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2010 NPIHP Fellow Mattia Toaldo

In the Shadow of the Bomb: Nuclear Proliferation Policies in the Middle East During the Reagan Administration

The Nuclear Proliferation International History Project is pleased to welcome Mattia Toaldo to the project as a 2010 NPIHP Fellow.

Toaldo is based at the University of Roma Tre in Rome, Italy where his research focuses upon the differing US and Israeli approaches to nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.

US non-proliferation policy in the Middle East under the Reagan Administration centered around enforcement of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) regime throughout the region. Thanks in part to these efforts, Libya accepted International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards in 1980, Egypt and Turkey ratified ratified the NPT in 1981, Saudi Arabia joined the regime in 1988, and Syria's nuclear ambitions were stymied by US efforts to cut off the flow of critical supplies and to exploit the regime's financial weaknesses.

Israel on the other hand--as a de facto nuclear power operating outside the NPT regime--did not have the option of relying upon the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty to counter proliferation in its neighborhood. Indeed, Israel's refusal to sign the NPT was used by its regional adversaries to resist US pressure to join the regime. Confronted with this conundrum, Israel developed the Begin doctrine--the idea that pre-emptive military strikes against nascent but potentially threatening nuclear programs could protect Israel from nuclear threats without the need to join the NPT.

While exploring the development of both the US and Israeli strategies throughout the 1980s, Toaldo's research also aims to investigate how connections between them could have led to "intellectual cross-contamination" where American policy-makers became more attracted to military preemption as a substitute for the implementation of international governance regimes such as the NPT.

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