Working with partners across the Middle East, BASIC has been developing a draft treaty on a WMD Free Zone in the Middle East, that forms the basis of a process of constructive international dialogue. This includes a series of workshops held throughout Europe and the Middle East, an invitation to experts to explore the means to improve engagement, and to establish an institution that will bring together analysts and practitioners to discuss issues of implementation and verification.
The Middle East has been torn apart by conflicts rooted in disputes that go back many centuries. The kaleidoscope of ideology, religion, identity, strategic competition and shifting alliances means that it is all the more important to ensure that nuclear weapons are not added to the mix. The idea of a WMD Free Zone across the region has the support in principle of all states, but translating that into action has proved illusive. One of the principal challenges has been the choreography in relation to regional security, and another the choice to pursue this goal in the context of the NPT, to which a key state in the region, Israel, is not a member. Yet the tendency to deal with nuclear proliferation on a case-by-case basis, with a focus particularly on Iran, misses the unavoidable truth that the only sustainable way to prevent proliferation is to address strategic security at the regional level, and to agree a WMD Free Zone without exception or favour.
Work on establishing the zone was a key condition for the indefinite extension of the NPT in 1995, but little was achieved until the 2010 NPT Review Conference agreed to hold a conference on the issue in 2012. This deadline has come and gone with little progress on the issue, but there remains hope that such a conference can be convened in the near future, and progress made towards a zone. Working with people in the region, from Israel, Iran, Egypt and other Arab states, BASIC hopes that its contributions to a draft treaty will shift the framing from one of complaint and frustration to one of positive possibility and progress.