Is the IAEA Director General Trying to Scuttle the Middle East WMD Free Zone Program?

I’ve written here several times about the failure last year to hold a Middle East WMD Free Zone meeting, as was unanimously agreed to in the 2010 NPT Review Conference Final Document. See my post here, which links to other earlier posts.

While there have been many voices, including mine, pushing for a fulfillment of the promise of serious measures to be taken to bring about a ME WMD FZ, there have also been many detractors of this idea. Many such detractors, like Pierre Goldschmidt in this piece last year, write about the impracticality of the program, and the unfairness of the concept to Israel.

One of the specific arguments frequently employed by those attempting to obfuscate the scope and implementation of the concept, and thereby push for its abandonment, is that there is no clear definition of “The Middle East” as an area of states to be included in a ME WMD Free Zone.  They try to complicate consideration of such a definition by arguing that it only makes sense for, particularly Turkey and Pakistan, to be included in this area – knowing that the inclusion of these states would cause huge problems to the already troubled workability of the program. The Goldschmidt piece above is a good example of this argument being made with regard to Turkey.

Fortunately, in his yearly report entitled “Application of IAEA Safeguards in the Middle East,” the IAEA Director General has, every year since 2004, provided a definition of the area to be included in a potential Middle East WMD Free Zone.  That area is annually defined in this report to include:

“Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Islamic Republic of Iran (Iran), Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (Libya), Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.”

This definition has provided very useful clarity on this issue, and has helped to keep arguments in favor of expanding the area relatively marginalized.

That is, until this year.

Unlike the Middle East reports for every year from 2004-2012, the footnote containing this definition of the states to be included in a potential ME WMD FZ is notably absent from the report for 2013.  Compare footnote 1 of the 2011 and 2012 reports, with the 2013 report.  There is no definition in the 2013 report of the states to be included in the ME WMD FZ.

What could account for this change?  It’s well known that the U.S. has long resisted discussion of the ME WMD FZ concept at the IAEA — Susan Burk and her predecessors made no secret of this. So is this yet another example of DG Amano dancing to the tune played by the USG, for the reasons I explained here? Did he quietly direct that the definition be removed from the report, assuming no one would notice it, in order to take away what clarity there was on the scope of the potential ME WMD FZ, and thereby support and facilitate arguments made by Israel, and the US, and by people like Goldschmidt about how unworkable such a concept is?

I don’t know. But I can’t think of any other plausible reason for the definition to be removed. Can you?


8 Comments on “Is the IAEA Director General Trying to Scuttle the Middle East WMD Free Zone Program?”

  1. yousaf says:

    I wrote a piece for Asia Times called “IAEA reform is long overdue” which may be found via google.

    In that piece I referred to this document:

    Click to access gc56-12-rev1_en.pdf

    which will explain to your readers why the USG has such influence over the IAEA.

  2. Marianne says:

    Dan, Whether the footnote is there or not has nothing to do with the establishment of a ME WMD FZ. Nor does it define or clarify what countries are in the “Middle East.”

    The geographic zone was selected by the IAEA for for the purposes of a study, completed in 1989, which had been requested by a previous General Conference for a “technical study on different modalities of the application of IAEA safeguards in the Middle East region, taking into account the Agency’s experience in applying its safeguards.” The report said that the selection carried “no political significance.” It included all the Members of the Arab League, including the Comoros and Mauritania, whose importance in establishing a ME WMD FZ is hard to fathom.

    The UN Disarmament Commission set out a number of principles or NWFZ in 1999, including:

    –Nuclear-weapon-free zones should be established on the basis of arrangements freely arrived at among the States of the region concerned.
    –The initiative to establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone should emanate exclusively from States within the region concerned and be pursued by all States of that region.

    So the NWFZ should be freely arrived at and emanate exclusively from the States within the region. Certainly not from the IAEA. They are surely “political” and not geographic arrangements.

    You might recall that the IAEA report also said that the request for the study did not specify the states to be considered and that, “The Secretariat could not trace any official definition of the Middle East as a region in United Nations documents or in resolutions adopted by the United
    Nations General Assembly.”

    I’ll leave it you to figure out why there was no trace of a definition, even though the UN General Assembly adopts without a vote every year a resolution in support of a ME WMD FZ.

    (I suspect there has been no such official definition since 1989, so if it’s allowed, I’ll give $50 to the first of your readers to find an official definition in UN documents or resolutions or, if fact, in any UN agency or affiliated Agency, including the IAEA. You can hold the money in “escrow” and if it isn’t collected in 3 months, give it to the IAEA Program of Action for Cancer Therapy.)


    • Cyrus says:

      Is there is anything preventing any group of countries that reach such a nuclear-weapons free zone agreement between themselves to call their region whatever they feel like calling it? Is this *really* the problem with creating a nuke-free zone anywhere in the world, “we don’t know what name to give it” ?

      • Marianne says:

        Not really. The list from the IAEA that Mr. Joyner’s suggests provides “useful clarity” includes states that the UN categorizes for statistical purposes in Eastern Africa, Northern Africa, Western Africa, Western Asia, and Southern Asia.

    • Anon says:

      Please send the $50 to a charity of Dan Joyner’s choice. The definition of the zone of application of a future MENWFZ is present in the document: Dept. for Disarmament Affairs, UN: “Report of the SecGen: Effective and Verifiable Measures Which would Facilitate the Establishment of a NWFZ in the Middle East”, doc. A/45/435 (1991). The definition of the zone of application, or States of the ME region, is a critical issue.

      • Marianne says:

        Dan can be the judge, but this report does not suffice. It does explore possibilities, but its approach is very cautious and it recommends no list. For example, with respect to the IAEA footnote, it states, “This ‘lAEA definition’ of the zone may provide a working list of core countries, although any potential zonal State would have the right to put forward its own list of minimum essential parties in such an undertaking.” Note the quotes and its cautious use of “may provide.” In any case, it is the work of three consultants appointed by the Secretary-General to do a study that was requested by the UNGA. It represents thier views only.

  3. Don Bacon says:

    Nuclear-weapon-free zones have already been established in five places: Latin America and the Caribbean, the South Pacific, Southeast Asia, Africa and Central Asia. But the Middle East is different.

    Jul 21 2003
    On 5 June 2003, the Secretariat received a request from Arab States that are members of the Agency, as forwarded by the Ambassador of the Sultanate of Oman, addressed to the President of the 47th regular session of the General Conference, for the inclusion of an item entitled “Israeli nuclear capabilities and threat” in the agenda of the 47th regular session of the General Conference.

    Nov 22, 2011
    Nearly 100 nations concluded a two-day meeting on 22 November 2011 at the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna, Austria. They discussed how the experiences of existing Nuclear-Weapons-Free-Zones (NWFZs) might apply to the development of such a zone in the Middle East.

    But the IAEA controls the process, and the US controls the IAEA, so there are conditions.

    The importance of achieving the universality of the NPT and Agency safeguards in the Middle East was also underlined. However, a view was expressed that Agency safeguards, as well as other regional security issues, could not be addressed in isolation from the creation of stable regional peace, and such a process could only be launched when normal relations and confidence were established. The need for States to comply with their non-proliferation obligations was pointed out. A view that only mutual verification measures can be effective was also expressed.

    In other words, forget it. The US would never allow a “stable regional peace,” and there is the continuing “Iran proliferation threat.” In fact, the US has effectively destabilized most of the countries in the Middle East (except Israel and US Gulf allies) and it continues to demonize Iran.

  4. […] Joyner points out on the blog Arms Control Law that in the 2013 report “Application of IAEA Safeguards in the […]

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