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"[Arms Control Today is] Absolutely essential reading for the upcoming Congressional budget debate on the 2018 #NPR and its specific recommendations ... well-informed, insightful, balanced, and filled with common sense."

– Frank Klotz,
former Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration
March 7, 2018
September 2011
Edition Date: 
Thursday, September 1, 2011
Cover Image: 

In Memoriam: Jonathan B. Tucker (1954–2011)

Jonathan B. Tucker, a member of the Arms Control Association Board of Directors and leading biological and chemical weapons expert, died recently at his home in Washington, D.C. He will be deeply missed. His departure leaves a tremendous vacuum in the field of biological and chemical weapons arms control.

Daryl G. Kimball and Tom Z. Collina

Jonathan B. Tucker, a member of the Arms Control Association Board of Directors and leading biological and chemical weapons expert, died recently at his home in Washington, D.C. He will be deeply missed. His departure leaves a tremendous vacuum in the field of biological and chemical weapons arms control.

For those who met or worked with him, Jonathan stood out as someone who was always willing to help. He was thoughtful and never rash, possessed of a quiet determination to find answers to the deeper questions and come up with practical answers to international security challenges.

Jonathan joined the ACA board in 2003 and provided thoughtful advice to the organization on many occasions. Readers of Arms Control Today will know him from his frequent contributions on biological and chemical weapons issues through the years. Most recently, he helped with our interview of Laura Kennedy, a senior U.S. official, on the upcoming Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) review conference; his January/February article provides a cogent analysis of the challenges facing the BWC.

For ACA staff and fellow board members, as well as many others in the field, Jonathan was the first person to call for all things having to do with biosecurity, biological and chemical weapons, and more. He had that rare ability to understand complex issues as well as explain them lucidly to those who were not as knowledgeable as he was.

On one memorable occasion, Jonathan helped ACA explain the case for continuing inspections in Iraq rather than launching an invasion to halt Saddam Hussein’s suspected unconventional weapons programs. His analysis then, as on other occasions, was carefully formulated but clear and easily understood. At that Oct. 7, 2002, briefing, Jonathan astutely said, “[A] realistic goal of the UN inspection regime is not to eliminate every last weapon, which is probably impossible, but to deny Iraq a militarily significant mass-destruction capability. I believe that goal is probably achievable if [the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission] is given full access to relevant facilities throughout Iraq, supplied with accurate and timely intelligence, and supported by a united Security Council.”

Jonathan was an expert’s expert. He held a biology degree from Yale and a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in political science. His career included a number of U.S. government positions, including in the Department of State, the Office of Technology Assessment, and the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. He was a member of the U.S. delegation to the preparatory commission for the Chemical Weapons Convention and served as a biological weapons inspector for the United Nations in Iraq in 1995.

Jonathan later worked at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies and the U.S. Institute of Peace. In 2008 he served on the professional staff of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism. In 2011 he joined the Federation of American Scientists to lead its Biosecurity Education Project.

Jonathan was a prolific writer, producing many highly regarded books, including Scourge: The Once and Future Threat of Smallpox (2001), Biosecurity: Limiting Terrorist Access to Deadly Pathogens (2003), and War of Nerves: Chemical Warfare From World War I to Al-Qaeda (2006), and editing volumes such as Germany in Transition: A Unified Nation’s Search for Identity (1999), and Toxic Terror: Assessing Terrorist Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons (2000).

We will always remember Jonathan as an extremely dedicated, talented, and warm human being. We will miss his spirit and wise counsel.

In Memoriam: Mark O. Hatfield (1922–2011)

Mark O. Hatfield, the former Republican senator from Oregon, died August 7 in Portland at the age of 89. He was a political maverick, a pragmatic idealist who worked across the aisle to take on big issues, including the long-running U.S. war in Vietnam, the insanity of the nuclear arms race, excessive military spending, and the global arms trade.

Daryl G. Kimball

Mark O. Hatfield, the former Republican senator from Oregon, died August 7 in Portland at the age of 89. He was a political maverick, a pragmatic idealist who worked across the aisle to take on big issues, including the long-running U.S. war in Vietnam, the insanity of the nuclear arms race, excessive military spending, and the global arms trade.

Hatfield was first elected to Oregon’s legislature in 1950 and was elected governor in 1958. He served in the U.S. Senate from 1967 to 1997. Throughout his long Senate career, Hatfield pursued policies to reduce the risk of war and help the disadvantaged at home, even when it put him at odds with his party’s leaders. Oregon’s voters responded by making him the longest-serving senator in the state’s history.

Hatfield was a veteran of World War II and a deeply religious man. As a naval officer stationed in the Philippines in 1945, he was among the first Americans to witness the immediate aftereffects of the devastation of the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima on August 6 of that year. The experience of the war in the Pacific and the sight and smell of the devastated city would shape his views and his politics for decades to come.

As Hatfield explained in an interview published in the April 1987 issue of Arms Control Today:

[A]round September 10, we went into Hiroshima. We saw the defeat, the indiscriminate devastation in ever direction. And you try to comprehend that one bomb had done that . . . . We couldn’t.

. . .

We would destroy all human creation, the entire ecosystem, either directly or indirectly. Now, there you come down to a basic question . . . . Is this not the ultimate obscenity, and the ultimate arrogation of power when the creation can say to the creator, “I have the right to divest you of the creation”[?]
. . .

Because we are living on the edges of the abyss, it seems to me that we can and should have only one goal: ­ridding ourselves of this curse.

“If you’ve been in a war, you cannot but have your views altered,” he told the Associated Press in 1986. “The devastation, the terrible devastation, is not something one ever forgets.”

At the 1965 National Governors Association convention, Hatfield was one of only two governors to oppose President Lyndon Johnson’s escalation of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Once in the Senate, he teamed up with Senator George McGovern (D-S.D.) to offer multiple amendments seeking to draw down and bring home U.S. soldiers from Indochina. He would later oppose U.S. intervention in civil wars in Central America and was one of only two Republican senators who voted against the 1991 Persian Gulf War resolution.

Hatfield was a champion of effective nuclear arms control and disarmament from the 1970s until the end of hisSenate career. Hatfield worked with nongovernmental leaders such as Arms Control Association president Herbert J. Scoville in opposing the Carter and Reagan administrations’ plans for the MX missile, and he criticized President Jimmy Carter’s Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) II as insufficient.

In the 1987 interview, he said SALT II was a “great example of our inability to deal with the technology behind the arms race.” That treaty, he said, “attempted to limit the weapons of the time but it had nothing to do with…the technology” or “retarding, and ultimately, obliterating all of these weapons.”

During the 1979 SALT II debate, Hatfield introduced an amendment that called for a “strategic weapons freeze,” which helped provide the impetus for the popular Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign and would ricochet back into Washington and prompt Hatfield and other members of Congress to act.

As tensions between Washington and Moscow mounted in 1982 and the two countries built up their nuclear arsenals even further, Hatfield and other members of Congress heard from their constituents, who sought a way off the escalatory ladder and were calling for a “nuclear freeze” with the Soviet Union on the testing, production, and deployment of nuclear warheads and delivery systems.

“We heard from people at every stop who knew about the nuclear freeze proposal and wanted us to support it. ‘Why not?’ they asked. We found that question difficult to answer,” Hatfield and Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) later explained in their 1982 book Freeze! How You Can Help Prevent Nuclear War. “A new arms control initiative was needed to offer leadership in Congress and respond to the growing public concern,” they wrote.

On March 10, 1982, Hatfield and Kennedy joined House proponents of the freeze, including Representative Edward Markey (D-Mass.), to introduce a “sense of Congress” resolution based directly on a widely disseminated document, “Call to Halt the Nuclear Arms Race,” developed by Randall Forsberg, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology defense policy expert who would later join the board of directors of the Arms Control Association. With the backing of Hatfield and Kennedy, the effort gained broad-based popular and expert support, national attention, and increasing political momentum.

Freeze Vote

After months of debate, a much-amended freeze resolution passed the House in May 1983, but fell short by a 40–58 margin when the Senate considered it in October. Nonetheless, the effort showed Congress and the White House ahead of the 1984 election that public support for renewed arms control was running high and that the appetite for further nuclear armament was running low. The campaign prompted President Ronald Reagan to negotiate limits on nuclear arms ­during his second term.

Hatfield’s efforts hardly diminished after the freeze resolution of 1983. He turned his focus to achieving progress on a U.S.-Soviet nuclear test ban, which he recognized as a critical barrier to the further technological improvement of superpower nuclear arsenals.

Following new Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s announcement in July 1985 that the Soviet Union would forgo tests and that the Soviet Union would not test until and unless the United States began testing, the Reagan administration declined to reciprocate. In October 1986, a bipartisan group of 63 House and Senate members, led by Hatfield, Senator Alan Cranston (D-Calif.), Representative Les Aspin (D-Wis.), and others, sent a letter to Reagan urging him to reciprocate and call off the next scheduled test in Nevada, code-named Glencoe.

Cranston and Hatfield also introduced legislation seeking to bar the spending of money to carry out U.S. nuclear tests if the Soviet Union was not doing so. Their initiative did not succeed, but it would get another chance.

Test Moratorium

Five years later, following the October 5, 1991, announcement that the Soviets would suspend nuclear testing, Hatfield, along with Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell (D-Maine) and Representatives Mike Kopetski (D-Ore.) and Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.), introduced the Nuclear Testing Moratorium Act, which called for a one-year U.S. testing moratorium. The idea gained bipartisan support over the next several months, picking up additional political momentum as France declared a testing moratorium in April and Russia’s new president, Boris Yeltsin, extended the Russian moratorium in June.

On September 13, 1992, after a sustained, months-long, national grassroots lobbying campaign led by disarmament groups, the Senate voted 55–40 for ­legislation jointly sponsored by Hatfield, Mitchell, and Senator James Exon (D-Neb.) that called for a nine-month U.S. testing moratorium, placed strict conditions on any further U.S. testing, and required the pursuit of negotiations on a comprehensive global test ban and a prohibition on U.S. testing after September 30, 1996, unless another country conducted a test. On September 24, the House of Representatives adopted the amendment by a margin of 224–151. On October 2, President George H.W. Bush reluctantly signed into law a bill containing the test moratorium legislation.

In the spring of 1993, Hatfield again led the way. Along with Exon, Mitchell, and Kopetski, he expressed strong opposition to a draft Clinton administration plan to renew U.S. testing and to substitute a one-kiloton threshold treaty for a ­comprehensive one.

On the morning of April 30, when a report in The Washington Post first revealed the administration’s draft threshold test ban proposal, senior staffers from the Hatfield, Exon, and Mitchell offices huddled around a keyboard in the Hart Senate Office Building  to craft a joint letter to respond to the White House. Hatfield told the Post he was “dismayed” by the report. The three senators’ letter said the administration’s proposal to allow continued underground nuclear tests would conflict with the nuclear test moratorium law, which called for a comprehensive ban on nuclear tests. They would soon rally the support of 38 senators and 159 representatives in support of a test moratorium extension and negotiations leading to a ban on all nuclear testing.

Their decisive action helped change the course of the administration’s test ban policy decision. Soon after, editorials from more than 40 leading newspapers called for extending the moratorium. Public opinion polls showed that 72 percent of the U.S. public favored ­continuing the moratorium.

On July 3, 1993, President Bill Clinton announced that he would extend the moratorium at least through 1994 unless another nation conducted a test and that he would pursue completion of negotiations on a comprehensive test ban treaty (CTBT) by September 1996. Clinton determined that the U.S. nuclear arsenal was “safe and reliable” and that there was no immediate need for further tests—a policy that has been sustained by every ­president since then.

Shortly before Hatfield’s departure from the Senate, talks on the treaty were concluded, and the CTBT was opened for signature on September 23, 1996. Clinton was the first to sign it.

