Posted by: mulrickillion | January 30, 2012

Why not a Middle East nuclear weapon free zone?

By M. Ulric Killion


Photo Source; Cover of the The New York Times Magazine, January 30, 2012; Illustration by Sean Freeman. Smoke photograph by Julian Wolkenstein; By Ronen Bergman, Will Israel Attack Iran?, New York Times, January 25, 2012.

As recently reported by the Tehran Times, “Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi has said that the proposal for the establishment of a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East was first made by the Islamic Republic,” (Iran innovated idea of nuclear-weapons-free Middle East: FM, Tehran Times – Political Desk, January 17, 2012).

For many the latter statement might seem inconsequential. However, once one directly relates Foreign Minister Salehi’s statement to “The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons” (Non-Proliferation Treaty or NPT), his statement has broader regional and global implications (See The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) – The text of the treaty).

This is because Salehi is addressing what might represent a “cross roads” for the future potentiality of the NPT.

It is noteworthy that Foreign Minister Salehi’s recent remarks were made on Monday, January 16, 2012, which was during a meeting with Jaakko Laajava, Under-Secretary of State in Finland’s Foreign Ministry. Laajava traveled to Iran in preparation for the 2012 NPT Review Conference, which Finland will host this year.

For those unaware, during the earlier 2010 NPT Review Conference, in New York, on 4 – 15 May 2009, the parties (or the NPT States Parties) to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) adopted a consensus document containing a 64-point Action Plan for nuclear disarmament, nonproliferation, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy (NPT/CONF.2010/50 (Vol. I)).

The Action Plan is intended to strengthen the pillars of the treaty regime, which are nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy.


Photo  Source: In Iran, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi meeting with Jaakko Laajava, Undersecretary of State in Finland Foreign Ministry; “Salehi also said that the Zionist regime is the only country in the region that possesses nuclear weapons, a fact which poses a major threat to security in the region. He added that the conference should focus on this issue and the fact that the Zionist regime shows no commitment to the International Atomic Energy Agency,” Iran innovated idea of nuclear-weapons-free Middle East: FM, Tehran Times – Political Desk, January 16, 2012.

More importantly, the Action Plan is also intended to serve as an initiative to convene an international conference in 2012 on the implementation of the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East, which concerns the establishment of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in that region. In other words, what now refers to a Middle East nuclear weapon free zone (MENWFZ).

The broader implications of Foreign Minister Salehi’s statement should now have become clearer, as also does a sort of mandate on the part of the United Nations (UN).

According to Sergio Duarte (High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, UN),

I view this Conference as especially important, both because the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East was part of the “package deal” that led to the indefinite extension of the Treaty, and because the NPT States Parties gave the UN Secretary-General several responsibilities concerning the organization of that event. In this sense, the fate of the initiative to establish a WMD-free zone in the Middle East clearly has ramifications far beyond the region itself. It has in some respects now become a global issue, whose fate has attracted the interest of all States (Sergio Duarte, How the NPT Stands in View of the Next Review Round, 59th Pugwash Conference on Science & World Affairs: European Contributions to Nuclear Disarmament & Conflict Resolution Workshop on Nuclear Disarmament, Non-Proliferation (after the 2010 NPT Review Conference), Berlin, Germany, 4 July 2011).

There are presently five nuclear-weapon-free zones (NWFZ) in the world, and four of these NWFZs are in the Southern Hemisphere. What generally characterizes a NWFZ is the designation of a region where countries have made a commitment not to manufacture, acquire, or possess nuclear weapons.


Photo Source: Ehud Barak, the Israeli defense minister, on right, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Ronen Zvulun/Reuters; “When I mentioned to Barak the opinion voiced by the former Mossad chief Meir Dagan and the former chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi — that the Iranian threat was not as imminent as he and Netanyahu have suggested and that a military strike would be catastrophic (and that they, Barak and Netanyahu, were cynically looking to score populist points at the expense of national security), Barak reacted with uncharacteristic anger,” By Ronen Bergman, Will Israel Attack Iran?, New York Times, January 25, 2012.

According to the Arms Control Association, “The regions currently covered under NWFZ agreements include: Latin America (the 1967 Treaty of Tlatelolco), the South Pacific (the 1985 Treaty of Rarotonga), Southeast Asia (the 1995 Treaty of Bangkok) Africa (the 1996 Treaty of Pelindaba) and Central Asia (the 2006 Treaty of Semipalatinsk),” (Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones (NWFZ) At a Glance | Arms Control Association).

As for the establishment of a NWFZ in the Middle East, or a Middle East nuclear weapon free zone (MENWFZ), there is a host of factors or influences rendering the formation of such an agreement (or treaty) a difficult task.

Such as the potential for U.S. military intervention; Israel’s policy of nuclear opacity, or in Hebrew, “amimut”; Israel’s non-signatory state status, pursuant to  the NPT; the problem of Israel’s earlier introduction of nuclear weapons to the region; Iran’s right to peaceful use of nuclear energy (i.e., nuclear medicine),  pursuant to the NPT; and the fear of Iran amassing nuclear weapons material in violation of the NPT (See M. Ulric Killion, Iran, nuclear weapons, and a common syntax and logic in nuclear discourse, December 8, 2010; M. Ulric Killion, Iran, nuclear weapons, and the effectiveness of economic sanctions, February 9, 2010).

In the interim, the world stands poised for a deadly confrontation, while the possibility of a MENWFZ presents a viable alternative to war with Iran, especially if Israel can be induced to become a signatory NPT state-party and shed its policy of nuclear opacity.

Copyright © Protected – All Rights Reserved M. Ulric Killion, 2012.


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