A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, May 3, 2010

New Talks on Nuclear-Free Zone?

An AFP report over the weekend claims that the US and Egypt have been talking about reviving plans for a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East, on the eve of the UN's non-proliferation conference (the one that is bringing Ahmadinejad to New York).

Egypt has long supported the idea of a regional nuclear-free zone, and the concerns over Iran have revived the idea, though the fly in the ointment remains what it has always been: the Israeli nuclear deterrent. Since Israel has never acknowledged having nuclear weapons (but has never signed the NPT either), its generally recognized but unofficial nuclear stockpiles make it unlikely Israel will agree to making the region a nuclear-free zone, at least absent a stable peace with all its neighbors, which looks more remote than it once did.

So this may be as fruitless an effort as earlier ones have been; it would require Israel to disarm its nuclear forces, and it's hard to picture that happening, especially given the present cool relations between Netanyahu and the US.

Still, there is the very real danger that an Iranian weapon will spark proliferation in the region, with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, perhaps Syria and Turkey thinking of acquiring deterrents, and then instead of a nuclear-free zone you run the risk of a nuclear free-fire zone.

No comments: