By Jeslyn Tan, The New York Times
Israel opens herself up to compromise; USA takes up the offer.
In 2007, Mohamed ElBaradei, Director of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) called upon Iran and Israel to create a zone free of nuclear weapons in the Middle East — a zone in which both Israel and Iran would be members. The hazards of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East have existed since Israel developed its “bomb in the basement”, a secret underground nuclear programme. This was a topic widely discussed in the early 1980s after Israeli forces destroyed the French-built nuclear reactor near Baghdad in June 1981.
A decade later, the issue on Nuclear Disarmament of the Middle East remains a pressing one that has yet to be adequately addressed by the Disarmament and International Security Committee (DISEC).
Israel’s nuclear arsenal, estimated at between 70 and 400 warheads, has long been viewed as a serious security threat to her Arab neighbours. They see this arsenal as a threat to the tentative balance of power within the Middle East region, furthering tensions between the neighbouring states.
In the hopes of creating a Middle East Nuclear Weapons Free Zone (MENWFZ), DISEC gathered today (1 June) to discuss how the problem of nuclear disarmament could be tackled.
The delegate of Israel started the discussion by raising the pertinent point that there is a pressing need for more secure areas and facilities where nuclear energy can be safely deployed. This was in response to concerns by neighbouring Arab states, that Israel’s growing arsenal of nuclear weaponry could have direct ramifications on other states. The impact of nuclear accidents are difficult to avoid, and cannot be merely considered a problem plaguing an individual country.
However, the delegate of Israel stated that Israel was not open to third parties entering her territory in order to ensure the security of her nuclear facilities.
The delegate of the US followed up by suggesting that countries with more nuclear expertise could offer aid to the countries lacking in nuclear expertise. He stated that countries like Japan could help educate workers in countries in the Middle East to improve their current nuclear facilities and ensure that all facilities were safe for use. Compared to inviting external organisations such as the IAEA to conduct checks on nuclear facilities, this was a solution more aligned to the conditions laid out by Israel.
He also noted how most of the solutions put forth thus far by the delegates lacked pertinent details which would help in the progress of the formation of the resolution. He offered a crucial reminder to the council to focus more on the evaluation of the current solutions already raised by other countries.
Other countries also voiced similar concerns over the introduction of international bodies to act as third parties in their territory. The delegate of the Syrian Arab Republic stood with Israel in an interesting show of support, as he indicated Syria’s refusal for the United Nations Peacekeeping bodies to enter her land. However, they were willing to compromise by following general guidelines on how to run her nuclear facilities. They were also amenable to training personnel to guard said nuclear facilities.
In an attempt to seek another compromise, the delegate of Russia raised the possibility of inviting countries to declare their own individual nuclear reactors’ capabilities. This transparency would give the Middle East countries greater insight as to the nuclear capabilities of their neighbours and would be a critical first step in opening up communication paths to minimise tensions.
He maintained that this did not infringe on a country’s sovereignty, merely setting the scene for further discussion on the front of nuclear reactors and technology. Only the disclosure of private information about their own nuclear weapons would be a direct breach of one’s country’s national security.
The delegate of Israel was quick to reject this suggestion, explaining how the discussion of information of nuclear reactors does, in fact, infringe on sovereignty since nuclear reactors are classified as intellectual property of a country.
With Israel’s sensitivity towards having her sovereignty infringed upon, the delegate of the US sought to find another compromise with the delegate of Israel.
Once again, the delegate of the US pushed forth the notion that the sharing of knowledge is integral to the security of each country’s nuclear facilities. He argued that once countries like Israel were privy to the methods of improving the safety of their nuclear facilities, such as safety backups and emergency plans, they could conduct their own routine checks of nuclear facilities.
Multiple delegates offered their support and stood behind the delegate of the USA’s suggestion to share nuclear information to help other countries.
In particular, the delegate of Iran believed that the foremost factor preventing the issue of nuclear disarmament in the Middle East from being resolved was the isolationist values espoused by many Middle Eastern countries. He believed that collaboration and communication is vital in the reduction of tensions amongst neighbouring countries, and the implementation of the proposed solution by the delegate of the US would improve upon this.
Many other delegates also believed that the US’s proposed solution could offer a common platform for communication in order to foster better relationships between countries in the Middle East.
The delegate of USA has expressed his intention to help direct the flow of the discussion to reach a compromise with the the delegates of countries who share common worries as the delegate of Israel, and will aim to work with a non-divided council to resolve the issue of nuclear disarmament in the Middle East as peacefully as possible.
The council then adjourned debate, and we will follow up with their next topic of discussion shortly.