The final chapters in the history of the causes Hatfield championed are not finished. Hatfield sought to put in place a code of conduct to prohibit U.S. arms sales to undemocratic regimes and human rights violators. He noted shortly after his departure from the Senate that the United States is “still the largest arms peddler in the world, and we infect the rest of the world with our lust for weapons.” Today, there is a renewed global push to negotiate commonsense standards for international weapons sales—an arms trade treaty—which the Obama administration supports but many Senate Republicans oppose.

Today, nearly 20 years since the last U.S. nuclear test, the logic and value of the CTBT are even more powerful. Winning Senate approval for ratification of the CTBT and other arms control initiatives yet to come, however, will require a few more leaders with the courage of conviction, the bipartisan touch, and the political savvy of Mark Hatfield.

Misinterpreting the NPT

In his new book, Interpreting the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Daniel H. Joyner has a clear agenda and turns his policy preferences into legal interpretations, reviewer Norman A. Wulf says.

Reviewed by Norman A. Wulf

Interpreting the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

By Daniel H. Joyner

Oxford University Press, 2011, 224 pp.

Throughout his new book, Daniel H. Joyner makes clear that he has a thesis that he seeks to prove. Authors who examine well-covered territory, such as interpreting the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), and develop a unique thesis run the risk of writing an advocate’s brief that selectively chooses from relevant facts. Regrettably, that is the case with this book, Interpreting the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Joyner, a professor at the University of Alabama School of Law and the author of International Law and the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, argues that the NPT has three equal purposes and that the negotiation of the NPT resulted in the creation of a quid pro quo contract. He reviews the diplomatic history of the NPT, correctly noting that original drafts of the treaty developed by nuclear-weapon states dealt only with nonproliferation. When non-nuclear-weapon states were brought into the negotiation, access to peaceful use (Article IV) and commitments on disarmament (Article VI) were added. Stressing that the NPT would not have been concluded without these two articles, Joyner views their addition as the quid pro quo for non-nuclear-weapon states’ adherence. According to this argument, equal weight should be accorded to what the nuclear-weapon states acquired—nonproliferation and continued possession of nuclear weapons—and to what the non-nuclear-weapon states acquired—peaceful uses and a commitment to work toward nuclear disarmament—under the resulting contract. He concludes that

[t]he diplomatic history of the NPT when taken as whole, therefore, establishes clearly that the NPT is not fundamentally about regulating nuclear weapons proliferation…. It is, in fact, fundamentally about regulating nuclear energy in its full dual-use nature…. [T]aken as a whole, this diplomatic history makes clear that the NPT is underpinned by three inherently linked, presumptively equal principled pillars—peaceful use of nuclear energy, non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and disarmament of nuclear weapons stockpiles.

Joyner is correct to label nonproliferation, peaceful use, and disarmament as the “three pillars” of the NPT. The nuclear-weapon states, particularly the United States, have for several decades argued that international meetings devote equal time to each. There is now widespread but not universal agreement that there are three pillars that should be treated equally, and the use of terminology such as “fundamental bargain” is common.

Whether one or all of the three pillars are the primary purpose of the NPT normally would not be of much significance, given that arrangements at review conferences ultimately have given the three equal treatment. Joyner, however, relies on his finding that there were three primary purposes of the NPT to sustain charges of illegality or unlawful policies by the nuclear-weapon states: “[A]s concluded particularly in the context of the peaceful use pillar of the NPT…the nuclear disarmament policies—or more accurately the lack thereof—maintained by the [nuclear-weapon states] in reliance on these erroneous legal interpretations…were illegally prejudicial to the legitimate legal interests of the [non-nuclear-­weapon states] under the NPT’s quid pro quo grand bargain.”

This review examines whether Joyner’s conclusions about the primary purpose of the NPT, its contractual nature, and the meaning of specific articles are justified.

Before doing so, it is necessary to point out that the book examines the nuclear policies of the nuclear-weapon states for his “target decade” of 1998–2008. It is unclear why Joyner chose this 10-year period, although it seems designed to cover all of the administration of President George W. Bush. This reviewer had primary responsibility for U.S. NPT policy from 1998 through 2002 and, like Joyner, had serious disagreements with the NPT policies of the Bush administration. Those differences were discussed in a prior review in this publication.[1] These disagreements, however, were characterized as policy preferences, not legal interpretations.

The NPT’s Primary Purpose

The basic rule for treaty interpretation, as Joyner states, is that “[a] treaty shall be interpreted in good faith in accordance with the ordinary meaning to be given to the terms of the treaty in their context and in the light of [the treaty’s] object and purpose.”[2] The starting point of interpretation is the treaty text that one is seeking to interpret. For example, it is reasonable to assume that the title of the treaty may provide the best evidence of its primary purpose. Joyner’s analysis dismisses the title: “Incidentally, this early exclusive focus on non-proliferation in the agreed super-power drafts explains the title of the NPT as it was preserved in the final version of the text. Somewhat inexplicably, the title was never updated to reflect the broader object and purpose of the treaty, as it took shape in the later stages of the negotiation.”

“Incidentally” and “Somewhat inexplicably” are all that are offered to rebut the emphasis the treaty’s title places on nonproliferation. Rather than seeking to dismiss an inconvenient fact, proper interpretation would require giving the title appropriate weight. There is no rule of treaty interpretation that allows for disregarding language in a treaty, even that which does not support an author’s thesis.

The wording of Articles I and II, in contrast with that of Articles IV and VI, supports the conclusion that nonproliferation is the treaty’s primary purpose. Article I requires nuclear-weapon states not “to transfer to any recipient whatsoever” and not “in any way to assist” any non-nuclear-weapon state “to manufacture or otherwise acquire” a nuclear weapon or nuclear explosive device. Article II is equally clear in stating that non-nuclear-weapon states cannot “receive the transfer from any transferor whatsoever of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or of control over such weapons or explosive devices directly or indirectly,” “manufacture or otherwise acquire” such devices, or “receive any assistance in the[ir] manufacture.” Although Article III is much more detailed, it is equally clear that non-nuclear-weapon states must have safeguards agreements.

Contrast this clear directive language with that used in Articles IV and VI. Article IV begins with what is a common feature for many multilateral instruments: a statement that whatever obligations are undertaken or whatever rights are surrendered elsewhere in the treaty text do not affect other rights or obligations. (“Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties…to develop” peaceful uses of nuclear energy.) This savings clause is followed by a paragraph declaring that “all parties undertake to facilitate, and have the right to participate in, the fullest possible” international cooperation. “Facilitate” is far weaker than “shall” while “fullest possible” is very ambiguous as to what is “possible.” Article VI calls on all parties “to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to the cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.” “Pursue negotiations,” “effective measures,” and “at an early date” are all qualifications, unlike language such as “shall conclude agreements by” a date certain or language spelling out precisely what are effective measures. In short, Articles IV and VI are significantly qualified and contain substantial ­ambiguity unlike Articles I and II.

Perhaps most indicative of the primacy of nonproliferation is the requirement in Article IV that peaceful uses be “in conformity with” Articles I and II of the treaty. The context in which the treaty was concluded reinforces this conclusion. France conducted a nuclear test in 1960, and China conducted one in 1964. Near the end of the 1960s, concern increased that India might be developing a nuclear weapon, a well-placed concern given its nuclear test in 1974. The Cold War was in full force. U.S. and Soviet nuclear weapons were deployed in Eastern and Western Europe; NATO was divided over how to provide all members with a role in the nuclear defense of Europe; and Soviet placement of nuclear weapons in Cuba in 1962 resulted in the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean elaborating a nuclear-weapon-free-zone treaty. There was global concern about the nuclear arms race spreading to other regions of the world and a common understanding that the more countries that had nuclear weapons, the more likely it was that the weapons would be used. This is the environment that existed when the NPT was being created; the fundamental concern was nuclear war as a result of nuclear proliferation.

Anecdotal evidence also suggests Joyner is misinformed on this point. This reviewer had to insist during preparations for the 2000 NPT Review Conference, against opposition by the Nonaligned Movement (NAM), that equal time be accorded to peaceful uses; the NAM’s priority was disarmament.

Even though the primary purpose of the NPT is nonproliferation, a careful balancing among nonproliferation, peaceful use, and disarmament is a political imperative. It is not, however, a legal imperative. Thus, if this balance is not achieved, there is no basis for a charge of illegality in the treaty text itself, in its negotiating history, or in subsequent state practice.

No Quid Pro Quo

Joyner implies but does not clearly state that this was a quid pro quo negotiation because the nuclear-weapon states obtained nonproliferation while the non-nuclear-weapon states obtained Articles IV and VI. This implication is clearly erroneous; it suggests that non-nuclear-weapon states had nothing to gain and were uninterested in nonproliferation. The context in which the NPT was concluded, discussed above, suggests otherwise, as does the negotiating record and subsequent practices of states-parties.[3]

The NPT then and now confers security benefits on nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states alike. Countries could be assured of the intentions of neighbors by the legally binding pledge not to acquire nuclear weapons. For neighbors with nuclear programs, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would be there to ensure it was for peaceful purposes.

From personal experience, officials in capitals of most non-nuclear-weapon states understand and place high value on the security aspects of the NPT while diplomats in Geneva and New York tend to stress disarmament and peaceful uses. For example, in the run-up to the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference, the United States undertook a major diplomatic initiative to persuade countries to support a decision to make the NPT permanent. The competing proposal from Indonesia called for rolling 25-year extensions. The best non-nuclear-weapon-state argument for permanence based on security concerns came from an official in West Africa who said his country was not presently concerned about its neighbors’ nuclear ambitions, but he did not know if that would be the case in 25 years. Nonproliferation was not a favor to the nuclear-weapon states; it benefited all parties. Disarmament and peaceful use were icing on the cake, not, as Joyner asserts, the other two-thirds of the cake.

No quid pro quo contract was created by the negotiating process. The contextual analysis establishes that the primary object and purpose of the NPT is, as its title makes clear, nonproliferation of nuclear weapons. Nuclear-weapon states could not smugly retain their nuclear weapons, but were obligated to make good-faith efforts toward disarmament.

Because Joyner’s charges of illegal nuclear-weapon states’ policies rely in part on the three pillars being equal and on the existence of a contract, this review could simply dismiss the remainder of his analysis. However, there are additional points that merit comment.

Other Misconceptions

Joyner is concerned about conditioning supply of nuclear materials and technology on such actions as acceding to an IAEA additional protocol, complying with safeguards agreements, and agreeing to forgo technology for reprocessing spent fuel and enriching uranium. NPT Article IV calls on all parties “to facilitate the fullest possible exchange” of nuclear equipment and technology. Joyner believes this creates an absolute obligation, but the practice of states-parties over four decades clearly is to the contrary. Among the factors that can be taken into account in interpreting the text of a treaty is “any subsequent practice in the application of the treaty which establishes the agreement of the parties regarding its interpretation.”[4]

The U.S. Atomic Energy Act predates the NPT and imposes numerous conditions that must be met before nuclear supply can occur. Those conditions continued following U.S. accession to the NPT. Indeed, all nuclear supplier states have varying conditions that recipients must meet. Eight years after the NPT entered into force, the United States followed Canada’s and Australia’s example by adding full-scope safeguards as an additional condition of supply. The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) adopted a similar rule in 1992.[5] The practice of nuclear supplier states and the 1992 NSG rule change were known by the NPT parties when they made the treaty permanent in 1995.

Most of Joyner’s complaints about conditions of supply are aimed solely at nuclear-weapon states. Yet, since 1978 the NSG has had more non-nuclear-weapon states than nuclear-weapon states, with today’s numbers at 41 and five, respectively. A charge that nuclear-weapon states’ policies are somehow illegal while ignoring those of a significant number of non-nuclear-weapon states seems ill-advised at best.

The practice of states-parties—­non-nuclear-weapon states and nuclear-weapon states alike—has been to make the supplying of nuclear materials and equipment[6] contingent on conditions such as accession to an additional protocol or compliance with safeguards agreements, and those conditions are not a violation of Article IV. The recent decision by the NSG to elaborate the conditions that must be considered before supply of technology for enrichment and reprocessing of spent fuel shows that such conditions are an ongoing state practice.[7]

Another area worthy of comment is Joyner’s assertion that a violation of a safeguards agreement does not constitute a violation of the NPT. The NPT establishes the obligation of non-nuclear-weapon states to have a safeguards agreement with the IAEA for the purpose of verifying that the state is fulfilling its NPT obligations. If a party violates its safeguards agreement so the agency cannot determine if that party is fulfilling its NPT obligations, it is reasonable to assert that is a violation of the NPT.[8] Perhaps the clearest example is where a non-nuclear-weapon state-party to the NPT has been found to have source or special nuclear material that is not being safeguarded despite explicit language in Article III that safeguards “shall be applied” to such material. Other provisions of Article III suggesting a similar conclusion are the requirements that non-nuclear-weapon states “accept” safeguards and “follow” safeguards procedures.

Joyner’s analysis of Article VI begins with a vigorous attempt to distinguish between arms control and disarmament. He argues that if actions “do not intend nor are designed by policy to achieve complete elimination of those weapons,” they constitute arms control, not disarmament, and there is no compliance. One problem with this analysis is that it places priority on statements of what countries intend to achieve, not the actions taken. The effect of a country’s actions can be measured, but the country’s intent cannot. Arms control actions have long been viewed as a means to achieve the disarmament condition. Thus, if an arms control agreement results in a reduction of the number of nuclear weapons, that is movement toward nuclear disarmament. Even if one uses reliance on words as the test, most U.S. presidents have addressed their fealty to nuclear disarmament as an “ultimate objective” or “goal.” An example is President Bill Clinton’s statement on the 30th anniversary of the NPT’s entry into force when he said, “The United States is committed to the ultimate elimination of all nuclear weapons.”[9] With complete elimination as the stated objective, U.S. arms control actions would clearly meet Joyner’s test for compliance.

Even more troubling is Joyner’s assertion that NPT review conferences can be forums where the parties can make agreements that can aid in interpretation. He is correct that under the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, “any subsequent agreement between the parties regarding the interpretation of the treaty or the application of its provisions” is to be taken into account.[10] The question, however, is whether final documents of NPT review conferences rise to this standard.

Joyner asserts that the 13 “practical steps” adopted at the 2000 NPT Review Conference can be viewed as a subsequent agreement among the parties and therefore have “become part of the ‘yardstick’ for determining state compliance with the obligation of Article VI.” NPT Article VIII specifies that the purpose of review conferences is to “review the operation of this Treaty with a view to assuring that the purposes of the Preamble and provisions of the Treaty are being realized.” The only exception to this generalized purpose was the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference that was required by the treaty to determine its future duration.

Questions concerning the status of final documents have arisen since the 2000 and 2010 review conferences, with some asserting, as does Joyner, that they have legal consequences. Others assert that although final documents are solemn political commitments that parties in good faith must seek to fulfill, they do not have the force of law. If for no other reason than constitutional requirements for treaty making, the required answer for the United States and many other countries is that final documents are political commitments. Were they to be lawmaking or law-shaping exercises as Joyner asserts, the effect would be to discourage future consensus as governments seek to avoid this purported legal effect.

Although Joyner’s attention is focused on the 13 practical steps, the 2000 final document contains more than 180 other paragraphs; under his interpretation, all would have legal consequences. Furthermore, even with respect to the 13 practical steps, many were crafted with sufficiently ambiguous words to cover multiple points of view, not with the precision in a lawmaking exercise that allows states to understand what legal obligation they are undertaking.[11] The most prominent example from the 13 practical steps of how successful the 2000 negotiations were in producing language that was sufficiently ambiguous to achieve consensus was “the necessity of establishing in the Conference on Disarmament an appropriate body with a mandate to deal with nuclear disarmament.” For the United States, an “appropriate body” meant an ad hoc group and “a mandate to deal with” meant a non-negotiating mandate, but others had different definitions in mind. With full disclosure of their differences, the parties sought a formulation ambiguous enough to cover all viewpoints. This is not legal drafting nor were the negotiations imbued with that sense of seriousness that is present when seeking to elaborate legal agreements. Even though unsatisfying, final documents must be viewed as solemn political commitments, not documents imbued with legal effect.

Conclusion

No one searching for a dispassionate legal interpretation of the NPT will come away from this book satisfied. Its too-clear agenda and focus on a selected 10-year period ensure that. The author seems to have become so absorbed in the political dynamics of the three pillars, the “grand bargain,” and the harmful Bush policies that he gives undue legal weight to his policy preferences. That mistake is particularly troubling because the document he analyzed is one of the world’s most widely accepted instruments.

On the other hand, readers seeking policy arguments that are at variance with the traditional view will find a wealth of material in this book. Indeed, this reviewer has sympathy for some of Joyner’s policy preferences while markedly disagreeing that those policies are dictated by legal interpretation of the NPT. ACT

 

Norman A. Wulf worked on nuclear nonproliferation issues for more than 20 years at the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and the Department of State, the last three of which (1999-2002) were as the president’s special representative for nuclear nonproliferation. In that capacity, he led the U.S. delegation to the 2000 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference. Previously, he led the U.S. team that negotiated the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Model Additional Protocol.


 

ENDNOTES

1. Norman A. Wulf, “The Wisdom of Sharing the Peaceful Atom,” Arms Control Today, July/August 2007.

2. “Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties,” Treaty Series: Treaties and International Agreements Registered or Filed or Recorded With the Secretariat of the United Nations, Vol. 1155 (May 23, 1969), art. 31, para. 1.

3. 2000 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, “Final Document,” NPT/CONF.2000/28 (Parts I and II), 2000, pp. 1–2 (paras. 1, 5, and 12); 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, “Final Document,” NPT/CONF.2010/50 (Vol. I), 2010, p. 2 (para. 1).

4. “Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties,” art. 31, para. 3(b).

5. The future viability of this “full-scope safeguards” condition of supply is now in doubt because of the ill-advised U.S. decision to waive that requirement for India, a waiver that the rest of the NSG supported.

6. There are less-sensitive nuclear materials and equipment that are supplied to non-nuclear-weapon states through the IAEA technical assistance program. The United States, as the largest contributor to that program, imposes no conditions on those contributions.

7. See Daryl G. Kimball, “New Nuclear Supplers Rules a Net Plus,” Arms Control Today, July/August 2011.

8. See John Carlson, “Defining Non-compliance: NPT Safeguards Agreements,” Arms Control Today, May 2009; UN Security Council, “Statement by the President of the Security Council,” S/PRST/1994/13, March 31, 1994.

9. Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, “Statement by the President,” March 6, 2000.

10. “Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties,” art. 31, para. 3(a).

11. Norman A. Wulf, “Observations From the 2000 NPT Review Conference,” Arms Control Today, November 2000.

Obstacles for the Gulf States

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.

Dina Esfandiary, Elham Fakhro, and Becca Wasser

Judging by their official statements, the establishment of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East ranks high on the list of policy priorities of the six member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)—Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).[1] As countries bordering a once-proliferating, aggressive state (Iraq); facing another suspected of seeking a nuclear weapons capability and bent on regional hegemony (Iran); and living in the vicinity of nuclear powers outside the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) regime (India, Israel, and Pakistan), they arguably have a paramount security interest in its rapid formation.

As with other stated policy objectives of the Persian Gulf states, however, work toward this goal is hampered by competing priorities and the resulting limits on time and resources that the countries can devote to the issue. Other constraints include enduring political and strategic considerations, such as diverging threat perceptions and the absence of a common security agenda. In recent years, the Gulf states, mostly through nongovernmental experts, have conducted significant work on the scope, reach, and implementation requirements of a regional WMD-free zone and in 2005 even adopted the idea of a subregional WMD-free zone in the Persian Gulf. Yet, attention and political investment ahead of the planned 2012 conference on establishing such a zone in the Middle East seem to be sorely lacking. Beyond the usual inertia, this reflects profound skepticism about the very feasibility of this project and the ability to involve Iran and Israel in a meaningful manner. Consequently, it is doubtful that the Gulf states see the upcoming conference as a crucial moment in their quest for security.

The Gulf states face an increasingly complex security environment, compounded by dramatic changes in the regional order in the past decade, including the still-unclear ripple effects of the Arab upheavals of 2011. They must balance their acute, immediate worry about Iran’s nuclear progress and its regional implications with Israel’s nuclear status, a more distant, less threatening but politically more constraining concern. Whether and how the search for a Middle Eastern WMD-free zone affects the Gulf states’ own regional security preferences remains unclear. In addition, they have to adapt to shifting global politics and the erosion of the power of the United States, their traditional security provider.

Options for a WMD-Free Zone

For a long time, the Gulf states were bit players in terms of WMD proliferation. Unlike their immediate neighbors Iran and Iraq, none of the Gulf states attempted to develop or acquire WMD capabilities indigenously. They were also marginal in the regional nonproliferation debate, an agenda driven by larger, strategically more powerful states such as Egypt and Iran, which jointly proposed a UN resolution calling for a Middle Eastern nuclear-weapon-free zone in 1974. UN Security Council Resolution 687, which ended the 1991 Gulf War, called for both a Middle Eastern WMD-free zone and a Middle Eastern nuclear-weapon-free zone as cornerstones of a regional security arrangement. This idea, reiterated in the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference’s Resolution on the Middle East, floundered because a readily available external security guarantee seemed more effective and politically affordable for the Gulf states in the wake of the U.S. defeat of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

Little progress was made in discussions known as the Arms Control and Regional Security (ACRS) process. Held in parallel with the Arab-Israeli peace process, the talks broke down over differences between Egypt and Israel, two countries locked in a complex security relationship. Egypt’s insistence on discussing Israel’s nuclear status clashed with Israel’s unwillingness to do so before comprehensive peace and full normalization. Neither Iran nor Iraq was a participant in those talks; the Gulf states attended only at low levels and as marginal players.

Serious interest among the Gulf states in a WMD-free zone is more recent. It is directly linked to revelations since 2002 about Iran’s secret nuclear activity and subsequent progress in its apparent quest for a nuclear weapons capability. The states’ interest also coincided with their increased political, strategic, and economic prominence and the drastic changes in the regional order, most notably Iran’s growing regional reach and appeal.[2] Gulf leaders struggled to articulate in public their private fears about Iran’s nuclear program. They feared that confronting a defiant and ascendant Iran whose popularity in the Arab world was growing would expose a schism between ruling elites and peoples. They also feared that it would provoke a rhetorical escalation in which the Gulf states, generally averse to posturing and public controversy, would stand accused of obedience to the West and appeasement of Israel.

Still, the Gulf states felt the need to frame Iran’s suspected nuclear ambitions as a regional challenge as well as a global proliferation concern and to express their anxiety in a subtle, legitimate manner. This combination of factors provided the impetus behind an innovative policy initiative started in 2004 by the Dubai-based Gulf Research Center about a subregional WMD-free zone covering the six Gulf states plus Iran, Iraq, and Yemen.

The research center’s framework became the basis for the formal proposal for a Gulf WMD-free zone by the Gulf states.[3] The proposal, although genuine, served primarily as a vehicle to press and test Iran and create political space for the Gulf states by deferring the question of how the Gulf states should respond if Iran were to weaponize its nuclear program. Other ways of legitimizing their concerns included recognizing Iran’s right to civil nuclear energy but stressing its international obligations,[4] raising questions about nuclear safety in that country,[5] and putting forward ideas for nuclear cooperation and multinational uranium-enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing facilities.[6]

Iran’s response to the proposal was ambiguous at best and, in the words of a Gulf official, smacked of contempt for its smaller neighbors. Although Tehran formally embraced the proposal’s principles, it linked any approval to prior Israeli nuclear disarmament and the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the Gulf. The former is beyond the GCC’s ability to deliver; the second is unthinkable from the perspective of countries whose external security depends for the foreseeable future on foreign security providers. Iran also dismissed the Gulf states’ environmental concerns, remained purposely noncommittal about verification and monitoring, and accepted the idea for multinational fuel banks only if Iran were allowed to keep its indigenous enrichment capabilities.

