Background and Analysis on the Quest for a WMD Free-Zone in the Middle East

Special Coverage in Arms Control Today Now Available for Reporters, Editors

For Immediate Release: Sept. 6, 2011

Media Contacts: Peter Crail, Nonproliferation Analyst (202-463-8270 x102), Daniel Horner, Editor, Arms Control Today (202-463-8270 x108).

(Washington, D.C.) A Middle Eastern zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction “is not only an aspirational goal, but a matter of practical urgency,” Patricia Lewis and William C. Potter of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies say in “The Long Journey Toward a WMD-Free Middle East,” the opening article for a special section of five essays on the zone by nonproliferation and regional experts in the September issue of Arms Control Today.

First proposed in the 1970s, the subject of a Middle Eastern WMD-free zone has gained prominence since the May 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, which called for a meeting by 2012 on the zone. The International Atomic Energy Agency has also recently announced it will host member states for a forum on Nov. 21-22 on how lessons from the world’s five other nuclear weapon-free zones might be applied to the Middle East.

The September Arms Control Today contains five expert essays analyzing the history and status of, and prospects for advancing, the Middle East WMD-free zone proposal:

  • Patricia Lewis and William C. Potter explain the history, background, and key issues;
  • Nabil Fahmy, dean of the School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the American University in Cairo, outlines practical next steps for the process;
  • Emily B. Landau of Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies examines the role of interstate relations on WMD issues in the region;
  • Alireza Nader of the RAND Corporation analyzes Iran’s views on the zone; and
  • Dina Esfandiary, Elham Fakhro, and Becca Wasser of the International Institute for Strategic Studies discuss the perspectives of the Gulf states.

Though some key states in the Middle East have not joined the NPT, the Biological Weapons Convention, or the Chemical Weapons Convention, and some possess ballistic missiles that can deliver such weapons, all states in the region have expressed support for a WMD-free zone under the right conditions.

The conveners of the planned conference—Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the UN secretary-general—have not yet named a facilitator and host country but are expected to do so soon. (See the latest news report in Arms Control Today for further details.)

In his Arms Control Today contribution, former Egyptian Ambassador to the United States Nabil Fahmy writes that the delay in scheduling the meeting is “astonishing and disturbing.”

Fahmy writes that “[a] failure to hold the conference would diminish the credibility of the NPT as a whole.” He also warns that “a rhetorical event with acerbic exchanges and heightened passions” could take place if the meeting occurs without adequate preparation.

Copies of the essays are available for journalists by contacting the Arms Control Association, which publishes Arms Control Today.