Egyptian Delegation Walks Out of NPT PrepCom Meeting Over Failure to Convene Middle East WMD SummitPosted: April 30, 2013
I just read about this here. Quite a surprising move, but I’m personally glad they did it. I think it is time for action on this issue. Although it is a bit quizzical as to why they didn’t coordinate with other Arab League states beforehand. Does this indeed show fracturing on strategy within the Arab League on this issue? I’m pretty sure there’s still consensus on principle.
Readers will recall I’ve written on the ME WMD FZ issue several times, most recently here. I think that Egypt and the rest of the Arab league are perfectly justified in feeling that an important deal they made in 1995 has been broken by the West, and as Ambassador Badr was quoted as saying in the GSN piece: “We cannot continue to attend meetings and agree on outcomes that do not get implemented, yet be expected to abide by the concessions we gave for this outcome.”
I’ll just put in a couple of cents worth of thoughts on the underlying issues. As we all know, the whole ME WMD FZ issue is about Israel. The fact that Israel has nuclear weapons, and hasnt signed the NPT, nor will they even admit to having nuclear weapons. The Arab League is tired of the double standard of treatment that they receive from the West in the nuclear area, as compared to how Israel’s nuclear program is treated by the West. The ME WMD FZ project is a way to put the spotlight of the international community squarely on Israel’s nuclear weapons stockpile, and put Israel and its backer, the US, in the uncomfortable position of having to explain why Israel won’t come to the meeting and won’t meaningfully engage with the program.
As I’ve noted, I’ve recently been to Israel. I think that we can enhance our understanding of other nations’ policies and attitudes so much by putting ourselves, as much as possible, into their shoes and looking at the world from their perspective. It’s the failure of so many observers to be able to do this that narrows their ability to objectively analyze problems in international relations.
If I put myself in the shoes of Israeli officials, I totally understand why Israel wants to have nuclear weapons, doesnt want to sign the NPT, and wants to keep the whole thing “in the basement.” If I were an Israeli official, with the history of the Holocaust as my personal and national context, I would do the exact same thing. But here’s where I think Israel’s policies in the nuclear area start to get indefensible – when they criticize other countries for wanting their own nuclear weapons, or for even doing research to build up their capability to one day acquire nuclear weapons if they decide they need them. This is just basic hypocrisy, and the absence of any principled leg to stand on. It doesn’t have anything to do with history, or with Israel’s unique perspective on the world. And I really don’t like it when people say, well, Israel isnt under a legal obligation not to have nuclear weapons, whereas these other countries are. Israel’s failure to sign the NPT, and the West’s willful blindness toward this fact, are not a diplomatic asset that Israel and the West can play as a card to justify the double standard. In this regard, Israel is part of a rather ignominious club of regime outlier states – rogue states if you will – that also includes India, Pakistan and North Korea. Its not a moral high ground fact.
I think that it would gall the Arab League states a whole lot less if Israel and the West would pull the reins in on the double standard they apply so publicly, and in international institutions such as the IAEA and the U.N. Security Council, as between Israel’s nuclear program and the nuclear programs of every other state in the region. If the rhetoric and the policies of the US and the West generally weren’t so very prejudicial toward Middle Eastern states, with the glaring exception of Israel, when it comes to both peaceful nuclear technology trade and nonproliferation policy (going back to the Leveretts’ article I posted about earlier) it might well take much of the wind out of the sails of the ME WMD FZ movement, and contribute a lot to the general level of support for the NPT in the Middle East.