To Stop Iran, Build a Nuke-Free Mideast

By Efraim Halevy

The IAEA report published this week has provided conclusive evidence that Iran has been engaged in activities designed to enable it to produce military nuclear devices.

The findings not only confront the international community with a clear challenge as to how it must respond to the fact itself; it also substantiates the now undeniable claim that Tehran has systematically violated its commitments to the international community for many years. It has shamelessly lied, consistently, both to its own people and to the world at large when its leaders have repeatedly stated that Iran is not engaged in this activity and that its policy is to develop nuclear capabilities for peaceful purposes alone.

This has now been publicly proven to be an outright lie. Dealing with a confirmed serial liar will be no easy task.

This issue will now move to center stage on the background of exchanges of ever-harsher rhetoric emanating from Tehran, Jerusalem and Washington, and last minute, frantic efforts by Moscow and Beijing to prevent publication of the document, arguing that it would push the Iranian regime into a corner.

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Precisely this, pushing Iran into a corner and forcing it to confront the ultimate dilemma of "going nuclear," has been the policy of those who hope to convince the leadership in Tehran that the international community will not permit them "to get away with it."

Before we become engulfed in the immediate battle over this report, it will serve us well to examine a few of the fundamental predicaments that are involved in the larger issue. Another, seemingly minor, development provides us with a unique opportunity to do so.

In May 2010, a conference of the 189 members of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (the NPT) met at the United Nations in New York, and its final document called for convening a conference in 2012 on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction.

More than a year later, last month, the UN secretarygeneral, the United States, Russia and Britain announced that Finland would host this conference and that a senior Finnish diplomat, Jaakko Laajava, would serve as facilitator to the process.

His first task is to consult "the countries of the region" on his mission. Indeed, the very first issue facing the Finnish official is to determine the geographical contours of the Middle East.

He will quickly find that this is no simple matter. If the Middle East has in the west, in the past at least, included Libya, which was once involved in nuclear military efforts, then surely it must also include Pakistan in the east.

This must be true, not only because of the very close relations Pakistan has with key countries in the heart of the Middle East, but because it has been the major supplier of military nuclear technology and knowhow to Iran, Iraq and Syria, to mention only three key players in the region.

This is a key aspect of the problem this conference will have to face, since Pakistan has launched a renewed nuclear program that, if implemented, might, some argue, transform Islamabad into the third-largest nuclear power on the planet, following the United States and Russia.

Obviously, such an approach will raise serious issues for the conference, such as if and how it is possible to deal with Pakistan, apart from India, and if not, will including the Indian subcontinent "overload the circuit."

That may be so, but excluding Pakistan and for that measure North Korea might mean that the conference would try and close the front door to WMD in the Middle East while leaving the back door wide open.

One must assume that Turkey will be a major player in such a conference, should it convene. Yet Turkey is also a respected and important member of NATO and a staunch ally of the United States, and the problem will surely arise as to whether nuclear arrangements that Turkey has in those contexts will also come under and be removed to conform to "Free Zone" provisions.

A detailed statement by the then-national security adviser to President Barack Obama, Gen. (ret.) James L. Jones, on May 28, 2010, specified, inter alia, that "the conference, to be effective, must include all countries of the Middle East and other relevant countries."

It would therefore appear that the issues surrounding the proliferation of military nuclear technologies into the region cannot be effectively addressed without serious attention being given to those who have played a key role from without the Middle East in this sphere.

North Korea is one key player, alongside Pakistan.

Beyond resolving the procedural issues, a few of which we have just mentioned, the facilitator will surely search for international precedents to guide him in crafting options and provisions. Alas, he will find none, and he might well ponder why it is that other regions have not created a WMD-free zone.

Immediately, the example of his own continent, Europe, will come to mind.

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The writer is head of the Shasha Center for Strategic Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and a former head of the Mossad and the Israeli National Security Council.

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