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US needs to rethink Middle-East science and technology policy

When I applied for an account at a national supercomputer in Sweden 13 years ago to run code for my astrophysics PhD research, my application was rejected. Apparently, the US-built machine came with US foreign policy inspired constraints on the people who could use it. Those with dodgy, Middle-Eastern passports, like me, were not allowed access to these powerful computers, whoever owns them.

Since then, there has been some change. The newly established King Abdulaziz University for Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia announced proudly last year that it houses one of the fastest supercomputers in the world, Shaheen, made in the US. The Saudi university is in partnership with US universities on many projects, in line with the shift in the US relationship with the Arab world that President Obama announced in his landmark speech in Cairo in 2009. Science was to be the foundation for the more constructive relationship with the region that Obama envisaged. He even appointed Egyptian-American Nobel prize laureate Ahmed Zewail as his science envoy to the region.

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