Nuclear Watchdog Faces Huge Cuts Over Palestine

If it follows in UNESCO's footsteps, the IAEA could lose more than $100 million in 2012.

By + More

The United States was forced to pull its funding for the UN's top education organization when the world body let Palestine join its ranks. But could the world's top nuclear watchdog be next?

A long-standing law forbids the United States from funding the United Nations or any of its agencies that recognize Palestine as a member. The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization already lost $60 million in U.S. aid after it recognized Palestine as a "member state" October 31.

"I am worried about the stability of [UNESCO's] budget," said UNESCO Secretary General Irina Bokova in a statement. "It is well known that funding from our largest contributor, the United States, may be jeopardized. It is the responsibility of all of us to make sure that UNESCO does not suffer as a result."

[Read: Peter Roff: For Israel, President Obama Must Stand up to UNESCO.]

But according to some media reports, the International Atomic Energy Agency could also lose its more than $100 million a year in U.S. funding if it too decides to admit Palestine.

The United States, as the agency's biggest contributor, is set to give more than 25 percent of the IAEA's nearly $450 million budget in 2012.

But, beyond emptying the agency's pockets, cutting IAEA funds could also diminish the United States' international esteem on nuclear issues, particularly on proliferation and security of fissile materials.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the turmoil in the Middle East.]

Though the State Department has been working with Congress to reverse the funding restraints, time may be running out. If Palestine succeeds on pressing the IAEA for recognition before a fix is found, the United States may have to forfeit its seat at the IAEA table. It's unclear whether the nuclear watchdog may be a bit more cautious before taking that plunge after seeing what happened to UNESCO's bottom line.

  • Read: Arab Spring Added Pressures to Middle East Peace Process.
  • Read: Peter Roff: For Israel, President Obama Must Stand up to UNESCO.
  • See a collection of political cartoons on the turmoil in the Middle East.