sectors from the United States can best deliver on our national interests while also meeting the needs and desires of the host countries. This effort is not about individual companies winning and losing, but rather about our country’s government and commercial sectors working together in true public private partnership to fulfill our stewardship obligation to shape better outcomes for a fragile region.

Finally, security must be part of the equation. It is imperative that any programs to advance nuclear energy capacity have sophisticated approaches to securing the plants, fuel, and extended energy infrastructure from the variety of cyber, insider, terrorism, and nation-state threats facing the region.

The IP3 Strategy

IP3’s strategy is designed to address the concerns and needs outlined above. Our goal is to be the leading integrator of comprehensive energy and security solutions — not just transacting individual projects to build reactors or power plants. We want partner countries to have safe, well-managed programs aligned with their national visions and global non-proliferation goals.

IP3 is developing thorough nuclear partnership programs that will include new avenues for growing sustainable job markets through localization, fostering highly-skilled workforces, meeting water and food security needs, and enabling research, development, and technology deployment. We envision solutions along several commercial and public-private lines.

In power generation, IP3 is developing a lifecycle approach for nuclear power plant construction and high-standard operations. The power generated must feed into appropriate grid networks, which should be built with the best technologies and operating systems. IP3 will promote the development of a cross-border high voltage transmission network and an electricity market which will further enable regional trade.

To ensure countries seeking nuclear energy avoid activities that introduce proliferation risks, IP3 is pursuing an assured nuclear fuel services model based on concepts developed by U.S. leaders such as John Deutch, Arnold Kanter, Ernest Moniz and Daniel Poneman. This nuclear fuels framework will create globally responsible and safe front and back-end solutions for countries with nuclear energy programs.

IP3 also is developing plans to bring leading U.S. companies to offer a comprehensive regional security architecture and operating capability, and provide a shared services back office model for efficiency and integration across the enterprise. We are creating an ecosystem approach to human capital development to enable a sustainable workforce for 21st century industrial growth, and common regulatory models that can facilitate operations, promote standardization, and deliver a sustainable and safe program.

American companies can and are poised to lead each of these lines of business, in close cooperation with the U.S. government, universities, and other stakeholders. We and our colleagues at IP3 trust that the obvious mutual benefits to this approach will appeal to multiple countries in the Middle East and North Africa — -and possibly other regions — -that are considering nuclear energy.