This episode further hardened views in Gulf capitals about Iran’s intentions and nuclear path. Paradoxically, it also validated the notion that the Gulf states have little to contribute to any diplomatic initiative to alter Iran’s strategic thinking.

The Planned 2012 Conference

From the perspective of the Gulf states, the strategic environment has only worsened in recent years. This includes the loss of Iraq as a bulwark, the ascendancy and deepening reach of Iran, the perceived weakening of their strategic position following the fall of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, the paralysis on the Arab-Israeli front, the rise to power of an intransigent Benjamin Netanyahu, and questions about the strategic wisdom and policy competence of their U.S. ally.

Gulf anxiety about suspected Iranian manipulation and malevolence has peaked since the beginning of the Arab Spring. This compounds the twin, worst-case assumptions Gulf leaders make about Iran: that it is not merely interested in a nuclear weapons capability but in the bomb itself and that U.S.-orchestrated international diplomacy based on sanctions and conditional engagement will slow Iran’s nuclear progress only marginally at best. The Gulf states have come to see Iran’s nuclear program as the shield that allows Iran’s sword—its proxies, ideological and religious appeal, and propaganda efforts—to penetrate the Arab world.

In fact, perhaps principally to raise urgency and keep Washington focused, the Gulf states have espoused hawkish views on Iran. In July 2010, the UAE ambassador to Washington publicly stated that the benefits of a U.S. bombing of Iran’s nuclear program outweighed the short-term costs that such an attack would impose.[7] In a 2008 cable published by WikiLeaks in late 2010, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia exhorted U.S. diplomats to “cut off the head of the snake,” a reference to U.S. military strikes against Iran.

The debate is open in the Gulf states about whether countering the challenge of regional proliferation requires a greater abidance by and advocacy of international norms as a means of global protection or a less internationalist strategy that leverages wealth and geo-economic standing to strengthen and diversify bilateral strategic relationships. Their approach so far has involved both elements.

The Gulf states have been largely silent in the discussions to date about the 2012 conference, but as good global citizens and for their own national security ­interests, they can ill afford to ignore the conference. A conference that singles out Israel, whether it attends or boycotts the event, but ignores Iran would confirm their fears about the inevitability of a nuclear-armed Iran and the prospect of being squeezed between nuclear rivals. Moreover, the Gulf states want to avoid an outcome that enshrines a Middle Eastern WMD-free zone as the sole regional security architecture rather than one of its key elements.[8] This distinction is aimed primarily at preserving the Gulf states’ paramount security relationships. Given their low expectations, they might be satisfied with an outcome in which other states, notably Iran and Israel, emerge from the conference as the culprits behind continued regional instability. Even better would be a process for overcoming the instability.

At the same time, the Gulf states want to avoid the responsibility of agenda setting and advocacy on nuclear proliferation. Except for some prior disagreements with Cairo over their backing of a Gulf WMD-free zone, they have seemed content with Egyptian leadership. Importantly, although Egypt derives prestige and influence from its nonproliferation advocacy, the Gulf states seem uninterested, preferring to focus on exploring the prospects for introducing civilian nuclear energy, as the UAE has contracted to do. Given the turmoil in Cairo and questions about Egypt’s strategic trajectory, however, it is plausible that Egypt will be unable to define a coherent, workable position and mobilize Arab support. Eyes would then turn to the Gulf states, most notably Saudi Arabia, for guidance.

Recently, Saudi Arabia has shown signs of distrust and displeasure with the West and the United States in particular. Saudi assertions of power have culminated in comments by a senior Saudi royal, Prince Turki al-Faisal, that a nuclear Iran “would compel Saudi Arabia . . . to pursue policies which could lead to untold and possibly dramatic consequences.”[9] This was widely understood as a threat to proliferate in kind, perhaps as a trial balloon. Curbing the likelihood of an arms race in response to Iran’s nuclear program is perhaps why the Obama administration is exploring the possibility of a nuclear cooperation agreement with Saudi Arabia.

Another matter of concern for the Gulf states will be the political cost associated with the conference. When the Obama administration threw its support behind the 2012 conference, it was partly out of hope that it would help create an atmosphere conducive to progress on the Arab-Israeli track. This expectation has floundered over the collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. The conference could well be hijacked over that issue, placing the Gulf states in a potentially embarrassing situation. Indeed, the Gulf states need political cover in order to be taken seriously in their calls for a regional security conference, and this cover comes from the peace process. By pursuing a WMD-free zone in the Middle East without a peace process underway, the Gulf states would be seen as making too many concessions to the United States without making any gains on the Arab-Israeli track.

A key divergence with other Arab states has been in the priority they assign to particular regional proliferation issues. Distance and history have convinced the Gulf states that Israel poses no immediate threat and that focusing too much on its arsenal could divert attention from the more potent Iranian challenge. It is notable that the Gulf states tied normalization with Israel to comprehensive peace with its neighbors but not to prior Israeli nuclear disarmament. (Egypt and Jordan, the two Arab states that have signed peace agreements with Israel, also have not conditioned their peace treaty on disarmament, but rather on good faith negotiations in parallel to the peace process, something Israel has been reluctant to undertake.) Still, the Gulf states must show responsiveness toward what has become an entrenched Arab slogan about the need to ban nuclear weapons from the Middle East. This limits the policy options for the Gulf states and probably will keep them confined to the role of chorus at the 2012 conference. ACT

 

 


Dina Esfandiary, Elham Fakhro, and Becca Wasser are research analysts with the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

 

 


 

ENDNOTES

1. Despite their differences on other foreign policy matters, the Gulf states seem to agree on the need for a comprehensive regional security framework such as a Middle Eastern WMD-free zone.

2. The Gulf states’ view on Iran’s regional meddling is visible in the closing or public statements after their meetings. For example, in April, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) called on Iran to “cease interfering in the internal affairs of the GCC.” See GCC, “21st EU-GCC Joint Council and Ministerial Meeting Abu Dhabi,” April 20, 2011, www.gcc-sg.org/eng/index5ec6.html?action=Sec-Show&ID=322.

3. For official documents on the Gulf WMD-free zone, see Gulf Research Center (GRC), “Nuclearization of the Gulf,” Security and Terrorism Research Bulletin, No. 7 (December 2007), pp. 32–37, www.isn.ethz.ch/isn/Digital-Library/Publications/Detail/?ots591=0c54e3b3-1e9c-be1e-2c24-a6a8c7060233&lng=en&id=56136.

4. Kareem Shaheen, “Sheikh Abdullah Calls for an End to Iran Stand-off,” The National, December 8, 2010.

5. Dina Al-Shibeeb, “Iran’s Bushehr to Endanger the Gulf If Quake Hits,” Al-Arabiya, April 2, 2011.

6. International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), “Nuclear Programmes in the Middle East: In the Shadow of Iran,” IISS Strategic Dossier, May 20, 2008, ch. 2.

7. Eli Lake, “UAE Diplomat Mulls Hit on Iran’s Nukes,” The Washington Times, July 6, 2010.

8. GRC, “Nuclearization of the Gulf,” p. 10.

9. Jason Burke, “Riyadh Will Build Nuclear Weapons If Iran Gets Them, Saudi Prince Warns,” The Guardian, June 29, 2011.

Iran and a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Middle East

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.

Alireza Nader

A nuclear-weapon-free zone for the Middle East was first proposed by Iran in 1974.[1] Iran’s last reigning monarch, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, championed the idea of such a zone, perhaps as a way to enhance Iran’s leadership role in the region despite his own nuclear ambitions. The Islamic Republic of Iran, which replaced the monarchy in 1979, is believed to be pursuing a nuclear weapons capability despite intense international diplomatic and economic pressure. Nevertheless, Iranian leaders, who claim that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful, have been enthusiastic about the planned 2012 conference on establishing a Middle Eastern zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The 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, thereby undermining U.S. efforts to stop the Iranian nuclear program.

Iran’s Nuclear Pursuit

Iran’s pursuit of a potential nuclear weapons capability is rooted in a deep sense of insecurity. In the three decades since its revolution, Iran has survived internal and external threats and conflict ranging from anti-revolutionary insurgencies to the Iran-Iraq War. It views the United States as the central threat to its continued existence and as the greatest obstacle to its regional ambitions. The U.S. invasion and occupation of Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003) were seen by Iranian leaders as a prelude to regime change in their own country. Protests following the 2009 presidential election have heightened Iranian fears of a “velvet revolution” designed to overthrow the regime. Tehran’s efforts to develop a possible nuclear weapons capability should therefore be viewed through the prism of its rivalry with the United States.

Iranian foreign policy may appear ideological at times, but it is driven by perceived interests and cost-benefit calculations. Iran’s nuclear policy and potential nuclear posture are shaped by internal and external factors (factional political competition and the threat from the United States) rather than purely ideological motives, namely a supposed desire to “destroy” Israel. Hence, Iran’s objective may be to reach a virtual nuclear weapons stage in which it possesses the capability to assemble the weapons if need be. A virtual nuclear posture could be much more beneficial than an ambiguous posture, in which Iran assembles weapons but does not admit to having them, much like Israel, or a declared posture, in which Iran assembles nuclear weapons and tests them. A virtual nuclear Iran could offer Iran deterrence against the United States while preventing its total isolation in the Middle East and beyond.[2]

Hostility Toward Israel

Arab hostility toward Iran is a key factor in Tehran’s calculations, including on its nuclear program. The Islamic revolution of 1979 and the new regime’s efforts to “export” the revolution to Arab countries heightened Arab fears of an assertive and ideologically driven Shia Iran. Arab suspicions of Iran have been exacerbated by the victory of pro-Iranian Shia parties in Iraq and by Iran’s continuing nuclear program. Saudi Arabia and the smaller states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), in particular, wish to blunt Iranian influence across the region.

The upheavals of the Arab Spring have sharpened the Saudi-Iranian rivalry in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia fears Iranian ascendance as Tehran attempts to exploit the Arab uprisings and the overthrow of pro-U.S. regimes for its own benefit. From the Saudi and U.S. perspectives, Arab unity is essential to containing Iran and stopping its nuclear program. Iran, which styles itself as the leader of the Muslim world, would see its power and influence wane in the face of a uniformly hostile Arab world.

Tehran’s vehement opposition to Israel has alleviated some of the pressures it faces from Arab countries. Arabs tend to view Israel more negatively than they view Iran. In addition, Arab populations, as opposed to the conservative anti-Iranian Arab regimes, appear to view the Iranian nuclear program as the lesser threat to regional security when compared to Israel and its policies toward the Palestinians.[3] Iran’s image as the force of resistance against Israel may justify some of its more assertive behavior in the eyes of Arab public opinion.

Iran’s support of the 2012 conference on a Middle Eastern WMD-free zone is therefore based on Tehran’s opposition to Israel as the “real” threat to regional peace and stability. Iranian leaders have continually criticized Israel for being the only country in the Middle East to possess nuclear weapons. According to Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, “[T]he Zionist regime is the only obstacle to the creation of a Middle-East free from nuclear weapons.”[4] A 2012 conference that focuses on Israel would counter the U.S. strategy of containing Iran by deflecting Arab pressure from Iran toward Israel. The United States, naturally, opposes a 2012 conference that would have a strong focus on Israel.

Arab Divisions

Diverging Arab interests could split Arab unity on the WMD-free zone and serve Iran’s objectives. Egypt has been a strong advocate of a nuclear-weapon-free Middle East and could play a crucial role not only in the 2012 conference, but also in U.S. efforts to stop Iran’s nuclear drive. The fall of Hosni Mubarak has reinvigorated Egypt’s role as a leader of the Arab world; Egypt could be expected to pursue more independent foreign policies in the future. Egyptian revolutionaries, including the Muslim Brotherhood, do not appear as beholden to U.S. interests as the Mubarak regime. Egypt’s ties to and interests with Israel have especially come under greater scrutiny. A post-Mubarak Egypt could increasingly question Israel’s nuclear capability while making it a focus of discussions on the WMD-free zone.

