Non-Conventional-Weapons Proliferation in the Middle East: Tackling the Spread of Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Capabilities

By Efraim Karsh; Martin S. Navias et al. | Go to book overview

8
Middle Eastern Stability and the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction

YEZID SAYIGH

'THE Middle East has entered the nuclear age.' This was the terse summing-up by Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Arens towards the end of October 1991, as he surveyed the region's strategic environment in the aftermath of the Gulf War.1 His remark was especially significant because it came only days before the opening session in Madrid of the Arab-Israeli peace process, a process supposed to lead, among other things, to a stable military balance between Israel and the Arab states and to regional arms controls in the conventional and non-conventional spheres.

Arens may merely have been reflecting on a reality that needs to be addressed (and presumably reversed) in the interest of regional peace and stability. Alternatively, he may have been staking out a pre-emptive position well in advance of any demands for arms controls and territorial concessions, by seeking to make the nuclear dimension (and implicitly the Israeli nuclear-weapons monopoly) an explicit and irreversible component of the regional strategic equation. Between the two interpretations lies the key to the impact of non-conventional-weapons proliferation on Middle Eastern stability.

The primary argument of this chapter is that weapons of mass destruction are inherently destabilizing in the Middle Eastern context, especially in the absence of an Arab-Israeli peace settlement and of a wider regional framework for the management of political, economic, and security issues. This is due, in particular, to the complex nature of the Middle Eastern environment and the

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1
Cited by former Defence Minister Ezer Weizman, Yediot Abaronot, 25 Oct. 1991.

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