News / Middle East

Concern Grows Over Middle East's WMD Arsenal

Concern Grows Over Middle East's WMD Arsenali
X
October 01, 2013 3:11 PM
Efforts to secure Syria's chemical weapons and regulate Iran's nuclear program have again raised the idea of a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction. But analysts say regional rivalries stand in the way. VOA's Elizabeth Arrott has more from our Middle East bureau in Cairo.
"Concern Grows Over Middle East's WMD Arsenal" - related video report by Elizabeth Arrott
Elizabeth Arrott
Efforts to secure Syria's chemical weapons and regulate Iran's nuclear program have again raised the idea of a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction. But analysts say regional rivalries stand in the way.  
 
A U.N. mission to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons, and efforts to regulate Iran's nuclear program, have raised hopes the Middle East is on its way to limiting the threat of weapons of mass destruction.
 
But for political analysts like Professor Emad Shahin of the American University in Cairo, it's a long-standing, and long-odds, dream.
 
“The region will be much better off it is chemical free and nuclear free." he said. "However, this has been on the table for decades.”

Transparency is one of the obstacles. Iran dismisses Western accusations it is seeking nuclear weapons. Syria only confirmed its chemical stockpile when threatened with a U.S. missile strike.
 
Egypt, Libya, Iraq and Iran are all believed to have chemical weapons, as is Israel, which also has unacknowledged nuclear capability.
 
While piecemeal efforts to contain the threat are underway, political sociologist Said Sadek argues the problem should be looked at in its totality.
 
“This has to be a joint effort by all participants," he said. "But as long as there is conflict, there is always justification for keeping the weapons.”
 
As with many issues in the region, debate often turns to Israel. Emad Shahin said, “There is a kind of a defense doctrine that has been imposed on the region, whether it is deliberate or not, but it's a de facto doctrine that Israel should be militarily superior to all its neighbors combined.”

The perception of a regional imbalance colors current efforts at disarmament, despite the apparent deterrence such weapons imposed on Israel and Syria for decades. Again, Emad Shahin said, “Dismantling these arsenals as a way of pressuring countries, while at the same time maintaining this strategic imbalance between regional powers, this is what really creates lots of problems.”
 
So, too, argue some, is the way President Obama handled the Syrian crisis. backing down from strikes for the alleged use of chemical weapons by Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, says Said Sadek, will encourage the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction by others.

"For Obama, he wanted face saving. He wanted new ways," he said. "There is no way you can solve Iran's nuclear program. And the credibility of the U.S. has been bruised with this Syrian chemical issue.  Assad got away with it."
 
Although Iran maintains its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes, many in the region, not just Israel, are skeptical.
 
“It can also push some countries like Egypt and also Saudi Arabia to seek their own nuclear programs and try to do some balance,” he said

It's a scenario, Sadek says, that despite international efforts, could push the volatile region into an even greater arms race.

You May Like

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More