Home Contact Us  

Nuclear - Articles

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#3153, 16 June 2010
Nuclear Weapons Free Middle East: Utopia or Reality?
Siddharth Ramana
Research Officer, IPCS

A Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in the Middle East (NWFZME) is one of the key issues being debated in the region, which also was in controversy during the recently concluded NPT Review Conferences. Earlier, the 2005 review conference had failed due to its inability to build a consensus on this question, particularly over Israel’s refusal to accede to the Non Proliferation Treaty. It was feared the same fate awaited the outcome of the 2010 conference till the final resolution was passed. However, the question remains: Is a Nuclear Weapons Free Middle East possible?

The final agreement in the 2010 Review Conference endorses a plan whereby a Conference would be convened in 2012 by the United Nations Secretary-General and the co-sponsors of its Resolution (Russia, US and UK) to be attended by all the States in the Middle East on the establishment of a Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone (WMDFZ) in the region. This is a significant breakthrough especially since countries like the United States have long stonewalled the proposal for a NWFZME in deference to the security interests of Israel. A possible factor in the breakthrough might have been the renewed fears of nuclear proliferation in the region as exemplified by the illegal nuclear activities of Iran and suspected nuclear indiscretions by Syria.

Article VII of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) envisages the rights of countries to establish specified zones free of nuclear weapons. The first NWFZ was created in Latin America with the 1967 Treaty of Tlatelolco. The question of a NWFZME was first broached by the Shah of Iran, with ready Egyptian support, in 1974. Egypt, which suffered serious losses in its 1973 war with Israel, was concerned about Israel’s unconventional capability. It has since been at the forefront of demands that Israel declares its nuclear capabilities, sign the NPT and accept international safeguards.

Israel countered these arguments in 1980 with its own proposal asking for direct negotiations between countries rather than imposing a nuclear free zone. This proposal was an alternative to Israel signing the NPT, and required a degree of recognition and peaceful relations between all the countries of the Middle East as a prerequisite. This was anathema for the Arab states which have refused to recognize Israel, and have not agreed to provide security assurances. Hopes for a NWFZME were then revived in the aftermath of the First Gulf War, when UNSC Resolution 687 noted in its 14th operational paragraph that Iraq’s disarmament represented one step toward  a zone that would  be free of ‘missiles for their [nuclear weapons] delivery’.

However, it should be noted that Israel seems to have been singled out due to its suspected nuclear program, while the nuclear programs of its neighboring states, which are signatories of the NPT, are glossed over. For example, IAEA Director General Yukiyo Amano has called on member states to support the implementation of a 2009 resolution that called on Israel to join the NPT, before the body’s general meeting in September. Israel, along with India and Pakistan, is a de-facto nuclear power, and the mention of Israel, it is reported, was the result of stepped up efforts to censure it made by an 18-country bloc led by Arab nations. Furthermore, in the last ten years, NPT signatories Iran, Iraq, and Syria have repeatedly deceived the inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and developed nuclear weapons programs contravening their obligations under the NPT; yet Israel was consistently singled out.

Iran’s nuclear program, which was condemned by the UN Security Council, found mere mention in the 2010 NPT Review Conference, while the conference discussed at length the question of Israel (a non-signatory to the NPT) even mentioning it by name in the final document, Iran was not mentioned. The only reference to Iran in the final document is an oblique statement which calls on states to fully comply with the NPT and uphold its integrity and the authority of its safeguards system.

Israel’s official reaction to the final document reflects its frustration over the way the ground realities in the Middle East have been handled. According to the Israelis, “Given the distorted nature of this resolution, Israel will not be able to take part in its implementation.” Significantly, however, Iran which has consistently advocated the NWFZME, might not join the proposed meeting; conditioning it to Israel joining the NPT as a Non-Nuclear Weapons State.

The United States garnered support for a final consensus call for the NWFZME; however, the ground realities dictated a hypocritical final resolution that does not ensure   any commitment to participation in the 2012 meet by these states. Contradictory statements from the United States administration in hailing and then denouncing the resolution reflect the precarious nature of the text. In the light of the growing tensions, other states in the region like Saudi Arabia (which view both Iran and Israel as a threat) may be compelled to revise their own nuclear posture. It is therefore dubious whether a NWFZME could be achieved in the near term future.

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
IPCS Columnists
Af-Pak Diary
D Suba Chandran
Resetting Kabul-Islamabad Relations: Three Key Issues
Can Pakistan Reset its Relations with Afghanistan?
The New Afghanistan: Four Major Challenges for President Ghani
Big Picture
Prof Varun Sahni
Understanding Democracy and Diversity in J&K
When Xi Met Modi: Juxtaposing China and India
Pakistan?s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: The Inevitability of Instability

Dateline Colombo

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera.
Sri Lanka: Moving Towards a Higher Collective Outcome
The Importance of Electing the Best to our Nation's Parliament
Sri Lanka: Toward a Diaspora Re-Engagement Plan
Dateline Islamabad
Salma Malik
Pakistan's Hurt Locker: What Next?
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
India-Pakistan Relations in 2015: Through a Looking Glass
Dhaka Discourse
Prof Delwar Hossain
IPCS Forecast: Bangladesh in 2015
18th SAARC Summit: A Perspective from Bangladesh
Bangladesh in Global Forums: Diplomacy vs. Domestic Politics
Eagle Eye
Prof Chintamani Mahapatra
India-US: Significance of the Second Modi-Obama Meet
Has President Obama Turned Lame Duck?
Modi-Obama Summit: Criticism for Criticism?s Sake?