Post-Mubarak Egypt also views Iran in a different light. Egyptian officials have discussed restoring diplomatic ties with Iran severed after the Islamic revolution. This does not necessarily indicate an Egyptian tilt toward Iran, but rather a rebalancing of Egyptian interests and priorities. Egypt may view Iran as a geopolitical rival, but it is not directly threatened by Iranian ambitions or military capabilities. Egypt’s greatest concern is Israel’s conventional and nuclear capabilities.

The GCC countries, on the other hand, do not feel directly threatened by Israel, but see Iran as an existential threat. Saudi Arabia and the GCC states have proposed a nuclear-weapon-free Persian Gulf zone that excludes Israel and focuses on Iran’s nuclear pursuit.

Perhaps it is too early to determine if the 2012 conference and its participants will seriously entertain the possibility of a nuclear-weapon-free zone or merely use the gathering as an Israel-bashing forum. The upheaval in the Arab world may prove to be a significant distraction for all concerned.[5] What is clear is that each state will bring its own narrow interests and agenda to the table.

Iran in particular will see the conference as a chance to resist U.S. diplomatic and economic pressures against its nuclear program. Its focus on Israel as the real culprit will win it some Arab sympathy, particularly among non-Gulf Arab countries such as Egypt. In addition, Iran’s possible goal of achieving a virtual nuclear weapons capability does not necessarily contradict its stated goal of a Middle Eastern nuclear-weapon-free zone. In Iran’s view, Israel is the only country in the Middle East to possess nuclear weapons, while Iran’s program has been “peaceful” or virtual.

Iran’s objective of sustaining opposition to Israel while pursuing its own nuclear weapons program is aided by Israel’s unwillingness to give up its nuclear arsenal before it has achieved peace with all Middle Eastern states. However, regional peace is highly unlikely as long as the United States and Iran compete for regional primacy and as Iran continues its quest for a nuclear weapons capability. A conference that does not solely focus on Israel, but also the Iranian nuclear program and the threats of proliferation in the Middle East, can help counter Iran’s drive for a nuclear weapons capability. ACT

 


Alireza Nader is an international policy analyst at the RAND Corporation and co-author of Iran’s Nuclear Future: Critical U.S. Policy Choices (2011).


 

ENDNOTES

1. Egypt also sponsored the concept that year. See Rebecca Stevens and Amin Tarzi, “Egypt and the Middle East Resolution at the NPT 2000 Review Conference,” CNS Reports, April 24, 2000.

2. For more on Iran’s motivations and possible nuclear posture, see Lynn Davis et al., Iran’s Nuclear Future: Critical U.S. Policy Choices, RAND Corporation, June 2011.

3. James Zogby, “Arab Attitudes, 2011,” Arab American Institute Foundation, July 2011.

4. “Iran’s N. Confab Slams U.S. as World’s No. 1 Violator of NPT,” Fars News Agency, June 13, 2011.

5. Anne Penketh, “Unrest Complicates 2012 Middle East Meeting,” Arms Control Today, March 2011.

Placing WMD in Context

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.

Emily B. Landau

If things go according to plan, a conference on a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East is due to take place in 2012. The considerable political challenges involved in convening this conference have become much more complicated of late in light of the political turmoil that has been rocking the Middle East since early this year. Although the date of the conference may get pushed back, unofficial Track II discussions already have begun to consider the prospects and logic of such a conference, which has effectively renewed the debate over the meaning and future of regional WMD arms control efforts in the Middle East.

These discussions indicate the serious consideration being given to the prospects for a conference on a WMD-free zone and underscore that a new regional arms control process must begin with a hard look at the realities in this region. There is a need to dispel some of the commonly voiced myths that continue to cloud and confuse many of the discussions on WMD arms control in the Middle East, particularly as far as nuclear weapons are concerned.

One of the most problematic assertions in the debate is that nuclear weapons actually have no value because they cannot be used. The advocates of nuclear disarmament who make this claim argue that nuclear arms should simply be eliminated because they have no value and, at the same time, are extremely dangerous. However, even the most superficial examination of international relations since 1945 would easily convince one that this is not obvious and that disarmament is anything but simple. Although over the 65 years of nonuse a strong norm developed, according to which nuclear weapons are weapons of deterrence and not use, states nevertheless continue to consider them to have tremendous strategic value. Beyond the bolstered security to be gained through nuclear deterrence, states that pursue nuclear weapons might do so for the prestige that accompanies their acquisition or for the ability to threaten their neighbors more effectively, safe in the knowledge that external parties will be much more wary about intervening on behalf of the threatened parties.

The implications for other states of one state’s nuclear possession can be either relatively benign (if the weapons are a way to ensure the possessor state’s survival) or dangerous (as a means of threatening other states), but there undoubtedly are strategic benefits to be gained by going nuclear. Otherwise, determined proliferators would not be devoting so much time, energy, and resources to attaining them, and the current nuclear-weapon states would have no problem in giving them up. In short, the desire of disarmament proponents to change this reality should not be confused with a description of the current role of nuclear weapons in international relations.

States can utilize the strategic value of nuclear weapons in either a benign or a dangerous manner. It is important to take this fact into account when discussing WMD arms control, especially in the Middle East. The threat posed to other states from one state’s possession of nuclear weapons is not just a matter of perspective or in the eye of the beholder. The differences among states are real and can be empirically assessed. For example, Israel has been noticeably low-key and defensive with regard to its nuclear capability for decades. In contrast, Iran is breaching its commitment to remain non-nuclear, while couching its nuclear development in highly threatening rhetoric toward its neighbors, especially Israel.

This connects to another myth that is explicitly or implicitly apparent in some of the debates taking place regarding the Middle East: that the nuclear programs of Iran and Israel are comparable. There is no justification for comparing the two states solely on the basis of their nuclear capabilities, due to the vastly different circumstances of their nuclearization and the very different manner with which each state regards these capabilities.

The argument that Iran is moving in a military direction as a response to Israel, with the implication that if Israel were to do away with its assumed nuclear weapons, Iran would have no reason to pursue them, is similarly unfounded. There are no historical or strategic grounds for making such a connection between the two programs.

Israel began its nuclear program in the 1950s with the idea that it needed an insurance policy for long-term survival, and this has been Israel’s sole purpose ever since. Iran restarted its military program in the 1980s as a response to Iraq’s nuclear development, in the midst of the Iran-Iraq War. More importantly, Iran’s present interest in a military nuclear capability stems from Tehran’s desire to entrench its regional power and influence, which will come at the expense of most states in the Middle East, not only Israel. Even if Israel were to join the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), there is little reason to believe that Iran would discontinue its activities. So saying that “both must disarm,” either on the grounds that all states become instantly identical when the issue of debate is nuclear weapons or that Iran’s nuclear program is linked to Israel’s, propagates a false sense of symmetry that is not helpful for serious regional arms control efforts.

Regional Security

Another issue to be clarified is the concept of regional security and the role of confidence- and security-building measures[1] in that framework. These measures, intended to deal with the tensions, hostility, and mistrust that characterize interstate relations and hamper the states’ ability to cooperate, are the essence of a win-win approach to regional security and have a central role to play in arms control efforts in the Middle East. The idea is to begin with small, mutually advantageous, and nonthreatening steps in order to initiate a dialogue, thus establishing a basis of mutual confidence and trust in the genuine pursuit of enhanced security for all. 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.

An unfortunate result of the early 1990s Arms Control and Regional Security (ACRS)[2] talks is that regional security and confidence- and security-building measures became imbued with political content. Rather than being understood as serious arms control measures grounded in a conceptual logic that posits that improving the regional atmosphere is essential in order to approach WMD disarmament, confidence- and security-building measures came to be regarded as Israel’s specific political preference for the talks. Once identified as Israel’s preference, the ideas met with growing opposition in Arab states. This situation needs to be rectified. It must be recognized that arms control efforts and regional security issues are inextricably linked, and the former will not be able to make headway without significant progress in the latter. This message ­resonates even more strongly today than in the 1990s, due to the deterioration of ­regional relations since that time.

The Challenge for 2012

In light of the issues described above, Israel has questions about what will be discussed at the 2012 conference. If it is a venue for improving regional relations and building up a basis for mutual confidence, with the understanding that this will be a long and difficult process in itself, Israel can most likely accept it. However, if it remains strongly linked to the NPT framework, which implicitly sends the message that this is all about nuclear weapons and not other weapons of mass destruction, there is little chance that Israel will view the effort positively. Also, it clearly would be unacceptable to Israel if the efforts remained grounded in the position that Egypt and Iran are strongly advocating, namely that “Israel is the problem.” It should not be forgotten that the 2010 NPT Review Conference final document stipulates that progress with regard to the 2012 conference will be in consultation with states in the region and that these states will have to arrive at these arrangements freely. Israel’s views and concerns must be incorporated.

The heart of the problem in the Middle East is not the weapons but how states relate to one another and to their own international commitments. In regional arms control processes, especially as far as Israel is concerned, weapons of mass destruction cannot be detached from the context of interstate dynamics.

Israel’s nuclear deterrent is considered to have tremendous strategic significance and value; it spells long-term survival for Israel in an extremely hostile and dangerous neighborhood. Israel is not likely to give that up any time soon, nor could the country be expected to do so in light of the threats that it faces from a number of directions. Even in Egypt, a country that has maintained a stable peace with Israel for more than three decades, the current foreign policy discourse advocates ­rethinking its ­relations with Israel.

The most dangerous regional development, however, is Iran’s nuclear advances. The prospect that Iran will acquire nuclear weapons only serves to convince Israel of its need to maintain its ultimate defense in the face of possible annihilation. For Israel, a major problem in the realm of arms control is that states make commitments to international treaties and then proceed to cheat and deceive the international community on their way to a WMD capability. Iran’s slow but (at least until now) unstoppable progress toward a military nuclear capability would be unbearable for Israelis if they were not confident that Israel has the means of deterring a nuclear strike from this hostile and deceptive regime.

The challenge for the organizers of the 2012 conference is to take these hard realities into account when devising the concept and agenda for a new round of arms control talks. Discounting the dangers of unconventional weapons other than nuclear weapons will certainly not help in getting Israel on board, nor will maintaining that Israel is the sole obstacle and that it must first join the NPT—an obvious nonstarter, although it has been a frequent theme at Track II meetings over the past year. Rather, the conference organizers must devise and insist on a step-by-step, win-win logic for the talks, enabling all states to agree to take part and engendering a positive, security-grounded, and forward-­looking process.

 


Emily B. Landau is director of the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies. She teaches arms control at Tel Aviv University and at the University of Haifa’s International School. She is a frequent participant in Track II initiatives on arms control and regional security in the Middle East.


 

ENDNOTES

1. The more common term is “confidence-building measures,” but “confidence- and security-building measures” is the term that was used by the Arms Control and Regional Security (ACRS) Working Group to emphasize both confidence and security.

2. The ACRS Working Group was active for four years (1991–1995) in the framework of the multilateral track of the Madrid peace process. For background, see Emily B. Landau, “ACRS: What Worked, What Didn’t, and What Could Be Relevant for the Region Today,” Disarmament Forum, No. 2 (2008), www.unidir.ch/bdd/­fiche-article.php?ref_article=2727.

Salvaging the 2012 Conference

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.

Nabil Fahmy

In 1974 the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East. Since then, there have been no concrete steps toward that objective. The final document of the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, with its commitments to a conference in 2012 on creating a zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East, opened the possibility of changing the situation.

That momentum must be sustained. The conference should be convened and serve to launch the delicate and time-consuming process that will be necessary to create a WMD-free zone in the Middle East.

