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Authored by Dr. Norman Cigar.
Iraqis are debating the desirability of atomic power for their country. One can expect increasing Iraqi calls for a revival of the country’s nuclear capability, at least in the civilian sector, which reflects a general consensus within key sectors of Iraqi public opinion as well as a growing regional trend. The Iraqi government will continue to reestablish its legitimacy by its support of a nuclear program as a litmus test for modernity and success, and has asked France to rebuild its former reactor, although significant practical obstacles will hamper rapid development in the nuclear field. Despite a continuing widespread perception of the utility of nuclear weapons, at least in some sectors of Iraqi opinion, a near-term resumption of a military nuclear program is not likely, although volatile conditions in the region and within Iraq itself could change that option at some time in the future. U.S. and international policymakers will have to consider Iraqi views as they shape policy to manage the process of an orderly, safe, and peaceful nuclear reintegration of Iraq in the civilian sector while guaranteeing safeguards against both accidents and any future diversion of a nuclear program for military purposes or terrorist exploitation.