ISTANBUL – According to conventional wisdom, if Iran develops nuclear weapons, then Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and perhaps Egypt will try to follow suit. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu went further when he addressed the United States Congress in early March, asserting that even allowing Iran a uranium-enrichment program would “spark a nuclear arms race in the most dangerous part of the planet.”
Each of these potential nuclear dominoes should be analyzed separately and carefully. And, as far as Turkey is concerned, the conventional wisdom seems to be largely wrong.
Turkey does have a nascent nuclear energy program. After decades of false starts, the Turkish government signed a contract with Russia in 2010 for the construction and operation of the country’s first nuclear power plant. The project, located on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, is now under construction.
The Turkish government’s effort to secure other international suppliers has been complicated by the fact that the terms offered by Russia are significantly more generous than those proposed by its competitors. Still, Turkey is in negotiations with a Franco-Japanese consortium for the construction of a second nuclear power plant on the Black Sea.