The issue of the WMD-free zone has resurfaced in a number of ways since 1974. By the early 1980s, the 1974 resolution was being adopted annually by consensus at the United Nations. The establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East also was a paramount issue in the discussions and failures of the Arms Control and Regional Security (ACRS) process emanating from the 1991 Madrid Conference on the Middle East. At the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference, a resolution was adopted calling for practical steps toward the establishment of a zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. The resolution was a fundamental component of the set of decisions taken that allowed the conference to extend the NPT indefinitely without a vote. Although the initial proposal related to nuclear weapons alone, Egypt in 1990 notably also had called for the establishment of a Middle Eastern zone free of chemical and biological as well as nuclear weapons.

Nevertheless, none of these steps led to concrete progress. Israel’s unsafeguarded nuclear program continues unabated. Questions and accusations swirl about Iran’s nuclear motivation. Both programs will have to be included in the proposed Middle Eastern WMD-free zone if it is to have any relevance at all.

Egypt, Israel, and a number of Arab countries have refrained from ratifying the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) and Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). One can spend endless hours trying to analyze the lack of progress. Egypt and some other Arab countries are determined not to ratify any WMD conventions before Israel ratifies the NPT, and some believe that asymmetries in the balances of power and conflicting threat perceptions make such steps illogical. In essence, although it may seem to be a cliché, the absence of political will on the part of regional players or the nuclear-weapon states, each for their own reasons, has been the obstacle to progress. This also is the primary lesson drawn from the ACRS process.

As a point of departure, it is this author’s view that ensuring that the Middle East is free of all weapons of mass destruction should be the common objective. It is the only real, viable regional goal because it responds to asymmetries in military capabilities. That goal, however, should reach fruition through a series of measures that complement and parallel each other, but will not necessarily require establishing one umbrella for all these different weapons systems and their means of delivery. In other words, creating a nuclear-weapon-free zone commensurate with similar zones in other regions of the world is both a possible and an effective means to safeguard the region from these weapons. Dealing with chemical and biological weapons, given their nature, is probably more effective through existing international instruments such as the CWC and BWC although the latter may require additional verification measures at the regional level. The priority in this regard should be on nuclear weapons because of the devastating consequences of their use or proliferation.

In attempting to move forward on the establishment of a Middle Eastern nuclear-weapon-free zone and then to the issues of chemical and biological weapons, the first obstacle will be to convince Israel to start a serious domestic debate, and then discussions with its neighbors, on the utility and risks involved with its nuclear program and that of others. Traditional Israeli arguments that its opaque program is needed to counter massive conventional Arab forces no longer are valid given the development of Israel’s conventional weapons capacities. Furthermore, it has not proven a viable deterrent toward the Iraqi program in the last century or toward Iran more recently. The question that Israelis therefore should address is whether their program is an asset or a liability, fueling an arms race or at least impeding the possibility of progress at the regional level that would include intrusive regional verification procedures to curtail possible proliferators.

Once this national debate and regional discussion have occurred or in parallel with them, hopefully with the assistance of the United States and the four other permanent members of the UN Security Council, it is imperative to go through the analytical discussions and negotiations related to the details of the proposed zone. In doing so, the regional states and the stakeholders in each of the countries slowly will become more acclimated to the details of the zone and issues that are seldom discussed now. As is often the case in tedious labor negotiations, if one does not pass through the ebbs and flows of the negotiations, one may be unable to come to grips with solutions and compromises that in many respects are self-evident. The negotiating process itself should help create the environment for constructive consideration of the details of the proposals with an understanding of the perspectives of the other side. This process would cover significant fundamental issues such as the geographical scope of the zone, the list of prohibited activities, and the verification procedures and withdrawal clauses required to assure all the parties. These are the priority issues that Egypt believes need to be addressed. Much of this material has been addressed in other nuclear-weapon-free zones and is fundamentally of a technical nature, provided there is the requisite desire to establish such a zone under the right circumstances.

The one provision that is purely political in nature relates to the entry into force of the treaty. On this issue, there clearly is a wide range among positions in the region. States such as Egypt believe a zone can be established even now and that such a development would enhance security and limit the potential for damage if conflicts were to break out. Other Arab countries, although supportive of establishing a zone, are not ready to negotiate directly with Israel and prefer the creation of a zone through a multilateral, UN-based system. Israeli statements have argued that a zone can be established only after both peace and reconciliation occur among the Middle Eastern parties. Iran, while formally supportive of the creation of a zone, has been uncharacteristically silent during discussions of regional boundaries, that is, what countries constitute the Middle East, for purposes of the zone. The three depositaries of the NPT—Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, which are the co-sponsors of the 1995 NPT resolution—have been inconsistent in their positions on the creation of a zone and have been lukewarm in their enthusiasm about taking concrete steps forward.

The 2010 NPT Review Conference was able to conclude successfully only because agreement ultimately was reached on the convening of a conference in 2012 to look at how to implement the 1995 NPT Middle East resolution. This achievement was possible only because of the Obama administration’s keen interest in emphasizing that its nuclear disarmament policies were different from the previous administration’s and this required a successful conclusion of the 2010 conference. Since then, however, little if anything has been done toward preparing for the 2012 Middle East conference.

As of this writing, the conference facilitator has not been appointed nor the venue for the event determined. This is quite astonishing and disturbing. A failure to hold the conference would diminish the credibility of the NPT as a whole. If the meeting takes place but the participants do not prepare properly, the gathering will turn into a rhetorical event with acerbic exchanges and heightened passions. Although assurances of success are impossible, best practices should have compelled the appointment of a facilitator early on, with a mandate to contact the parties on the substantive issues. This would have augured well for a serious discussion during the conference, which would be the beginning of a process of extended negotiations ultimately leading to the creation of a zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.

There remains little time before the projected date for the conference. Nevertheless, progress can be achieved if the conference focuses on concluding with three specific objectives:

• a clear-cut, unwavering, and unconditional reaffirmation by all participants of their support for the creation of a WMD-free zone in the Middle East;

• the adoption of a plan of action mapping out a negotiating process elaborating the substantive issues of geographical scope, scope of prohibition, verification system, and withdrawal, leaving the issue of entry into force as the last issue for discussion; and

• the adoption by the regional players of a series of interim measures toward the ultimate objective, for example, the prohibition of the production of weapons-grade material and possibly a timeline for the destruction of existing stockpiles of such material. This is of special relevance to Israel’s nuclear program because it is unsafeguarded and possibly Iran’s because of the repeated questions about that program. Unilateral adherence by the regional states to international agreements on the safety of nuclear materials also could be useful. All these measures would provide limited but significant reinforcement to the credibility of the commitment of the region’s states to pursue serious negotiations.

In recent months, the Arab Middle East has been witnessing significant new domestic trends that hopefully will evolve into more democratic systems of government responsive to the interests and priorities of its people. Like anywhere else in the world, change in the Middle East brings with it a level of uncertainty, and that will lead all states to revisit and review their security postures in light of new opportunities and challenges.

Some states may suggest that one should reduce ambitions for a 2012 conference or postpone it until these political changes in the region settle and can be evaluated. This is a disingenuous argument that is not worthy of serious consideration.

Although they occasionally have changed leaders, Arab Middle Eastern regimes have been essentially constant in their policies since the 1973 war. Why was this time not utilized? Furthermore, if practical steps had beeen taken toward the creation of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, any risks emanating from Arab change actually would have been greatly reduced. The most important point, however, is frequently ignored: the most prominent and substantive nuclear programs in the Middle East do not exist in the Arab world but are in Israel in particular and also Iran. No changes are occurring in Israel although the protests taking place there as this article was being written might lead to some; if there are any in Iran, they are at a much slower pace than in the Arab world. The final point in this respect is that although the full face of change in the Arab world and in the Middle East remains undefined, it is consistently toward more open, democratic governance. The international community has been calling for this, partly from a human rights perspective but also because of the assumption that democratic regimes are more stable, more rational, and consequently better partners in the international community. Although Middle Eastern change is interesting and should be followed, it is not a reason to postpone serious measures toward creating a WMD-free zone in the Middle East and ensuring that the region is free of all weapons of mass destruction.

 


 

Nabil Fahmy is dean of the School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the American University in Cairo and nonresident chair of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies’ Middle East Nonproliferation Project. From 1999 to 2008, he was the Egyptian ambassador to the United States.

The Long Journey Toward A WMD-Free Middle East

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.

Patricia Lewis and William C. Potter

One of the most sought-after prizes in international disarmament and nonproliferation diplomacy is a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). In such a conflict-ridden area with a history of mistrust and animosity where chemical weapons were used in the past, the prospect of renewed WMD use is all too possible.[1] For these reasons, a WMD-free zone in the Middle East is not only an aspirational goal, but a matter of practical urgency.

The idea of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East is not a new one and, indeed, was proposed in April 1962 by a group of highly respected Israeli intellectuals, the Committee for the Denuclearization of the Middle East. In 1974, Egypt and Iran also embraced the concept as national policy and raised the issue in the UN General Assembly. Periodically since 1980, it has been possible to reach consensus on the resolution that international peace and security in the region would be enhanced greatly if all states in the Middle East agreed not to produce, test, acquire, or station nuclear weapons on their territories. Yet, notwithstanding the recurrent support for the measure at the General Assembly, until 1995, very little came to pass, ­leading many analysts and diplomats to question if all states in the region genuinely were interested in a zone free of nuclear weapons.

In 1990, at the initiative of Egypt, the concept of a Middle East zone was expanded to include all weapons of mass destruction. This more comprehensive approach, which was pursued in tandem with that of a nuclear-weapon-free zone, envisaged the possibility that a bargain could be struck in which Israel agreed to abandon, in a verifiable manner, its unacknowledged but widely assumed nuclear weapons capability while all states in the region agreed to give up or forgo any offensive chemical and biological weapons capabilities and join relevant global treaties and agreements such as the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological Weapons Convention. Although this approach made sense theoretically, it thus far has failed to produce any tangible product. There had been some hope that the Arms Control and Regional Security (ACRS) talks[2] might lead to a negotiated zone of one form or another, but these talks collapsed in 1995, due in part to disagreements between Egypt and Israel over when and how to address the zone in the context of sequencing the steps in the wider peace process.

That year also marked the occasion of a month-long negotiation at the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review and Extension Conference. A key component of a package that made possible the indefinite extension of the treaty was adoption of the Resolution on the Middle East, co-sponsored by Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. This resolution was carefully crafted and called on all states in the Middle East to “take practical steps in appropriate forums aimed at making progress towards, inter alia, the establishment of an effectively verifiable Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction, nuclear, chemical and biological, and their delivery systems, and to refrain from taking any measures that preclude the achievement of this objective.” The 1995 resolution also called on all NPT parties, and in particular the nuclear-weapon states, to “extend their cooperation and to exert their utmost efforts with a view to ensuring the early establishment by regional parties of a Middle East zone free of nuclear and all other weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems.” From this point on, for all practical purposes the concepts of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East and a WMD-free zone in the region became conflated in NPT parlance.

Although it would have been impossible to have reached the decision to extend the NPT indefinitely without the 1995 resolution, no progress was made toward the implementation of the resolution until the 2010 NPT Review Conference. Indeed, Egypt’s frustration over the lack of headway in implementing the resolution and skepticism about the commitment to the resolution by its three nuclear-weapon-state sponsors contributed to the collapse of the 2005 NPT Review Conference. A desire to avoid repeating the experiences of 2005 was instrumental in inducing parties at the 2010 conference to forge consensus on several modest steps to begin the implementation of the 1995 resolution.

More specifically, the 2010 NPT Review Conference final document called on the UN secretary-general and the three co-sponsors of the 1995 resolution, in consultation with regional states, to convene a conference in 2012, to be attended by all states in the Middle East, “on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction, on the basis of arrangements freely arrived at by the states of the region, and with the full support and engagement of the nuclear-weapon states.”

