Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Nuclear-free Middle East might be the answer

  • Print

War drums are beating in the Middle East once again. A surgical strike by Israel, the United States or both on Iran’s nuclear reactors will only delay but not prevent the Islamic Republic from eventually acquiring such capability.

The debate over the proper response to Iran’s nuclear drive has entailed two distinct short-term policies: sanctions and negotiations and military strike, and one long-term policy of containment, which has been rejected by the American and Israeli governments. Each policy has its supporters and opponents, but the question remains — what would happen in the not-too-distant future if other countries such as Egypt or Saudi Arabia, in addition to Iran, also attempt to embark on a nuclear path? Would those countries become the next targets for military action?

Two long-term alternatives to the current escalating tensions between Israel and Iran ought to be considered, so war is avoided and a nuclear arms race is prevented. The first alternative would make Israel a member of NATO, protected by the "one-for-all, all-for-one" policy of the 28-member alliance, leading to a new security architecture that would deter Iran and guarantee Israel’s long-term survival.

The second would be an agreement to transform the Middle East into a nuclear-free-zone. This December, the Non Proliferation Treaty conference, supported by 189 countries, will meet in Finland to discuss this issue.

Injecting the alliance’s reach into the Middle East could provide it with a renewed sense of mission in the post-Cold War environment, especially as the NATO combat presence in Afghanistan is about to draw down in two years.

However, there are several obstacles to an Israeli membership: Turkey, Israel’s estranged ally, the protracted Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Israel’s own identity as a self-reliant power.

Israeli-Turkish relations deteriorated significantly after the Gaza flotilla incident in May 2010. In all likelihood, Turkey will veto Israel’s accession (all existing members of the alliance must approve the admission of a new member). However, re-engagement with Turkey is a vital Israeli national interest as well as a NATO interest.

Perhaps Israeli membership in NATO could become part of the "reconciliation package" between the two countries. A possible incentive for Turkey is to link resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute to the accession process. Turkey, which regards itself as a champion of the Palestinian cause, could be offered a special role to restart the derailed Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Failure to make real progress in this issue will likely result in resumption of large-scale violence in the occupied territories, a development dreaded by most Israelis and could spell a serious overload to the overstretched Israeli Defense Forces.

Ironically, Israel could prove to be the staunchest opponent of its own NATO membership. Israel’s national ethos espouses self-reliance and the motto "never again" is ingrained in the nation’s collective psyche. The notion that the international community is taking responsibility for the country’s security and survival might be difficult for Israelis to swallow, especially if the Palestinian question is also linked to Israeli membership in NATO. But as long as the Palestine issue remains unresolved, the survival of Israel as a Jewish state will continue to be challenged as is the case now with Iran.

The second option, would transform the Middle East to a nuclear-free-zone. Such a proposal was endorsed numerous times by the UN General Assembly, and President Obama regards this issue as a component of his vision of a nuclear-free world.

Israel, the only country in the region with a nuclear arsenal, has developed over the years a formidable capability, including submarine-based cruise missiles carrying nuclear warheads — considered as Israel’s second-strike capability.

Israel, however, having never admitted publicly it possesses nuclear bombs, objects to the idea of a nuclear-free-zone. Nuclear weapons have always been regarded by Israel as an ultimate trump card and a guarantee of its survival. But a close scrutiny of the Jewish state’s long-term interests indicates that a nuclearized Middle East is a serious threat to the country’s own longevity. Israel must realize it cannot maintain a nuclear monopoly forever.

There are no quick-fix, short-term solutions to nuclearization of the region. Israeli membership in NATO or the establishment of a nuclear-free-zone are types of a long-term structural solution to the ongoing crisis in the Middle East that policymakers should seriously consider as the foundations of a new security system in the most volatile region of the world.

 

Yehuda Lukacs is associate provost for international programs and director of the Center for Global Education, George Mason University, Fairfax, Va.

 

—McClatchy Tribune Services

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Wasylycia-Leis says Bowman and Ouellette ran a good campaign

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Goslings enjoy Fridays warm weather to soak up some sun and gobble some grass on Heckla Ave in Winnipeg Friday afternoon- See Bryksa’s 30 DAY goose challenge - May 18, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Carolyn Kavanagh(10) had this large dragonfly land on her while spending time at Winnetka Lake, Ontario. photo by Andrea Kavanagh (mom0 show us your summer winnipeg free press

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you support Pimicikamak First Nation's protest against Manitoba Hydro?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google