East Asia Compass
Dr Sandip Mishra
India-Japan-US Trilateral: India?s Policy for the Indo-Pacific
China-South Korea Ties: Implications for the US Pivot to Asia
Many ?Pivots to Asia?: What Does It Mean For Regional Stability?
Himalayan Frontier
Pramod Jaiswal
Nepal?s New Constitution: Instrument towards Peace or Catalyst to Conflict?
IPCS Forecast: Nepal in 2015
Constitution-making: Will Nepal Miss its Second Deadline?

Prof Shankari Sundararaman
IPCS Forecast: Southeast Asia in 2015
Indonesia's Pacific Identity: What Jakarta Must Do in West Papua
Modi in Myanmar: From ?Look East? to ?Act East?
Sushant Sareen
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
Islamic State: Prospects in Pakistan
Pakistan: The Futility of Internationalising Kashmir

Looking East
Wasbir Hussain
Myanmar in New Delhi's Naga Riddle
China: ?Peaceful? Display of Military Might
Naga Peace Accord: Need to Reserve Euphoria
Maritime Matters
Vijay Sakhuja
Indian Ocean: Modi on a Maritime Pilgrimage
Indian Ocean: Exploring Maritime Domain Awareness
IPCS Forecast: The Indian Ocean in 2015

Nuke Street
Amb Sheelkant Sharma
US-Russia and Global Nuclear Security: Under a Frosty Spell?
India's Nuclear Capable Cruise Missile: The Nirbhay Test
India-Australia Nuclear Agreement: Bespeaking of a New Age
Red Affairs
Bibhu Prasad
Countering Left Wing Extremism: Failures within Successes
Return of the Native: CPI-Maoist in Kerala
The Rising Civilian Costs of the State-Vs-Extremists Conflict

Regional Economy
Amita Batra
India and the APEC
IPCS Forecast: South Asian Regional Integration
South Asia: Rupee Regionalisation and Intra-regional Trade Enhancement
South Asian Dialectic
PR Chari
Resuming the Indo-Pak Dialogue: Evolving a New Focus
Defence Management in India: An Agenda for Parrikar
Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: Implications for Asian Security

Spotlight West Asia
Amb Ranjit Gupta
Prime Minister Modi Finally Begins His Interaction with West Asia*
A Potential Indian Role in West Asia?
US-GCC Summit: More Hype than Substance
Strategic Space
Manpreet Sethi
India-Russia Nuclear Vision Statement: See that it Delivers
Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Humanitarian Consequences Route
Nasr: Dangers of Pakistan's Short Range Ballistic Missile

The Strategist
Vice Admiral Vijay Shankar
Jihadi Aggression and Nuclear Deterrence
The Blight of Ambiguity
Falun Gong: The Fear Within

OTHER REGULAR contributors
Gurmeet Kanwal
Harun ur Rashid
N Manoharan
Wasbir Hussain
Rana Banerji
N Manoharan

Ruhee Neog
Teshu Singh
Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Roomana Hukil
Aparupa Bhattacherjee


Browse by Publications

Issue Briefs 
Special Reports 
Research Papers 
Seminar Reports 
Conference Reports 

Browse by Region/Countries

East Asia 
South Asia 
Southeast Asia 
US & South Asia 

Browse by Issues

India & the world  
Naxalite Violence 
Suicide Terrorism 
Peace & Conflict Database 
Article by same Author
Nuclear Security Summit 2012: The Challenges Ahead

Debate: Is a Nuclear Iran good for India?

On Indo-African Nuclear Trade Facilitation

Does Myanmar have Nuclear Ambitions?

After Osama - IV: What are the Global Implications?

Revisiting the CTBT: the US' Conundrum

Sino-Pak Nuclear Engagement-IV: What Can India Do?

WikiWrecks: An Analysis of Terrorism Financing

Sarkozyís India Visit: The Nuclear Dimension

The Role of Human Intelligence in Counter-Terrorism

Iranís Role in the Taliban Negotiations: Q&A

Af-Pak: Iranís Endgame

Iran-Turkey-Brazil Nuclear Agreement

Attacks in Lahore: Buildup to secession?

The Iranian Nuclear Conference

Nuclear Security Review: A Must for India

Airline Terror Plots: Lessons for India

China and Pakistan: Relationship in a Bottle

Need for an Indian Response in Somali Waters

Obama-mania: Iran is Not Invited

Nuclear Iran: Anathema for India

Pakistan: External Mis-dealings

Unending Drama in Pakistan

Q&A: Attack on Indian Embassy in Kabul

Q&A: Pakistan's Nuclear Bogeyman

Y! MyWeb
Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
Year 2018
 2017  2016  2015  2014  2013  2012  2011  2010
 2009  2008  2007  2006  2005  2004  2003  2002
 2001  2000  1999  1998  1997

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) is the premier South Asian think tank which conducts independent research on and provides an in depth analysis of conventional and non-conventional issues related to national and South Asian security including nuclear issues, disarmament, non-proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism, counter terrorism , strategies security sector reforms, and armed conflict and peace processes in the region.

For those in South Asia and elsewhere, the IPCS website provides a comprehensive analysis of the happenings within India with a special focus on Jammu and Kashmir and Naxalite Violence. Our research promotes greater understanding of India's foreign policy especially India-China relations, India's relations with SAARC countries and South East Asia.

Through close interaction with leading strategic thinkers, former members of the Indian Administrative Service, the Foreign Service and the three wings of the Armed Forces - the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force, - the academic community as well as the media, the IPCS has contributed considerably to the strategic discourse in India.

Subscribe to Newswire | Site Map
18, Link Road, Jungpura Extension, New Delhi 110014, INDIA.

Tel: 91-11-4100-1902    Email: officemail@ipcs.org

© Copyright 2018, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.