Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
By Yousef Munayyer
Chicago Tribune, April 14, 2009
It was nearly 25 years ago when Israeli nuclear
scientist Mordechai Vanunu exposed his nation's secret nuclear weapons
program to the world through The Sunday Times of London. Now, days before
he is due to be released from captivity in Israel, an American president
dared to envision a world free of nuclear weapons. In the Middle East,
however, things seem to be heading in the opposite direction.
the Israelis have stuck to a strategy of nuclear ambiguity, neither
confirming or denying possession of nuclear weapons, experts around the
globe estimate the Israeli stockpile to be in the range of 70 to 300
nuclear warheads, reports the Center for Strategic and International
Studies. The Israelis have also taken pre-emptive and provocative steps to
ensure nuclear dominance in the region by carrying out attacks in Iraq and
Despite the fact that the Israeli nuclear capability has
contributed to the end of conventional interstate war in the region,
animosity remains steady as battlefields shift. Increased asymmetrical
warfare is on the rise and although Israel remains conventionally superior
to its non-state enemies in the region, it has failed in eliminating the
threats they pose.
Iran also continues to test Western patience by
perpetuating its nuclear program. While Iran claims its nuclear program is
peaceful, policymakers here often suspect otherwise.
East has enough problems and certainly does not need another, deadlier,
weapons race. But an Iran-centric non-proliferation policy is myopic and
dangerous and will likely lead the region into further destabilizing
A better approach is reviving an effort for a Middle East
free of all weapons of mass destruction. Recalled in UN Security Council
Resolution 687, the creation of a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East
would go a great distance toward providing security for states in the
region and re-establishing faith in the international legal system.
To do this, the international community, led by the United States,
would have to put equal pressure on Iran and Israel to open their
facilities for full inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency
and dismantle all nuclear weapons programs and eliminate all stockpiles.
This will not be easy for Israel to accept considering its history in
the region and the solid track record of deterrence its weapons program
has had with surrounding states.
However, these concerns can be
allayed by strong security guarantees by the United States to retaliate
against any state that launches a nuclear attack against Israel. A nuclear
attack on Israel by a Muslim majority state is also deterred by the
significant, and larger, number of Muslim kin who would be killed in such
This policy would have to go hand in hand with a
resolution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, which has in recent years
become a proxy battleground for the United States and Iran and has only
resulted in the unnecessary deaths of countless innocents.
alternatives to a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East are grim. It is
unlikely that sanctions will halt a hurting but sustainable oil-exporting
Iran, and military options cannot guarantee the desired outcome without
the likelihood of ground operations or regional conflagration.
Eight years of disastrous U.S. foreign policy has contributed to the rise
of a defensive Iran, the realignment of states in the Middle East, a
perpetuated Israeli/Palestinian conflict and an increase in asymmetrical
war throughout the region. The U.S. has a responsibility and a major
national security and economic stake in setting the Middle East on a
Barack Obama envisions a world free of nuclear weapons, he can begin
by evenhandedly enforcing non-proliferation policy in the Middle East with
Iran and Israel. Obama will get much further with this strategy than an
Iran-only approach, which comes off to Middle Easterners as hypocritical,
hegemonic and deceitful.
Yousef Munayyer is a policy analyst at
the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in Washington.