In addition, the UN secretary-general, along with the three co-sponsors and in consultation with the states of the region, is charged with appointing a facilitator who will “have a mandate to support implementation of the 1995 Resolution by conducting consultations and undertaking preparations for the convening of the 2012 conference.” The facilitator is tasked with assisting “in implementing follow-on steps agreed at the 2012 conference” and “to report to the NPT 2015 Review Conference and its Preparatory Committee meetings.” In addition, the final document says that a “host government for the 2012 conference will also be designated.”

As with all successful negotiations, the final document from the 2010 conference required compromises by all key parties, including Egypt, Iran, and the United States.[3] Not surprisingly, Israel, which was not directly involved in the negotiations as it is not an NPT member, took exception to what was said and not said in the document. In particular, it objected to being named explicitly (albeit in the same mild fashion that was adopted at the 2000 NPT Review Conference) when there was no mention of India and Pakistan, the two other countries that never have joined the NPT. It also strongly objected to the failure of the document to take note of, much less condemn, Iran’s noncompliance with its NPT obligations, a step that would have been opposed by Iran and thus might have blocked consensus on the final ­document.

At the time of this writing, 14 months have passed since the 2010 NPT Review Conference, and neither a facilitator nor a host government for the 2012 Middle East conference has been appointed. During the summer of 2011, however, the three co-sponsors of the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East held a series of consultations with states from the region in their respective capitals, and the UN secretary-general and the co-sponsors also had consultations with states in New York. These recent developments have led some to anticipate that it may be possible to decide on a facilitator and host country before the end of the fall. Regrettably, background documentation for the conference has yet to begin, and at least one of the three sponsors of the 1995 Middle East resolution appears to have advised the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization not to proceed quickly in that direction. These delays are most unfortunate and do not augur well for the convening of a conference in 2012. They also tend to reinforce a form of “sophisticated cynicism” in which all efforts to roll back weapons programs are viewed as naive and hopeless. This outlook, in turn, leads to a sense of fatalism among many supporters of a zone. Such attitudes also have discouraged scholars from pursuing research on the issue and foundations from supporting serious efforts in pursuit of a zone.[4] Further complicating the process, at least in the short term, is the Arab Spring of 2011 and the accompanying political turmoil throughout the region, which clearly was not anticipated by the negotiators of the 2010 final document when they selected 2012 as the date for the conference.

The Larger Process

Nuclear-weapon-free zones predate the NPT and arguably represent one of the few disarmament and nonproliferation approaches that have shown considerable progress in recent years. The concept of such zones can be traced back to the mid-1950s, and its origin usually is associated with a Polish plan to make a portion of Central Europe nuclear-weapon free.[5] Although this regional initiative was never realized, in relatively short order a number of nuclear-weapon-free zones were negotiated. They included the Antarctic Treaty of 1959, the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, and the 1967 Treaty of Tlatelolco among Latin American and Caribbean states—the first nuclear-­weapon-free zone that is a populated area. These zones, in turn, gave rise to those in the South Pacific (the 1985 Treaty of Rarotonga), Africa (the 1996 Treaty of Pelindaba), Southeast Asia (the 1995 Bangkok Treaty), and Central Asia (the 2006 Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty).[6] In addition to these treaties that remain in force, an agreement on the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula was negotiated in 1992, but was ­subsequently ­abrogated.

The NPT also foresaw the possibility that more states might choose to pursue regional arrangements to supplement their more global treaty commitments, and Article VII affirms “the right of any group of States to conclude regional treaties in order to assure the total absence of nuclear weapons in their respective territories.” Similarly, the 1995 NPT ­Review and Extension Conference Decision on Principles and Objectives for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament expressed the “conviction that the establishment of internationally recognized nuclear-weapon-free zones, on the basis of arrangements freely arrived at among the States of the region concerned, enhances global and regional peace and security,” a view that was reiterated at the 2000 and 2010 review conferences.

Nuclear-weapon-free zones historically have been viewed as effective means to perform a variety of disarmament and nonproliferation tasks. These include enabling states in a region to take the initiative to exclude nuclear weapons from their territories, to establish greater transparency and verification measures, to prevent nuclear weapons tests from being conducted in a region, to foster confidence among the countries of a region that neighbors are not engaged in nuclear weapons activities, to build and maintain nonproliferation norms, and to promote broader regional cooperation, including but not limited to the area of peaceful use of nuclear energy.[7] Although treaties in a number of regions have been successful in accomplishing these objectives, their full potential has not always been realized due to a number of barriers within and external to the region.[8]

Perhaps the most pronounced internal barrier is the presence of ongoing hostility and conflict among states within the region. Some observers have maintained that nuclear-weapon-free zones cannot be established in regions such as the Middle East and South Asia, which are characterized by enduring and bitter rivalries, including those of a nuclear nature. A possible counterexample, however, is the successful conclusion of the Treaty of Tlatelolco, which covers a region that at the time of negotiation was ridden with conflict and included nuclear archrivals Argentina and Brazil. Although the intensity of conflict was much lower in Latin America than in the Middle East and South Asia and did not involve religious issues, a process of democratization in which governments abandoned military dictatorships might have been necessary before Argentina and Brazil were able to perceive significant common interests in forgoing their military nuclear aspirations and redirecting their resources to emphasize economic development and greater engagement in the international marketplace. Indeed, during the negotiation of the Pelindaba Treaty, several of the participating African states were embroiled in full-scale hostilities, but that did not prevent the conclusion of the continental nuclear-weapon-free zone. Other internal barriers to the creation of these zones that have been noted by some analysts include domestic instability among key regional states, the possession of nuclear weapons on the part of states in the prospective zone, and the absence of regional forums at which to initiate discussions leading to more formal negotiations on a zone.

One also can point to a variety of external barriers. They include the policies of nuclear-weapon states, which may discourage them from concluding legally binding protocols to provide negative security assurances, that is, pledges not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons, to some states in a region or to preclude the future possibility of deployment or transit of nuclear weapons in certain regions. In fact, although all five of the NPT-recognized nuclear-weapon states have formally endorsed the principle of nuclear-weapon-free zones, in practice, they rarely have found a zone that they like. As a result, even when they do not actively oppose the creation of a zone, they typically have been slow to conclude the relevant protocols.

Although not a barrier per se, the effectiveness of existing zones has been impeded at times by the tendency of some parties to zone treaties to act contrary to the treaty’s provisions. This phenomenon has been especially prevalent in recent years with respect to the issue of nuclear trade with countries lacking comprehensive safeguards or, in the case of the Central Asian treaty, the IAEA additional protocol.[9] Disregard for compliance with any provision of the treaty undermines the legitimacy of all provisions of the treaty.

Lessons From Existing Zones[10]

Although nuclear-weapon-free zones share some basic characteristics[11], each zone typically has a number of distinctive features. These features reflect circumstances and concerns specific to the region, as well as the time period during which the treaties were negotiated. The Tlatelolco treaty, for example, reflects a permissive attitude toward “peaceful nuclear explosives”; the Rarotonga treaty precludes nuclear testing and the dumping of radioactive waste at sea; the Korean denuclearization agreement includes the prohibition of uranium enrichment and plutonium separation; the Pelindaba treaty introduces the concept of a ban on attacks against nuclear installations, which already exists in a 1988 bilateral agreement between India and Pakistan; and the Central Asian treaty emphasizes the need for environmental remediation related to prior nuclear activities on the territory of member states and requires members to adhere to an additional protocol.[12] This evolutionary process, in which new zones typically add to and often improve on prior zones, suggests that notwithstanding major internal and external barriers, it may be possible to negotiate additional zones. Possible lessons to be derived from the experience of prior zones include:

Promote Greater Cooperation and Information Sharing. Members of nuclear-weapon-free zones would benefit if there were more regular interaction among zones, including the exchange of information and coordination regarding issues of mutual interest (e.g., verification and compliance, disaster preparedness, peaceful nuclear use, and the promotion of nuclear disarmament measures in international forums such as the NPT review process and the First Committee of the UN General Assembly). A step in this direction was the convening of the Second Conference of States Parties and Signatories to Treaties That Establish Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones and Mongolia at the United Nations immediately preceding the 2010 NPT Review Conference.

Si Vis Pacem, Para Pacem (If you want peace, prepare for peace). Most prior nuclear-weapon-free zones were regarded as quixotic at one time or another and were opposed by key states in the region or by one or more nuclear-weapon states. States in a region that are interested in the creation of a zone should persevere and take preliminary steps in what may be thought of as the prenegotiation phase of the development of a zone to begin to address many of the problems that will need to be solved if and when the political climate permits the initiation of actual negotiations.[13]

Utilize Regional Organizations If Present. Prior to the start of formal negotiations, one should exploit the presence of existing regional organizations as a forum for discussions of the scope and content of a zone. In the absence of an existing regional forum, a group of interested states in the region or conceivably an expert group convened under the auspices of the United Nations may be able to begin a dialogue to advance the deliberative process. The UN Department of Disarmament Affairs, with technical support from the Center for Nonproliferation Studies and financial assistance from the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for example, convened a multiyear group of experts from Central Asia to facilitate the negotiation of the Central Asian treaty.

Treat Domestic and International Political Change as Opportunities. Major internal and external political changes often provide catalysts or triggers that can be used to promote policy innovation, including the pursuit of nuclear-weapon-free zones. This phenomenon was present in Argentina and Brazil with the demise of military governments and a reorientation to internationalizing the countries’ economies beginning in 1967 and can be associated with the increased international opposition to French nuclear testing in the Pacific in the 1980s and the demise of apartheid in South Africa in the early 1990s. In principle, the tumultuous events in the Middle East in 2011 may also provide opportunities for new thinking about regional cooperation, although the uncertainty they generate also may reinforce caution on the part of some states.

Do Not Wait for Holdout States. As Michael Hamel-Green urges, “[T]he existence of holdout states within a region should not delay efforts by other regional states to pursue discussions and dialogue on [nuclear-weapon-free zone] and [WMD-free zone] concepts in regional, international and other forums.”[14] The Tlatelolco treaty is a particularly good case in point and was constructed in a creative fashion that enabled the treaty to enter into force for many countries in Latin America, even as others delayed for many years.

Promote Greater Engagement by Civil Society. To date, civil society has been much less effective in instigating headway on nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation issues than in the sphere of conventional arms such as landmines, small arms and light weapons, and cluster munitions. In principle, however, this need not remain the case, and there is an important role for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to play in conducting research and providing innovative but practical policy recommendations to national governments in the sphere of nuclear-weapon-free zones.

Moving Forward

Probably the most significant driver for the WMD-free zone in the Middle East is the growing awareness that a conflict in the region could involve the use of nuclear weapons. Although not a new consideration, it has gained increased currency due to nuclear brinkmanship by Iran, the perception that Israel’s powerful allies accept its nuclear weapons as a permanent feature of the Middle Eastern terrain, increased interest in and access to civil nuclear technology by other states in the region, and occasional, veiled threats by Saudi Arabia and other Arab states that should Iran develop nuclear weapons, it would not long remain the only nuclear weapons newcomer to the region. These developments may not in themselves represent the preconditions for negotiation of a nuclear-weapon-free zone, but they should prompt a radical rethinking of nuclear policy in the Middle East.

Although the potential for a deal on weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East certainly exists, it is unclear what form that deal could take. Although more relevant research on the topic has been done than is generally realized, it remains the case that this information is not widely known, and more serious work is required. In particular, there is a need for studies that take account of the experience of other regional arms control processes such as the extant nuclear-weapon-free zones and the Helsinki Process, which attempted to improve relations during the Cold War between the East and West. More research also is needed regarding the specific characteristics of the Middle East, including recent developments, for the purpose of delineating the content and possible scope of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East and the modalities for deliberations on these in advance of formal negotiations. It is likely that a future zone will need to include many of the following elements:

• prohibitions consistent with the NPT, such as Articles II and III, which prescribe obligations to be undertaken by nuclear-weapon and non-nuclear-weapon states with respect to the transfer of nuclear weapons and fissionable material and the acceptance of IAEA safeguards.

