At the International Atomic Energy Agency General Conference, member states voted down a resolution critical of Israel’s nuclear program.
Israel on Sept. 3 conducted the first flight test of a new missile defense target designed to improve Israeli defenses against longer-range ballistic missiles.
Eighteen Arab countries have requested space on the agenda for discussion of a resolution on Israel’s nuclear capabilities at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) General Conference in September.
The head of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission last month offered a bleak assessment of the prospects for holding a long-planned conference on weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East, citing the “somber realities” in the region.
Deepening long-held suspicions about a sensitive aspect of German-Israeli military cooperation, Der Spiegel magazine reported in its June 4 issue that Israel has deployed nuclear-armed cruise missiles aboard submarines built and subsidized by Germany.
Although the goal of ridding the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) is receiving increased attention, it remains a distant prospect. Achieving such an ambitious goal will require a series of incremental steps even to begin the process. An agreement that bans the development and possession of ballistic missiles capable of flying more than 3,000 kilometers and includes members of the Arab League, Iran, Israel, and Turkey is a reasonable first step toward a WMD-free Middle East.
It is doubtful that the Gulf states see the 2012 conference as crucial to their security, but with the negotiations forming a key piece of the regional security architecture, they cannot afford to ignore it.
The planned 2012 conference could serve Iran’s geopolitical interests by providing an opportunity to exploit Arab divisions and shift the focus away from Iran toward Israel’s nuclear arsenal.
In light of the harsh and enduring conflicts in the Middle East that gave rise to WMD acquisition, focusing on interstate relations and dynamics is imperative.
Because it responds to asymmetries in regional capabilities, a zone free of all weapons of mass destruction is the only real, viable regional goal. Countries need to muster the political will to pursue that goal.
Last year, countries made notable, though tentative, progress toward restarting the effort to rid the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction. If they prove unable to convene their promised conference, they will have squandered an opportunity that may not reappear.