Saturday, January 14, 2006

WMD Proliferation in the Middle East

[First Draft January 2006]

Strategic Implications of
WMD Proliferation in the Middle East

Ali-Asghar Kazemi

Keywords: Middle East, arms race, WMD proliferation, Non-Proliferation Treaty, Israel’s WMD capability, Iran’s nuclear project, CWC and BWC Conventions.


The problem of arms race and military competitions in the Middle East is not a new subject. During the cold war and before the revolution in Iran, we experienced harsh rivalries between oil-rich states. Western great powers, which were the main source of arms deals, also competed among themselves to sell more arms to the region. The pretext in those days was to counter the communist threats. But, during the years of bloody hostilities in the region[1], those arms and military equipment were used by Moslems against Moslems.
Today a new kind of rivalry is shaping in the Middle East. This is mainly due to deep-rooted hostilities in the region and the increasing concern about the stockpiles of WMD in the Israeli arsenal. Adding Iran’s endeavor to acquire nuclear technology to this strategic equation, many of the Middle Eastern states are showing growing interests to acquire some kind of WMD. Considering the fact that acquisition of nuclear weapons is almost impossible under the present circumstances, interests for highly lethal but easier to acquire substances for use in chemical and biological weapons, are rising. Besides that, the Middle East continues to be on the top of the list for acquisition of conventional weapons and missile delivery systems.
How far WMD proliferation and arms race in the Middle East is due to Iran’s endeavor to acquire nuclear technology and long-range missile capability? How much Israel’s quest for building a hegemonic power through the acquisition, construction and possession of unconventional weapons or long–range missiles is susceptible to prompt other oil rich states of the Persian Gulf and the larger Middle East to embark on an arms race in the region? What are the consequences of such competition and rivalry for the overall Middle East and the entire international community?

The main arguments in this paper are:

There is no consensus in threat perception in the Middle Eastern and thus each state has its own motives and incentives to go for WMD,
It seems that Israel’s WMD capability is the main source of concern in the Middle East,
Iran’s endeavor to acquire nuclear technology is only marginally affecting arms race in the region,
Non-proliferation initiatives have proved ineffective in the Middle East,
Great powers are themselves inducing competition and arms race in the Middle East region.

A number of policy options are suggested at the end of this paper for further thoughts and consideration. ( See full pdf text)

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