Middle East

Do not let the Helsinki conference on a Mideast WMD-Free Zone fall off the “to-do” list

If Russia, the UK, and the US - as the co-conveners of the Helsinki conference on a WMD-Free Zone in the Middle East - had a priority list of foreign policy agenda items, convening such a conference would likely be hidden somewhere on pages 4 or 5 of a double-sided document, printed in 11 pt. Calibri font. Even among key stakeholders, the mounting crises in the region might reduce the diplomatic impetus for convening the conference, at least within the intended deadline of “as soon as possible” and certainly before the 2015 NPT Review Conference.

Let’s call it a bargaining chip

Referring to Israel’s nuclear program as a bargaining chip is not a breakthrough idea. Scholars have argued before that in lieu of having a “deterrence policy that does not deter,” Israel might perceive its nuclear arsenal as a bargaining chip to negotiate with its Arab counterparts over regional security issues, including around a WMD-free zone in the Middle East. The third blog in this series will explore, admittedly in a quite speculative fashion, another possible bargaining dimension of Israel’s nuclear program: a bargaining chip with the United States over its unconditional maintenance of Israel’s qualitative military edge (QME).

Bumps on the road to Helsinki: Will we ever get there?

Eleven months before the 2015 NPT Review Conference is convened, there is still no sign that the Helsinki conference on the establishment of the WMD-free zone in the Middle East will be held. In what seemed to be a glimmer of hope in Geneva on May 14-15, the conference’s facilitator, co-conveners and future state parties to the zone met to discuss the conference’s modalities.

A Middle East free of Nuclear Weapons and other Weapons of Mass Destruction

The idea of establishing a Nuclear Weapon Free Zone in the Middle East was spearheaded by Iran in 1974, followed by Egyptian endorsement. In 1990, under President Hosni Mubarak’s leadership, Egypt broadened the concept of the zone to include other weapons of mass destruction and lobbied incessantly to bring discussions of the zone to the upper echelons of international relations, the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the United Nations.

Personal political interests and the Iranian nuclear negotiations

Iran and the E3+3 will be returning to the negotiating table on April 8th to begin yet another round of high level talks on the status and future of the Iranian nuclear program. As ever, there are various causes for caution, and perhaps even concern, as the Iranians and their American and European counterparts continue to disagree on central issues such as the fate of the Arak heavy water reactor and permitted levels of nuclear enrichment.

Iran: Perceptions and Politics

When I put out the feelers for potential companions for a trip to Iran not long ago, I was struck by the incredulity with which people regarded my plans. There seemed to be a widespread notion that embarking upon such a trip equated to, at best, terrible taste in holiday destinations and at worst, an ill-disguised death wish.

TNW, The Quiet Menace: How the Threats to Europe, the Middle East and South Asia are Linked

London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS; what – you haven’t applied for membership yet?) recently published their annual review of world affairs, Strategic Survey 2013. In its chapter on strategic policy issues, the Survey covers an important topic, the complex nuclear arms race underway in South Asia among India, Pakistan and China.

Geneva talks: a fresh opportunity for Iran & E3+3 (P5+1)

The latest installment of the negotiations between Iran and the E3+3 (P5+1: United States, United Kingdom, China, Russia, France, and Germany) will resume on Tuesday and Wednesday in Geneva. Negotiations with Iran on its nuclear program are now into their 10th year, and each year brings about more disappointment and more anxiety over concerns of nuclear proliferation. 

The Iran-Russia Relationship & Reviving Nuclear Negotiations

Recent developments in the Middle East look to be further strengthening the relationship between Iran and Russia. The election of relative moderate, Hassan Rouhani, holds great promise for the future of the diplomatic approach to Iran’s nuclear programme that the Russians have invested a great deal in, and in which they have supported reduced sanctions.

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