Ridding the Middle East of Nukes

The month-long Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, held at the UN in New York, has concluded.

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Published: Sun 30 May 2010, 9:01 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 1:46 PM

The significant development is that NPT member states have agreed to hold a conference in 2012 for making the Middle East a nuclear weapons free zone. What is more interesting is that there is unanimity on Israel signing the NPT. It is something the US has expressed its apprehensions about. President Barack Obama, for one, thinks it might jeopardise efforts to include Israel in the 2012 talks. However, this is indeed an important moment and will become more so if the NPT-signatories and the Non-Aligned member states are sincere in achieving this goal.

The Middle East hosts not only a nuclear-armed Israel, but its major rival Iran, allegedly pursuing its own covert militarised nuclear programme. While 2012 is still two years away—a long time for the rapidly shifting dynamics at play in the Middle East—it does impose a time frame. Moreover, it affirms the overwhelming support within the region and outside of clearing the region of nuclear weapons and those of mass destruction. Ironically, Iran an NPT signatory has reiterated that it will stand by its obligations as per the NPT regime—a strange contradiction when viewed against its recent activities and continued uranium enrichment prohibited by the Security Council and against International Atomic Energy Agency strictures.

Other important aims on the agenda of the five-yearly review were the US-led call for stricter security regime of NPT signatories including random and surprise inspections. It also called for penalties against those that had violated terms or exited the Treaty, for one reason or other, such as North Korea in 2003. At the same time Non-aligned member states were hoping to conceive a plan of action for complete nuclear disarmament, but that did not happen. Iran, for one, called on the five recognised nuclear powers to set a specific time-table to eliminate their arsenals.

The US seems to have hoped for more in view of what it feels it has done to prove its commitment towards disarmament in the past year. Both US and Russia, the world’s largest nuclear powers had formulated a new strategic reduction treaty and announced significant cuts in their respective nuclear arsenals. Still, they possess arsenals large enough to destroy the world, ten times over. However, that should not be used as a argument against disarmament efforts. Rather, they should be hastened. It may be worthwhile for the US and allies of Israel to think how flat and illogical their arguments appear in the case of Iran. Hypocrisy and double standards are the usual charges when pressuring Iran on the nuclear front. Ridding the Middle East of nuclear weapons, in fact, offers a great opportunity to meanwhile work on achieving regional peace, so Israel can willingly abolish its own. It may also check any untoward ambitions of Iran on that front.

The good news is that there is general consensus and commitment on achieving this. Now what remains to be seen is how far all states concerned states work together.

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