Disarming the Middle East

By exposing the inadequacy of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran, a signatory, has signaled that the Middle East regional order can no longer be based on Israel’s nuclear monopoly as a non-NPT member. Hence, forcing NPT members like Iran and Syria to comply with their commitments must be accompanied by region-wide repudiation of all weapons of mass destruction.

TEL AVIV – Israel’s desperate plea that the world act to curtail what its intelligence service describes as Iran’s “gallop toward a nuclear bomb” has not gotten the positive response that Israel expected. With the United Nations sanctions regime now having proven to be utterly ineffective, and with international diplomacy apparently futile in preventing the Iranians from mastering the technology for enriching uranium, Israel is being boxed into a corner. What was supposed to be a major international effort at mediation is deteriorating into an apocalyptic Israeli-Iranian showdown.

This is an intriguing anomaly, for, notwithstanding Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s vile anti-Semitic rhetoric, the implications of Iran’s emerging power extend far beyond the Jewish state. Indeed, it affects the entire Arab world, particularly the vulnerable Gulf countries, and even Afghanistan and Pakistan. The United States, as a major Middle East power, and Europe also have an interest in stemming the tide of nuclear proliferation that now threatens the Middle East. For a nuclear Iran would open the gates to an uncontrolled rush for the bomb across the region.

The international system’s failure to address effectively the nuclear issue in the Middle East stems mostly from the Russia-US divide, to which wrongheaded American strategy has contributed mightily. Russia cannot want a nuclear Iran. But in its quest for leverage against what it perceives as hostile American policies, and as way to bargain for a more acceptable security framework with the West, the Russians refuse to join America’s leadership in international efforts to curtail Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

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