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Unclear Physics: Why Iraq and Libya Failed to Build Nuclear Weapons

Many authoritarian leaders want nuclear weapons, but few manage to acquire them. In this seminar, Målfrid Braut-Hegghammer compares Iraq and Libya's failed nuclear weapons programs, arguing that state capacity played a crucial role in the trajectory and outcomes of both projects

Date & Time

Sep. 13, 2017
3:30pm – 5:00pm

Location

5th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center
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Unclear Physics: Why Iraq and Libya Failed to Build Nuclear Weapons

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Many authoritarian leaders want nuclear weapons, but few manage to acquire them. Autocrats seeking nuclear weapons fail in different ways and to varying degrees—Iraq almost managed it; Libya did not come close.

In this seminar, Målfrid Braut-Hegghammer compares the two failed nuclear weapons programs, arguing that state capacity played a crucial role in the trajectory and outcomes of both projects. This analysis is based on a rich set of new primary sources, collected during years of research in archives, fieldwork across the Middle East, and interviews with scientists and decision makers from both states. The analysis reveals contemporary perspectives from scientists and regime officials on the opportunities and challenges facing each project. Many of the findings challenge the conventional wisdom about clandestine weapons programs in closed authoritarian states, particularly the level of oversight and control by regime officials, and offers novel arguments about their prospects of success or failure.


Hosted By

Nuclear Proliferation International History Project

The Nuclear Proliferation International History Project is a global network of individuals and institutions engaged in the study of international nuclear history through archival documents, oral history interviews, and other empirical sources. At the Wilson Center, it is part of the Wilson Center's History and Public Policy Program.  Read more

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