• prohibition of the stationing of any nuclear explosive device on the territory of the parties to the treaty.

• prohibition of nuclear explosive testing in the territories of the parties and of participation in such tests by any state anywhere.

• prohibition of the dumping of radioactive waste in the territorial sea, land, rivers, or inland waters covered by the zone.

• declaration of any existing nuclear weapons capabilities, be they intact weapons or their component parts, prior to the entry into force of the treaty.

• dismantlement and destruction of existing nuclear weapons capabilities, facilities, and devices under international verification mechanisms.

• prohibition of armed attack on civil nuclear facilities in the Middle East.

• declaration of all nuclear facilities and their placement under IAEA safeguards.

• conclusion by parties of a comprehensive safeguards agreement with the IAEA, as well as an additional protocol.

• regional means of verification and monitoring compliance.

Confidence in the ability to verify the provisions of the zone will be a major requirement for its successful negotiation and implementation. Verification and compliance measures could be carried out by a new standing institution, by existing international verification instruments with added reporting requirements, or by a combination of the two approaches. Yet, the most unique and contentious aspect of a nuclear-weapon-free zone for the Middle East is that of declaring past and present nuclear weapons capabilities and then ­dismantling them.

Transparency in military nuclear capabilities is conspicuous by its absence in the region. There never has been a formal clarification of Israel’s nuclear status[15]; Iran and Syria have been found in noncompliance with their safeguards obligations at the IAEA, and the issue of their undeclared nuclear activities has been referred to the UN Security Council. If states do begin to negotiate a nuclear-weapon-free zone, at the very least there has to be a mechanism for enhancing transparency. One approach would be a declaration of intent to declare past programs. Such a declaration would be timed to immediately precede entry into force. Borrowing from the South African experience, prior to entry into force one might arrange for the dismantlement of military capabilities under the supervision of a team of international inspectors.

The Role of the Conference

As of mid-2011, it is impossible to anticipate with any confidence if or when the NPT-mandated conference on the Middle East will be convened or what it realistically could be expected to accomplish if it actually took place. That being said, one can anticipate a number of developments.

1. Regardless of when or where the conference is held, a great deal of work will need to be done in advance of the meeting if it is to yield any substantively meaningful deliberations and kick off a follow-on process. A necessary first step is to appoint a facilitator, who must have the time and the authority to undertake consultations in preparation for the conference on issues such as working methods for the conference, decision-making procedures, the agenda, participants, and substance. It is of the utmost importance to agree on and name the facilitator as soon as possible so that the groundwork can be laid.

2. Whenever the conference is held, there will be a need for background documentation, and it is desirable for international organizations to begin now to prepare such material. Experts at international organizations, in NGOs, and in academia also can play a useful role in identifying means to overcome differences among the prospective members of the zone, as well as charting alternative proposals for elements of the zone, including its scope and verification measures, the basic obligations of member states, and the sequence by which commitments would be fulfilled.

3. Ultimately, it may prove infeasible to convene the conference before the end of 2012. If a facilitator is appointed and that individual’s consultations make clear that there is a desire among the preponderance of relevant parties to postpone the conference, it could be rescheduled for 2013. However, any such decision would have to be communicated very carefully. The arguments for delay need to be weighed judiciously against the costs of postponement, which include potential damage to the NPT review process, especially in light of the critical role played by the Middle East recommendations in the negotiation of a successful outcome of the 2010 review conference. A number of delegations sought stronger disarmament provisions in the final document, but accepted the negotiated action plan in deference to Egypt (the chair of the Nonaligned Movement). Postponement of the conference is apt to be interpreted by some of these states as evidence of bad faith by Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States and may well lead to the unraveling of the document, in particular those provisions related to nuclear disarmament.

Many arguments have been advanced in support of a postponement of the 2012 conference. Some of them are serious, most are self-serving, and many are simply repackaged objections from the past that seek to take account of the rapidly changing dynamics in the region. They have in common a fear of the unknown, a skepticism that things can change for the better peacefully, and a view that it is naive to negotiate meaningful disarmament and nonproliferation measures in a region where conflict has long been the norm. These naysayers may prove to be correct, but it is certain that the Middle East will not be free of weapons of mass destruction until a serious and concerted effort is begun. Small, halting steps forward were taken in 2010 in the form of consensus recommendations to convene a conference in 2012. Failure to honor that mandate would squander an ­opportunity that may not reappear.


Patricia Lewis is deputy director of and a scientist-in-residence at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. William C. Potter is the Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar Professor of Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute and director of the CNS.


ENDNOTES

1. Chemical weapons were used in the 1980s by Iraq in the Anfal campaign against the Kurds and in the Iran-Iraq War.

2. See, for example, Alison Kelly, “NPT: Back on Track,” Arms Control Today, July/August 2010; William Potter et al., “The 2010 NPT Review Conference: Deconstructing Consensus,” James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS), June 17, 2010, http://cns.miis.edu/­stories/pdfs/100617_npt_2010_summary.pdf.

3. The Arms Control and Regional Security (ACRS) effort was one of five region-wide ­working groups associated with the Madrid peace process that was active from 1992 to 1995. For a discussion of ACRS, see, for example, Emily B. Landau, “ACRS: What Worked, What Didn’t, and What Could Be Relevant for the Region Today,” Disarmament Forum, No. 2 (2008), pp. 1–20; Peter Jones, “Arms Control in the Middle East: Some Reflections on ACRS,” Security Dialogue, Vol. 28, No. 1 (1997).

4. This situation bears some resemblance to the state of affairs in the late 1980s and early 1990s with regard to the pursuit of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

5. The so-called Rapacki Plan, named after Polish Foreign Minister Adam Rapacki, came on the heels of a Soviet proposal at the United Nations in 1956 to limit nuclear arms on a regional basis. For a discussion of the evolution of the zone concept, see Jan Prawitz and James Leonard, A Zone Free of Weapons of Mass Destruction in the Middle East (Geneva: UNIDIR, 1996), pp. 1–6. This publication remains a very valuable resource for current discussions of a WMD-free zone in the Middle East and contains many of the ideas that have been rediscovered by more recent studies.

6. The dates in parentheses refer to the signing of the treaties, not their entry into force. For a synopsis of the current status of nuclear-weapon-free zones, see Arms Control Association, “Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones (NWFZ) at a Glance,” www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/nwfz. For a more extended analysis, see CNS, “Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone (NWFZ) Clearinghouse,” http://cns.miis.edu/nwfz_clearinghouse.

7. Scott Parrish and Jean du Preez, “Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones: Still a Useful Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Tool?” Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, 2006.

8. For an extended discussion of these barriers, see Michael Hamel-Green, Regional Initiatives on Nuclear- and WMD-Free Zones: Cooperative Approaches to Arms Control and Non-proliferation (Geneva: UNIDIR, 2005), pp. 25–27.

9. The Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty is unambiguous about precluding nuclear trade with countries that do not have an additional protocol in place, but this provision appears to have been ignored when it comes to nuclear trade negotiations with India.

10. See Hamel-Green, Regional Initiatives on Nuclear- and WMD-Free Zones, pp. 27–32; CNS, “Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone (NWFZ) Clearinghouse,” sec. 10.

11. The common characteristics of nuclear-weapon-free zones are identified in a 1999 UN Disarmament Commission report, which also specifies guidelines for their creation. See UN General Assembly, “Report of the Disarmament Commission,” A/54/42, 1999, annex 1 (“Establishment of Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones on the Basis of Arrangements Freely Arrived at Among the States of the Region Concerned”), www.un.org/disarmament/HomePage/DisarmamentCommission/UNDiscom.shtml.

12. A number of these features are noted in the discussion by Prawitz and Leonard of the evolving nature of nuclear-weapon-free zones. Prawitz and Leonard, A Zone Free of Weapons of Mass Destruction in the Middle East, pp. 30–31.

13. Ibid., pp. 76–78.

14. Hamel-Green, Regional Initiatives on Nuclear- and WMD-Free Zones, p. 35.

15. Avner Cohen, The Worst-Kept Secret: Israel’s Bargain With the Bomb (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010).

Books of Note

Detect and Deter: Can Countries Verify the Nuclear Test Ban?

Ola Dahlman et al., Springer, 2011, 271 pp.

Timothy Farnsworth

The resources and technology exist to verify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) effectively, authors Ola Dahlman, Jenifer Mackby, Svein Mykkeltveit, and Hein Haak say in this new technical study, although “few ­countries have established the national resources or expertise needed to efficiently verify compliance with the treaty.” The book proves a detailed analysis of the status of the treaty’s International Monitoring System and on-site inspection regime. The authors argue that emerging technologies and new scientific developments have improved the verification tools available to countries. The authors—each of whom worked on verification issues for the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization—­recognize that “verification is a political process in the hands of the states.” They review recent political developments in arms control and argue that “the time has come for countries to act on their priorities, either individually or in cooperation with like-minded countries.” The authors contend that implementation would be more cost effective if countries that have similar political goals and concerns worked together and created regional joint verification centers. According to the authors, “[T]hese joint verification centers will allow more countries to take an active part in CTBT monitoring and increase global engagement.” The volume is likely to serve as a comprehensive resource for diplomats and professionals in arms control verification.

 


 

Iran’s Nuclear Future: Critical U.S. Policy Choices

Lynn E. Davis et al., RAND Corporation, June 2011, 152 pp.

Peter Crail

In this study, Lynn E. Davis and her RAND Corporation colleagues Jeffrey Martini, Alireza Nader, Dalia Dassa Kaye, James T. Quinlivan, and Paul Steinberg discuss U.S. policy options to address Iran’s nuclear program and nuclear aspirations. They focus on three U.S. objectives: dissuading Iran from developing nuclear weapons, deterring Iran from using such weapons if it acquires them, and reassuring U.S. allies in the region that a nuclear-armed Iran can be deterred. Rather than prescribing certain policy choices, the authors frame trade-offs between different policy options for consideration in the U.S. debate on Iran. The book analyzes three different assumptions of ways to influence Iran and what each of them means for U.S. policy: that Iran responds only to threats and pressure, that Iran is best influenced by being denied the benefits of any negative actions, and that Iran is motivated by its sense of vulnerability. According to the authors, the first scenario would entail an expansion of economic sanctions and military pressure, the response to the second scenario would require more targeted economic sanctions and bolstering regional missile defense and offensive strike capabilities, and the third would necessitate relaxing sanctions and managing conflict escalation. Because the study was prepared for the U.S. Air Force, it focuses particularly on areas with implications for the U.S. military, analyzing Iran’s security posture, the potential paths to a U.S. armed conflict with Iran, and options to provide security assurances to U.S. allies in the region.

U.S., Saudi Arabia Mull Nuclear Talks

The United States has offered to send a team of officials to Saudi Arabia to “discuss elements” of an agreement for nuclear cooperation and “the process by which it would be negotiated,” a Department of State official said in an Aug. 22 interview.

Daniel Horner

The United States has offered to send a team of officials to Saudi Arabia to “discuss elements” of an agreement for nuclear cooperation and “the process by which it would be negotiated,” a Department of State official said in an Aug. 22 interview.

The schedule for the proposed meeting and any follow-up has not been determined, the official said.

Under the U.S. Atomic Energy Act, nuclear cooperation agreements are a prerequisite for U.S. nuclear trade.

A key issue in any future Saudi-U.S. nuclear talks is expected to be the Persian Gulf state’s willingness to accept constraints on its ability to enrich uranium or separate plutonium from spent fuel.

In a May 2008 memorandum of understanding on nuclear energy cooperation with the United States, Saudi Arabia “stated its intent to rely on international markets for nuclear fuel and to not pursue sensitive nuclear technologies,” according to a State Department press statement at the time. Earlier this year, however, The Guardian quoted a senior Saudi official as saying, “We cannot live in a situation where Iran has nuclear weapons and we don’t.”

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