Belfer Center Home > Publications > Articles and Op-Eds > Op-Eds > Fundamental Reassessments Required

EmailEmail   PrintPrint Bookmark and Share

 
"Fundamental Reassessments Required"

The flag of the Arab League

"Fundamental Reassessments Required"

Roundtable: Banning WMD from the Middle East

Op-Ed, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

July 8, 2013

Author: Martin B. Malin, Executive Director, Project on Managing the Atom

Belfer Center Programs or Projects: International Security; Managing the Atom; Science, Technology, and Public Policy

 

NOTE

In a Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Roundtable on Banning WMD from the Middle East Mansour Salsabili of Iran, Ehud Eiran of Israel, Martin Malin of the United States, and Ayman Khalil of Jordan debate how the process of establishing a WMD-Free Zone can be revived—and what failure to revive it would mean, both for the Middle East and for the nonproliferation regime.

 

…[I]nitiating a process for discussing WMD remains feasible. But more than dates and modalities for a meeting in Helsinki are needed—fundamental reassessments are required as well. First, all parties must recognize that progress toward a WMD-free zone will require policy changes in areas only indirectly related to nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons and their delivery systems. This is not to say that peace must precede any discussion of disarmament, or that progress toward a WMD-free zone must be formally linked to improvements in bilateral relationships involving Arab nations, Israel, and Iran. Establishing rigid conditions such as these would only prolong the current stalemate. But banning weapons of mass destruction from the region inevitably depends on a relaxation of tensions. Conversely, tensions can be relaxed through productive engagement on disarmament. It would be useful for all parties to acknowledge publicly that arms control and the normalization of diplomatic relations in the region are interdependent processes, and to begin removing obstacles on both fronts.

Second, Israel must begin to grapple in its national security strategy with certain long-term regional trends. These include increased political participation in Arab countries, the erosion of US influence in the Middle East, and the diffusion of enrichment and reprocessing technologies. Israel's traditional reliance on deterrence, preventive strikes, alignment with the United States, and a nuclear monopoly is becoming less tenable, and a sensible hedging strategy would be to engage intensively in regional diplomacy. The process toward establishing a zone free of WMD offers a significant opportunity for this. Israelis often describe arms control as a slippery slope that might lead to concerted pressure on the nation to disarm. But if Israel doubles down on its national security strategies as the regional status quo shifts, it would find itself on a more slippery slope by far.

Finally, the Arab League, Iran, and the sponsors of the WMD-free-zone process—if they truly wish to prioritize banning weapons of mass destruction—should support the establishment of a regionally-based security forum, with independent convening authority, to carry out direct multilateral discussions on regional security and disarmament. Such a regional umbrella need not interfere with the mandate of the review conference for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Instead, the forum would complement the work of the review conference and facilitate Israel's participation in arms control processes even though Israel is not a signatory to the treaty. And Israel, presented with the opportunity under such circumstances to enter into discussions on banning weapons of mass destruction, might decide that doing so is in its own best interest...

Continue reading: http://thebulletin.org/banning-wmd-middle-east/fundamental-reassessments-required

 

The entire Roundtable is available here: http://thebulletin.org/banning-wmd-middle-east

 

For more information about this publication please contact the MTA Project Coordinator at 617-495-4219.

Full text of this publication is available at:
http://thebulletin.org/banning-wmd-middle-east

For Academic Citation:

Malin, Martin B. "Fundamental Reassessments Required." Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, July 8, 2013.

Bookmark and Share

SUBSCRIBE

Receive email updates on the most pressing topics in science and int'l affairs.

<em>International Security</em>

The Spring 2014 issue of the quarterly journal International Security is now available!

Events Calendar

We host a busy schedule of events throughout the fall, winter and spring. Past guests include: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, former Vice President Al Gore, and former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev.